Electricity was first introduced into people’s homes near the end of the Victorian period in the late 19th century and has been growing in use ever since. Just think about the huge changes in the 1940s when electrical appliances like vacuum cleaners and refrigerators became a part of most households. Today we face a global energy crisis, which has led to a growing demand for clean and renewable energy. Now is the time to flip the switch on the dirty fuels we’ve been using to power our electricity and the appliances in our homes and turn on a clean energy home — which will spark the movement to combat global warming. You can reduce your carbon footprint, improve indoor air quality, and support renewable energy by changing the appliances you use and how the power to run them is generated with an all-electric home. And with residential energy use accounting for roughly 20% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, your changes have the potential to help change the world.
Powering our homes
In the 1950s, when the all-electric home first became a goal, the promise of nuclear and hydroelectric power fueled the dream of an endless power source to keep those homes running. However, those power generation methods had unacceptable side effects, so we burned more coal to power the electric grid.
The environmental impact of natural gas consumption
Then along came natural gas, which we could use directly in our homes rather than piping coal-generated electricity along a grid, and was a more efficient way to power some appliances. So homes went from being powered entirely by electricity to using natural gas for many large appliances. But we’ve also learned some things about natural gas over the last decade. Natural gas is a fossil fuel. The global warming emissions from burning natural gas are lower than those from coal or oil but much higher than clean energy sources like wind or solar.
Also, drilling and extracting gas from wells and transporting it in pipelines leaks the main element of natural gas — methane — into the environment. Methane is 34 times stronger than CO2 at trapping heat over 100 years and 86 times stronger over 20 years. Studies, as well as field and aerial measurements, have shown that high rates of methane leak out across the natural gas system.
A return to electricity
Over the last ten years, electricity has become renewable, with solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, and biomass energy becoming clean energy sources. And the cost of these sources has come down, making the all-electric home a viable option once again.
Now each of us can contribute to a sustainable future by returning to electricity from renewable sources to power our homes. This personal contribution to combating climate change will ensure lower emissions from the power grid, improve your carbon footprint, and positively impact local air quality.
Some advantages and disadvantages of an all-electric home
Most homes today use gas and electricity as the two main power sources for heating, lighting, cooling, and cooking. Having an all-electric home means you eliminate gas as the source for running your heater, oven, and other major appliances and switch them all to renewable electricity.
Advantages of an all-electric home
You can find any appliance in an electric version. Electric appliances don’t need any extra fuel source, making them easier to install and use. Electrical appliances also eliminate the potential for gas leaks, which can lead to explosions. This risk is even higher for those who don’t have a great sense of smell or a carbon monoxide detector, which can make a gas leak undetectable for a long period.
While all energy sources have associated risks, modern electrical systems have many safety features, from surge protection and circuit breakers to fuses and automatic switches.
Natural gas appliances also have built-in safety features, but you can’t eliminate the flame, which can lead to kitchen fires. They also run the risk of leaking, which leads to indoor air pollution and carbon monoxide poisoning and, when combined with the flame, could spark an explosion.
With renewable electricity powering your all-electric home, you don’t have to worry about on-site storage for gasses like kerosene or propane, which come with their own costs and risks of leaking and explosions. And you’ll no longer have to worry about fluctuating gas prices, making it much easier to manage your budget.
And speaking of your budget, you may be concerned that the upfront costs of switching from gas to an all-electric home will be prohibitive. They probably would be if it weren’t for available incentives, including those from utility companies, governmental agencies, and community-based organizations. To find these programs, try national databases such as the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Better Buildings Residential Network. You can also hunt using your preferred search engine by typing in “residential energy program [Insert your city or state] or “pro-electrification program [insert your city or state].”
But what about the grid?
The grid’s capacity is based on peak demand periods, usually summer months, when heat drives the need for air conditioning. The good news is that air conditioning is already powered by electricity, so implementing your all-electric home will not impact those peak periods. In all other moments outside the peak periods, there is significant capacity on the grid.
This leads us to heating demand in the winter months. For these months, it will be important to leverage the grid-friendly benefits of electric space and water heating technologies to minimize the need to upgrade the grid.
When deployed strategically, electric heat pump water heaters, and to some extent space heaters, can use electricity primarily during off-peak periods, smoothing the demand curve overall and reducing costs to utility customers. That’s because heat pump water heaters can act as thermal energy storage, preheating water when demand is low and renewable generation is abundant, then delivering hot water when demand is high without drawing additional electricity from a capacity-constrained grid. Water heaters can keep the water hot for 12 hours or longer. When used this way, they shift demand from the higher-peaking evening hours to the low-demand early afternoon hours.
Overcoming some disadvantages of an all-electric home
Until the grid is supplied using completely renewable and non-polluting energy sources like wind and solar, we are still burning coal to power our electric appliances. This is a significant disadvantage to your electric kitchen. Of course, if you have a solar energy home, you have already overcome this issue and can electrify without any thought of polluting the environment.
The cost of electricity varies widely across the country but, in any case, it is always higher than gas. So you have your budget to consider. Again, a solar energy home eliminates this issue.
Finally, it’s easy to get disconnected from your electrical source, whether it’s due to storms or grid capacity. Nobody wants to be in the dark or unable to cook a meal. Once again, a solar energy home with storage and a backup generator makes this potential disadvantage a non-issue.
Understanding electric appliances
Almost any appliance you can think of for your home is now available in an electric version. All these electric versions are more efficient, from countertop appliances like electric teapots and pressure cookers to major appliances like your dryer or furnace. And these appliances are not like those in that 1950s kitchen. Before you had a cooktop with coils, you could now have an induction cooktop that’s likely equipped with smart technology you can control remotely for your convenience.
The efficiency of electricity
Modern electric appliances make a home several times more energy efficient than one running on gas. When electrification is done correctly, a homeowner can enjoy the same comfort of a gas-powered home with cheaper long-term operating costs.
Three things consume the most energy in an average home:
- Temperature control
- Water heating
Regarding temperature control, you must have separate equipment for heating and cooling when you’re running on gas: the furnace and an air conditioning unit.
An electric heat pump combines these functions into one unit, as it can heat and cool your home. This immediately eliminates the energy needed for an entirely different piece of equipment. Also, because you are running a single appliance system, you only have to worry about one system’s installation and acquisition cost instead of two.
Electric heat pumps are also two to four times more energy efficient than gas-powered ones.
Heat pumps provide space heating, and the same technology is used to heat water. Heat pump water heaters can also be two to four times more energy efficient than a gas-burning heater.
Induction cooktops are powered by electricity and don’t use heat to heat your cookware. Instead, they use magnetic induction to heat the cookware itself. You can place your hand on the heating hob without getting burned. It’s almost completely cold. Therefore, no wasted heat is released into your kitchen, and energy is spent entirely on cooking your food. Induction stoves are around five to 10% more energy efficient than conventional electric stoves. Depending on the model, they are also about three times more efficient than gas stoves.
Easier control and management of electric appliances
Electric appliances, especially smart ones, offer more features and are much easier to manage than their gas-powered counterparts. Electric appliances provide more control and can be started on-demand, on a chosen schedule, have timers to shut off if a device has stayed idle for too long, and systems offer much more precision. Less energy is wasted.
Plus, you don’t have the worry of open flames or gas leaking into your home, so you know your indoor air quality is better and your family is safer.
Why you need a home warranty for an all-electric home
Once you switch your home to renewable electricity, you’ll want to protect your appliances and systems. This is where a home warranty can help. Home warranties are extra coverage purchased for home appliances or systems when they break down due to a problem or simply from normal wear and tear.
A home warranty is different from an insurance policy. Your homeowner’s insurance returns your home to its pre-emergency state when something unexpected causes damage. A home warranty covers the expected challenges that crop up. Nobody expects their appliances or systems to last forever — you know, they will need repair or replacement at some point. Moving parts break down, pipes corrode over time, and repair of these items can be very expensive if you don’t have a home warranty. With a home warranty, you can have peace of mind knowing you’re covered on most points whether you experience a disaster or an everyday hiccup.
This type of warranty covers your home’s major appliances, such as refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, or clothes washers and dryers. Your new electric kitchen appliances will be covered under this type of policy (although, make sure to verify it), so you can have peace of mind knowing your investment in your electric kitchen is protected.
Effective budgeting for repairs or replacement of appliances
Typical home warranties, also called home service contracts, cost between $300 and $1000 annually. When you request service, you will pay between $75 and $125 for a technician to diagnose and fix the problem. If they can’t fix the problem, you will be entitled to replacement costs, up to an amount specified in your contract.
Now compare that to the out-of-pocket cost to replace just one appliance, and you will see how home warranties allow you to budget effectively and not worry about having a nest egg set aside in case something major goes wrong.
Long live electronics
Your warranty will also extend the life of your electric appliances because you can ensure proper maintenance and servicing are done throughout your plan. Regular check-ups extend the life of your electric appliances by providing everything is in good working order, preventing significant breakdowns in your electric kitchen.
Keeping your appliances in good working order also prevents having to replace them prematurely, keeping electronic waste out of landfills.