How and why to electrify everything

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With an estimated 40% of the United States carbon emissions coming from our homes and the vehicles we drive, switching to all electric will reduce emissions. Rewiring America, an electrification non-profit, recently released a guide to going all electric and making the most of the Inflation Reduction Act.

The group estimates that to achieve zero emissions, we need to install 1 billion new machines, or 50 million machines a year for the next 20 to 25 years. The organization estimates that the average U.S. household can save $1,800 a year in utility costs by switching to all electric, and it calls incentives offered through the IRA an “electric bank account” with a balance of $10,600 to electrify, which can ramp to an $858 billion cumulative investment in households and communities across the country. Rewired also provides a calculator that shows you the IRA-related tax credit is for each electric appliance.

In addition to encouraging individuals to make the choice to buy electric appliances and vehicles, Rewiring America says we also need large-scale changes in policy around renewable energy, government subsidies, and industry accountability.

Rewire America lists the appliances that need to be replaced: fossil-fuel burning furnace, water heater, gas kitchen stove, and gas clothes dryer—in addition to any gas-burning vehicles. Solar panels with battery backup can power these machines. The caveat is that these items are expensive, and replacing them all at once is impractical and beyond the reach of many Americans. But it would be wise to make a plan to replace these items at the end of their life.

The guidebook lists the following as examples of the savings and advantages:

Heat pumps: Can both heat and cool your home while using only 30% of the energy to do so.

Electric vehicles: A typical EV costs you 5¢ per mile to drive, while a typical gasoline vehicle costs you 13¢ per mile

Induction cooktops: These deliver better performance than gas stovetops, with higher heat and improved control, which is why many professional chefs and home cooks prefer them. They can boil water in half the time, for example. Plus, you won’t hurt your hand if you touch the burner when it’s on – they only heat the pan.

Rewired points out that these aren’t new inventions: heat pumps use the same basic technology as your refrigerator; electric cars were first popular in the late-1800s before gasoline cars dominated the 20th century; and induction cooking was invented in the early 1900s. According to Rewired it’s because of more recent improvements in these technologies, including better batteries and computerized control, that these machines got their performance advantages.

Advantages of switching to electric include the fact that they are healthier and safer because you’re not burning fossil fuels inside your home, and you’re not storing fossil fuels in your basement or garage. They can also save you money because they use less energy, which makes them cheaper to run over their 10- to 25-year lifetimes.

Rewiring America estimates that more than 103 million American households would start saving money on their monthly utility bill right away if electric heat pumps for space and water heating cost the same to buy and install as the fossil-fueled machines they’re replacing (i.e., those that run on oil, propane, or outdated, inefficient electric resistance heaters). If your electricity comes from renewable sources like solar and wind, they will run without producing any carbon emissions.

The non-profit believes that electrification applies to all households, and when combined with the right policies, results in economic savings and health benefits that disproportionately benefit low income and historically disinvested communities. One caveat is that currently some electric machines are more expensive to buy than their fossil fueled versions, although they usually lower your bills once installed. Rewiring America is working on policy initiatives to help eliminate this extra up-front cost through rebates, with an emphasis on helping low- to middle- income (LMI) households get these machines and the lower bills they provide.

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