Electrification of your home | Home & Garden

JEFF STOCK Elk Ridge Electric

To change. We can rely on that. The world is changing, so it’s only logical that our homes need to change too. Electrifying your home is a bigger picture — decarbonizing, reducing dependency on foreign oil — but it’s also personal. Electrifying your home can make it more comfortable, improve indoor air quality, and lower your monthly bills. That’s a good change.

The interior of a kitchen with stainless steel electrical appliances.

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Start small

Change is easiest in small steps. Need a new device? Start there. Opt for an induction hob over gas. Not only will you electrify your home, you’ll cook faster – water boils in 4 minutes versus 7 or 8 minutes with electric coils or a gas stove. They are not only fast but also safe. Since they only heat objects with iron particles, a misplaced tea towel will never catch fire. And their energy efficiency is unbeatable – 85-90% of the heat generated is used for cooking (compared to 65-70% with electric coils and gas).

Another easy step is replacing an aging gas grill with an electric grill. Electric grills never run out of fuel and are much easier to clean. From a health point of view, they also do not produce carcinogens. The downside is that you can’t get quite the same flavor as you can with a flame.

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Building or ready for a new fireplace insert? Consider electric. Most electrical inserts plug into a standard 120 volt outlet – a dedicated circuit to the outlet is preferred but not always required. With these inserts, the benefits are many. Electric fireplaces can be used in summer (flame effect without heat), they do not release harmful gases into the room and are safe for children and pets – no surfaces heat up and cause accidental burns. Another advantage? They are extremely efficient – they convert electricity into heat with an efficiency of 99% compared to the 60-80% efficiency of gas or wood burning fireplaces. And they’re cheap. Flame effect without heat costs 50 cents a month to run. Add heat and the running costs jump to about $7.80 per month. The savings don’t stop there. Maintenance of electric fireplaces is essentially non-existent. No chimney sweeps, no monitoring for carbon monoxide leaks from fuel lines. Maintaining an electric fireplace insert is as easy as changing a few lightbulbs every few years.

solar panels

Big solar panels on the roof of a modern comfortable house.

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Bigger Steps

The cost of solar panels has dropped significantly over the past 10 years. The cost of installing solar panels on your home used to be $80,000, but now it’s only $20,000 or less after tax credits and incentives. But that’s still a lot. Not only is the initial cost high, but like everything in real estate, the decision to go with solar energy depends on location, location, location. Are you in an area with lots of sun? Does your roof face south or west? Without the right exposure, the effort is in vain. If you are in the right location, the next question is what are the savings. In our area there is an estimated average savings of $3000 over a 20 year period after solar installation. The math says it’s still feel-good technology, but given the jumps at the pump lately, who knows what the future holds.

Another chance to electrify your home could come if your water heater dies. If so, consider a heat pump water heater. They look just like a typical water heater, but use electricity instead of gas (functions in reverse like a refrigerator). Like many electrical devices, they are super efficient – they use 3.5-6 times less energy than gas. Most require a dedicated 240V circuit, but as water heaters are often located in the plant room near the electrical panel, running a dedicated circuit isn’t always a huge expense. If you choose a model that requires 15 amps of electricity or less, you have a better chance of having the water heater’s electrical requirements fit within your existing panel. Also, choose a larger size. Since electricity takes longer to heat water than gas, a few more gallons acts as a buffer for the time lag. As with most energy efficient changes to our homes, there are incentives to help with the additional upfront costs. Gas water heater replacements are offered a $300 tax credit and local utility rebates in addition to rebates for upgrading your panel if needed.

The change is here, time to make the best of it.

Jeff Stock is the owner of Elk Ridge Electric in Billings.

Jeff Stock

Jeff Stock is the owner of Elk Ridge Electric.

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