Today’s Solutions: January 16, 2022

The residential construction sector is booming during the coronavirus pandemic as more Americans dream of having a bit more space. As developers build new homes, a recent report from a clean energy think tank illustrates how developers can keep energy costs and climate impacts down in these new homes: Go electric.

The think tank, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), compared the cost of building an all-electric single-family home to a home hooked up to the gas system in seven cities around the US. What they found was that all-electric homes saved money and reduced carbon pollution in every case.

As reported in Grist, only one in four homes in the U.S. is fully electric, and the vast majority of them are concentrated in the Southeast where winters are mild. Recent improvements in heat pump technology have made all-electric homes in colder parts of the country more feasible and economical, but adoption has been slow. In 2019, in the northeast, midwest, and west, more than 80 percent of new single-family homes were hooked up to gas.

The new report from RMI shows those homes should have been all-electric. Analyzing seven different cities in seven different climates, RMI found that all-electric single-family homes still won on the basis of both cost and emissions savings over an assumed 15-year equipment lifetime. The cities RMI analyzed were Austin, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; Columbus, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Minneapolis, Minnesota; New York, New York; and Seattle, Washington.

Even in bitterly cold Minneapolis, the think tank found that building an all-electric home would save you about $1,900 over a 15-year period. While that isn’t such a great amount, the emissions saved from an all-electric home is massive. When taking into account how Minnesota’s grid is expected to change over the next decade and a half, RMI estimated that the electric home would also prevent 28 tons of CO2 emissions, or about the same as taking 28 round trip flights from New York to London.

It should be noted that most Americans don’t live in new homes, with only 6 percent of US homes built in the last 10 years. RMI doesn’t exactly suggest retrofitting existing homes to switch from gas to electric because it is a more complicated, expensive process than building from scratch. However, the researchers said that quantifying the benefits of new all-electric homes could help push the market in the right direction since one of the big factors holding back electrification is a lack of information among contractors about the technology.

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