🌎⚡️: Get Electric! (In Your Home)

Quinn Emmett
November 20, 2022
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 Raise your hand if:

  • There’s a room in your home that’s approximately 300 degrees colder than the rest
  • You’ve ever put your hand directly on the hot stove 12 seconds after telling your children not to touch the hot stove
  • You’ve smelled gas and either 1) ignored it, which, don’t do that or 2) ran like hell into the street
  • You’ve glided on fumes into a gas station wondering why you continue to do this to yourself and also why do we drive things with fumes?
  • You stalk through the house, turning off lights one by one, muttering “That’s a dollar, and THAT’s a dollar...”
  • Your partner has “emergency” blankets hidden throughout the general couch area because your furnace predates MySpace

If you’ve got your hand up, this delightfully digestible guide -- the first in a partnership between INI and Rewiring America -- will help you prepare to fix every single one of those issues.

Our goal? Be ready when it’s go time.

"Go time?"

You got it. There’s plenty you can do to electrify your home right now, but once the vast majority of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA, if you know) kicks in next year, you’ll be able to save a ton of cash along the way, too.

Baby throwing gash GIF

How much cash?

It depends. Once IRA’s fully operational in 2023, it’ll apply broadly across the US, but, first, every state will have some discretion in how they distribute the dough, and second, your household income will play a part in what discounts and/or rebates are available to you.

The point is: we’ll get into the nitty gritty on those later, when we know more.

For now, we’re talking broad strokes. High-level stuff. 

A word of advice: You’re going to want to find/befriend/bribe/hold hostage a fantastic electrician to help clarify how much new power your current fuse box (also called an electric panel or breaker panel) can handle, and whether you need to upgrade it (it's the brains of the operation).

The goal today is to:

  • Get a working overview of what can be electrified in your home. That includes your:
  • Stove/range
  • Clothes dryer
  • Furnace/AC
  • Hot water heater
  • Car
  • Tyrannosaurus paddock

Along the way, we'll:

  • Understand what appliances you've currently got
  • The basic work required to replace them with exciting new electric options
  • Build a high-level budget so as this series progresses and IRA kicks in, you’re ready to #electrifyeverything.

SOME CONTEXT, SHALL WE

I'm not going to spend 6000 words on the minutiae, you're already here, I've got you right where I want you. In order of the reasons most likely to persuade your partner, here’s why electrifying your home is a real winner, in bullets:

  • You get smaller energy bills in the (increasingly) hot summers and cold winters
  • You get a more comfortable home
  • You get a smarter home you can control with your phone AND your mind (ok not your mind but imagine if)
  • Jealous neighbors who now understand you to be an electrification influencer
  • Far less toxic shit in the air to 1) poison you and/or 2) blow up
  • A car (or bike!) you can charge while you sleep
  • A less terrifying, overheated planet for all of us

On that last point:

About 42% of United States carbon emissions come from our homes and the vehicles we drive to rec soccer practice and back.

That’s obscene, but more than ever, it’s easily fixed (the emissions, not rec soccer, don't even get me started).

So. Let’s build a home electrification to-do list, shall we?

BUILD A BUDGET

Open your favorite spreadsheet application and make 4 new columns:

  • Appliance
  • Projected Cost
  • Notes on installation work required
  • Research links

And then come back to this post.

Ready?

Induction stove kitchen

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NOW WE’RE COOKING WITH GAS (FOR THE LAST TIME)

Forget for a second that half of the 20th century’s most popular catch phrases are fossil fuel brainwashing (actually, you know what? Don’t ever forget what they did to you).

For now, understand this:

“Cooking with gas” can “make everyone in your home sicker."

It poisons the air. It can go boom boom. It makes your kitchen hotter. It makes your pots and pans a danger. The fossil fuel industry knows it, and now you know it. It’s science.

Enter: Induction stoves. 

In going induction, you can replace your entire range (gas stovetop + oven) or just the gas stovetop on top. Either way, I love you.

These sleek marvels may be new to you, but Europe’s been steaming mussels and wine on them for decades, and they’re the same stoves ADORABLE contestants use on the Great British Bake Off every damn week.

Let this be a lesson: If something’s good enough for Prue Leith, it’s good enough for you.

Close your eyes, dream with me: Your toddler demands plain pasta for the 643rd day in a row.

You, broken inside, go to boil water. 

But this time, on your new induction stove, her Octonauts-themed macaroni elbows take just 40 seconds to boil, don’t give you asthma, and don’t smell like the set of Backdraft.

This is the world I’m pitching to you right now, and that IRA helps subsidize, send tweet.

⚡️What You Can Do:

  1. Renter? Live in an apartment? Just want to experiment? Pick up one of these highly-rated portable induction burners for less than $150
  2. Check your stove area for a 240V outlet (if it's not there, you’re probably going to need one installed next time you hire an electrician)
  3. Research induction ranges (Consumer Reports $, The Spruce)
  4. Add to your new budget
Laundry basket

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IT'S A DRY HEAT

This may surprise you, but it takes a lot of energy for a machine to evaporate water out of clothing (to say nothing of the microplastics in your bloodstream haha sob sob sob).

Anyhoo!

For, well, eons, we hung clothes or animal skins out in the actual sun to dry, and that’s still great, but maybe not possible if you’re forty stories up or the reluctant member of a HOA that forbids it (ugh). Still want to go old school? Hang them inside!

The point is: Fossil gas dryers are completely unnecessary, and a real bummer.

Just think: Everybody from Andy Dufresne to John Wick to Carrie and Charles to Neo and Agent Smith to Spider-Man and Mary Jane to Noah and Allie had to (eventually) stop kissing and/or killing each other in the rain to go home and put their wet clothes in a dryer that directly contributes to climate change.

Remember kids: Fossil fuels ruin movies, too.

Electric driers, on the other hand, do not. It’s time to get one.

⚡️ What You Can Do:

If you’re among the 12%-ish of Americans with a methane gas-powered dryer, it’s actually pretty easy to swap out to an electric version.

  1. Check to see whether there’s already a grounded 240v outlet behind your existing unit (again, it looks like this).
  2. Don’t have one? Call that electrician we spoke about and find out the fee to add one, or research one that plugs into a 120V outlet.
  3. Add it to your budget
  4. Research the best electric clothes dryers for your space and laundry needs. Consider getting a ventless dryer (that doesn’t need a hole in your wall for exhaust).
  5. Add that to your budget
  6. Have a drink of water, you’re doing great
Ecobee thermostat

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(HEAT) PUMP IT

Most US homes use fossil gas or actual oil to heat and cool. Oil. In your house! That’s nuts. What are we, whalers?

Enter: Heat pumps. Like induction stoves, they’ve been around forever. But what the hell are they?

A heat pump is a single electric appliance that can replace both your heating furnace and more traditional AC. They, basically, use electricity to move heat from one place to another.

In cooling mode, a heat pump acts like an air conditioner, moving the heat from inside your home to the outside.

In heating mode, heat pumps go into reverse-mode and pump heat from the air outside your home to the inside — even when it’s freezing cold out!

If this doesn’t sound complicated at all to you, you’d be correct.

What is a little more complicated: swapping out your existing units and HVAC infrastructure for a heat pump.

I'm not going to lie to you, it's a bit of work (none of which I’m going to get into today, this is a digestible guide preparing you to do the work, we went over this at the top).

But it’s worth it, I promise. Adding a heat pump is the gateway drug to saving oodles of money, and making your home more air-tight and a much more pleasurable place to live.

⚡️What You Can Do:

  1. Walk around once or twice during the day and night and make a list of places in your home that are hotter or colder than the rest of the place
  2. Schedule a home energy assessment. What’s that? Well, a super nerd like John Semmelhack comes to your home and checks your insulation with a Predator-like heat vision thing, and then does a bunch of tests, including a blower door test, which is awesome.

Check with your local utilities to see about home energy assessment rebates and see if they have any recommended energy auditors. When they arrive, they're gonna ask about hot and cold rooms, but you did your homework, you’re welcome.

  1. Add it to your budget
  2. Check with your state or utility to see if there’s a list of contractors who regularly install heat pumps. Working with a state-certified contractor might also help unlock additional state and local rebates. You can also ask the energy assessment folks if they install, too.
  3. Get a quote for an inverter-driven heat pump and any insulation and/or duct work, and add them to your budget
  4. Last: Add an Ecobee Smart Home Thermostat to your budget, they’re great, you can talk to them, it will confuse your dog
Woman in bath in sunglasses

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WHEN YOU’RE IN HOT WATER

TL;DR: Heat pump water heaters are like heat pumps for air but instead of transferring air around to make your home’s air hotter, they make your water hotter. Got it? Great.

Better: They can save you hundreds of dollars a year and help the icebergs not melt quite as fast.

BETTER: Compared to installing heat pumps for air (above), heat pump water heaters are often hilariously easy to swap in.

That’s it?

⚡️What You Can Do:

The first 120v heat pump water heaters dropped this year (not actually dropped, that would be bad, “dropped” like the kids say), with more to come as demand rises. They’re starting to become available in warmer climates.

This is a paradigm shift.

For colder climates, you can get a 240v heat pump water heater.

  1. Price one out (Home Depot)
  2. Add it to your budget
  3. Call a plumber to get an estimate on the minimal work required. If you’re getting a 240v heat pump water heater, ask them if they’re licensed to also do the electrical install.
  4. Add that to your budget

Fun last thing: When it’s go-time and the plumbing is done, you and they can literally just plug the 120v version into a regular outlet and then hug your installer because neither of you can believe it’s this easy.

*Feel free to hug your installer if you get a 240v version, too. Who the hell doesn't need a hug right now?

BMW charging

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DRIVE TO SURVIVE (LITERALLY)

Caveat: We need far fewer cars.

OK! So. Electric vehicles (EV’s) are growing more popular -- like twice as popular -- every year. This is good news.

EV’s are: 

  • Fun as hell to drive
  • Require you pay zero attention to CNN BREAKING NEWS GAS HEADLINES
  • You can charge them at home while you sleep (maybe)
  • And if you get solar panels, participate in community solar, or have somehow commandeered your own offshore wind turbine (this is not investment advice), you can power them entirely from your friendly neighborhood ball of plasma (until it dies in 5 billion years, give or take)

EV’s have fewer moving parts to break and be serviced (bye bye belts and oil changes), and are 3-6x cheaper to drive, saving you (again with this, I’m so sorry) hundreds of precious dollars a year.

Charging at home requires at least a 120v outlet, which admittedly can take quite a while, but upgrading to a 240v “Level 2” system can speed things up considerably.

If you live in apartment or condo complex and can’t add your own plug, your building may or may not offer charging services, or you might be able to find a charger close-by on a utility pole. You might also be able to run an extension cord from your house out to the curb.

If neither of those are true, let’s all agree to use the growth mindset and say “not yet”, and then petition your landlord/building owner/city council for more urban charging options until they give up. (Some states REQUIRE landlords to allow it.)

Side note: More and more workplaces offer chargers. Do you even go to work anymore? IDK. I work in downtown Colonial Williamsburg. Horses don’t need chargers (yet!), but we’re working on it.

Finally, it’s not just you that wins here: EV’s don’t have tailpipe emissions, which not only directly contribute to massive drought and Miami’s future status as one of those underwater snorkeling attractions, but expose anyone near your car to shitty, toxic pollution.

⚡️What You Can Do: 

  1. Do the math on your gas and maintenance costs so far this year
  2. Compare to typical charging costs here
  3. Check out Motor Trend’s Best EV’s for 2023 here
  4. Research the trade-in value for your current ride
  5. Balance it all out, add to your budget

GO ALL THE WAY

There’s even more you can electrify to tie the whole place together -- rooftop solar, batteries, your fuse box, your children -- but we’ll address those down the line and as the options become more plentiful.

In the meantime, you’ve got some fun detective work to do (check out the links below) and I’m going to get back to building out the rest of these guides and trying to prevent the next pandemic.

As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for giving a shit.

— Quinn (Twitter, LinkedIn)

PS: Loved this? Share it with some friends and earn some dope merch!


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