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

Green buildings are once again the focus of attention at this year’s Climate Week in New York City. After all, buildings account for about 39% of all US energy use and 40% of carbon emissions.

But while focusing on the industry’s biggest success stories — from retrofitting iconic skyscrapers like the Empire State Building to transforming policies in 80 cities and counties to require or encourage fossil-fuel abandonment — the green building revolution gets there quickly.

Spurred by new incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), homeowners nationwide are stepping up efforts to provide solutions for their own homes that reduce energy use, improve indoor air quality, lower 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 first steps all homeowners can take to work toward all-electric, more efficient, and healthier homes.

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

Here’s how our employees handled these changes:

Step 1: Value Set – What Benefits Do You Expect From Your Home Improvement?

Kaitlyn Bunker gives her home improvement goal.

If you’re like most homeowners, your reasons for considering electrification or efficiency improvements in your property are likely a mix of factors. Whether you’re preparing for the risk of searing heat waves or freezing cold snaps, protecting your family’s health, increasing the value of your home, or simply wanting a more comfortable living environment, it’s important to be clear about your personal reasons for the project. Even as the process gets difficult, these goals can continue to motivate you to improve your home.

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The 5 most important reasons for the electrification of RMI-er

To save energy
To improve indoor air quality
To add value to the home by making it electrically ready
To protect the house from extreme weather conditions
To reduce their carbon footprint

If you’re not sure how to begin setting your goals, local and regional programs offer homeowners assistance in conducting energy assessments, which 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 search 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 in your area to share information. Some examples of these programs that RMI employees have worked with include Energy Smart in Boulder, Colorado and BayREN in the Bay Area, California.

Step 2: Get an energy assessment for your home

Denali Hussin’s home improvement goal.

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

The energy audit is essentially the homeowner’s plan of what improvements to make, the optimal timeline for those projects, and how much savings can be realized over time. Energy audits are especially helpful in older, draftier homes that are not properly insulated.

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Local government or utility efficiency programs provide lists of approved energy verifiers by default. For eligible low-income households, the Department of Energy offers the Weatherization Assistance Program to provide free audits 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 provide you with energy ratings for your home.

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

Zack Subin states his home improvement goal.

Finding reliable and affordable contractors can be one of the most difficult elements of the process. Here’s advice from an RMI expert to find the best fit:

  1. Choose from a reputable contractor list.
    1. Once you have found a local/regional energy program, check if there is a database of verified contractors who have successfully completed the same type of project.
    2. Contact a local pro-electrification network, for example in California there are state sponsored networks including BayREN for the Bay Area.
  2. Bias towards local, reputable contractors who know local suppliers, artisans and practices. Be careful with sales pitches.
  3. During initial discussions, be aware that some contractors do not fully understand the benefits of electrification. Formulate your goals clearly and firmly (Step 1). Give preference to contractors who regularly install heat pumps and have experience with electrification.
  4. Compare different offers with particular attention to initial cost, heating capacity at minimum outdoor operating temperature for cold climates, cooling and heating efficiency, noise/decibel levels.
  5. Sign a clear contract and make sure the contractor gets approval before you start work.
  6. Don’t pay in full until you’re completely satisfied with the work.

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

Heather Clark shares her home improvement goal.

With new sources of finance available through the Anti-Inflation Act, existing government programs and soft finance for carbon reduction measures, homeowners are better placed than ever to make these improvements. The new White House toolkit gives homeowners the information they need to take advantage of IRA rebates and tax credits. In addition, 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 bank, as many institutions reward homeowners who cut their emissions at lower rates. Often your state energy department or electric utility company will have staff who can explain the options available in your area if you call them.

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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 against increasing weather extremes such as heat waves and long cold spells, upgrading households was more timely than ever.

US families need the tools and ways to future-proof their homes. With recent government investments of $50 billion in clean energy technologies and improvements to reduce building emissions, it’s time for homeowners to act.

Get an insight into some of RMI’s green home pioneers and start your journey with a first step today.

By Madeline Weir

© 2021 Rocky Mountain Institute. Released with permission. Originally posted on RMI Outlet.

See also:

How I electrified my home

energy efficiency at home


 

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