How To Electrify Your Home In 5 Steps — Heat Pumps, Solar Panels, Induction Stoves, & More!

At Climate Week this year in New York City, green buildings will once again take center stage. After all, buildings account for about 39% of total US energy use and 40% of CO2 emissions.

But despite all the focus on the field’s biggest success stories—from retrofitting iconic skyscrapers like the Empire State Building, to changing policy across 80 cities and counties to require or encourage fossil fuel relocation—the green building revolution is fast become local.

Spurred by new incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), homeowners nationwide are pushing forward with efforts to implement fixes to their own properties that will reduce energy use, increase indoor air quality, reduce carbon emissions and save money — including many of RMI’s own staff .

→ See also: How I electrified my home

We spoke to a number of RMI employees who are looking to electrify and improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Together, we’ve identified five initial steps that all homeowners can take to work towards all-electric, more efficient and healthier homes.

All-electric, super-efficient homes typically follow a common recipe. Ideally, the home is powered by renewable electricity, is well insulated and well sealed to reduce drafts from windows and doors. With these efficiency measures in place, super efficient electric heat pumps are key to both heating and cooling the house and providing hot water. And in the kitchen, that means switching to an electric induction cooker.

Here’s how our staff tackled these changes:

Step 1: Value set — what benefits do you want from your home improvement?

Kaitlyn Bunker gives her home improvement goal.

If you’re like most homeowners, your reasons for considering electrifying or improving the efficiency of your property are likely a mix of factors. Whether you’re aiming to prepare for the risk of scorching heat waves or cold snaps, protect your family’s health, increase home value, or simply want a more comfortable living environment, it’s important to be clear about your personal reasons for taking this on. project. Although the process will be tough, these goals can continue to motivate you to improve your home.

RMI’s top 5 reasons to electrify

To save energy
To improve indoor air quality
To increase the value of the home by being electrically ready
To protect the home from extreme weather
To reduce their carbon footprint

If you’re not sure how to begin setting your goals, local and regional programs offer to help homeowners complete energy assessments that can identify opportunities and benefits specific to your home.

Ryan Shea shares his home improvement goal.

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 favorite search engine: “Residential energy program [Insert your city or state]; Pro electrification program [insert your city or state].”

Locally, you can often find pro-electrification Facebook groups to exchange information in your area. Some examples of these programs that RMIs have worked with are Energy Smart in Boulder, Colorado and BayREN in the Bay Area, California.

Step 2: Get a home energy assessment

Denali Hussin’s home improvement goals.

The purpose of a home energy audit or energy assessment is to understand where energy is being wasted in your home due to inefficient appliances, inadequate insulation and/or air sealing. This energy assessment can be carried out by a professional or by the home owner.

The energy vision is essentially the home owner’s roadmap for which improvements must be undertaken, the optimal timeline for these projects, and how many savings can be realized over time. Energy audits are especially useful in older, more drafty homes that do not have proper insulation.

Local authorities or utility efficiency programs usually provide lists of approved energy auditors. For eligible low-income households, the Department of Energy has the Weatherization Assistance Program to perform free inspections and help with upgrades. Remember, if there is a local or regional pro-electrification program, they can also help you through the process and may already have home energy assessments available to you.

Step 3: Find reliable, reputable contractors who are passionate about electrification

Zack Subin gives his home improvement goal.

One of the most difficult elements of the process can be finding reliable, affordable contractors. Here’s an RMI’s advice on finding the best fit:

  1. Choose from a reputable contractor list.
    1. If you have found a local/regional energy program, check if they have a database of vetted contractors who have delivered the same type of project.
    2. Consult a local pro-electrification network, for example in CA there are state sponsored networks including BayREN for the Bay Area.
  2. Bias towards local, reputable contractors who know local suppliers, tradesmen and practices. Be wary of sales pitches.
  3. In initial conversations, be aware that some contractors do not fully understand the benefits of electrification. Be clear and firm about your goals (step 1). Prefer contractors who regularly install heat pumps and have experience with electrification.
  4. Compare different offers paying particular attention to upfront costs, heating capacity at minimum outdoor operating temperature for cold climates, cooling and heating efficiency, noise/decibel ratings.
  5. Sign a contract that is ready and make sure the contractor pulls the permit before you start the job.
  6. Do not pay in full until you are completely satisfied with the work.

Step 4: Find financing options, including incentives, rebates and low-interest climate loan programs

Heather Clark gives her home improvement goals.

Between new funding sources available through the Inflation Reduction Act, existing government programs and low-interest financing for measures that reduce carbon emissions, homeowners are in a better position than ever to make these improvements. The White House’s new toolkit gives homeowners the information they need to take advantage of IRA rebates and tax credits. Plus, Rewiring America’s IRA calculator shows how much money you can get from the government. To find low-interest financing, check with your local credit unions and your bank, as many institutions reward homeowners who reduce their emissions with lower rates. Often, your state energy office or utility has staff who can explain the options available in your area if you call them.

Step 5: Just Get Started!

Matthew Popkin shares his home improvement goal.

Many of our homes do not serve us as well as they could. With high energy costs, poor indoor air quality and inadequate protection in the face of increased extreme weather such as heat waves and long cold spells, household upgrades have never been more timely.

American families need the tools and ways to future-proof their homes. With the recent government investment of $50 billion in clean energy technologies and improvements to reduce building emissions, now is the time for homeowners to act.

Take a page from some of RMI’s green home pioneers and start your journey with a first step today.

By Madeline Weir

© 2021 Rocky Mountain Institute. Published with permission. Originally published on RMI Outlet.

Also see:

How I electrified my home

Home energy efficiency


 

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