skip to Main Content

How’s the New Home Electrification Movement Going?

Is New Home Electrification Happening?

On the new home electrification front, the Home Innovation Research Labs released some interesting data this month.  You may have noticed that going all-electric with buildings and transportation has become a thing in the past few years.  Climate change is happening, and fossil gas (a.k.a., natural gas) isn’t seen as the clean transition fuel it was once thought to be.  Plus, electricity keeps getting cleaner every year as the mix of fuels generating it includes more solar and wind.

So, how’s the fuel switch from gas to electricity going among new homes being built?  The aforementioned report includes two graphs that tell the tale.  The first one, shown below, is for new single-family detached homes.  It shows the percentage of those homes that get outfitted with gas appliances for cooking, space heating, and water heating.

Is new home electrification happening?
This chart for single family homes shows the percentage of new homes getting gas or propane for cooking, space heating, and water heating

Well, gas space heating is down a bit, maybe 2%, from 2013 to 2020.  They don’t say in the short article what the uncertainty is in those numbers, but I’m guessing 2% must be close to it.  That would make gas space heating basically flat in the time span.  Water heating and cooking are also pretty much flat in the time period covered.  So there’s no evidence that new home electrification for single-family detached homes has picked up any steam in the past eight years.

Now let’s look at their graph for apartments and townhouses (below).  It’s a different story there.  For all three uses—cooking, space heating, and water heating—gas appliances are gaining ground.  And, despite all the stories about induction cooking, cooking with gas in apartments and townhouses has shown the biggest increase of the three.  It increased nearly 20% in eight years, which should be well outside the uncertainty of the data.

This chart for apartments and condos shows the percentage of new homes getting gas or propane for cooking, space heating, and water heating
This chart for apartments and townhouses shows the percentage of new homes getting gas or propane for cooking, space heating, and water heating

Why isn’t new home electrification happening?  The article gives several possible reasons, ranging from gas being seen as more reliable to multifamily housing being built in more urban areas served by gas.  My guess is that the multifamily housing developers and production builders who build the great majority of new homes not only have not joined the electrification movement, but many of them may not even know about it.

Perhaps as cities like Seattle continue to ban gas in new construction spread across the country, we may see the data shift.  Or maybe that’ll get canceled by the backlash.

I electrified my home and had the gas meter removed
I electrified my home and had the gas meter removed

On the existing home front, I haven’t seen any data on the rate of electrification there yet.  So far, all I have is anecdotal evidence.  I’ve electrified my own home and had the gas meter removed.  I’ve heard of others doing likewise.  But is there enough of it happening to qualify as a movement?

 

Allison Bailes of Atlanta, Georgia, is a speaker, writer, building science consultant, and founder of Energy Vanguard. He is also the author of the Energy Vanguard Blog and is writing a book. You can follow him on Twitter at @EnergyVanguard.

 

Related Articles

The #1 Reason to Have an All-Electric Home

Heat Pumps, Auxiliary Heat, and Resilience

A Pi Day Physics Lesson on the Induction Cooktop — With Dancing!

 

NOTE: Comments are moderated. Your comment will not appear below until approved.

This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. It’s worth noting that most folks who are remotely serious about cooking prefer gas over any of the electric options.

    For water heaters, recovery time is a big deal for many. Gas is better in that regard. Also, the proliferation of tankless water heaters has certainly helped the demand for gas.

    With regard to building heat, most of us “seasoned” folks still like the warmer register temperature of a gas furnace.

    In summary, most people (I know I’m one) are more focused on their personal preferences and comfort than on the potential environmental impact of their choices

    1. James, it sounds like maybe you’re generalizing from your own personal experience. Many people who in the past preferred gas cooking—yes, even some professional cooks—have found induction cooking just as good, if not better. And it’s certainly better for their health as they don’t have to breathe the noxious pollutants produced by gas combustion in the house. I personally haven’t used induction cooking yet, and I understand the appeal of gas here. I know some people may never be swayed to give up gas cooking. That’s fine. Here’s an article, though, about a cooking school in Paris that now uses induction.

      https://www.treehugger.com/induction-stoves-french-cooking-school-4858411

      The water heating issue is similar. My guess is you’ve never lived with an appropriately sized electric water heater. I have—and do now—and there’s no problem with recovery time.

      If you need warmer air from the registers to feel warm in your house, that’s a good sign you might want to do something about your building enclosure or the sizing of your heating system. A properly sized heat pump, in my “seasoned” experience, provides greater comfort because it runs more. I’ve lived with furnaces and heat pumps and like my heat pumps much better.

      In summary, the personal preference debate isn’t the slam dunk for gas that you make it out to be.

      1. In my opinion induction is mysterious and foreign to the average consumer. It is not well advertised and marketed. I have induction and love, love, love it. Professional gas stoves are a status symbol in high-end homes and the status has trickled down to the mainstream market.

        I’m with Mr. Pittman – I like the comfort of gas heating and the convenience of on-demand gas water heater.

        I am considering solar panels and would like to see Energy Vanguard articles that address topics beyond the marketing of installers. The government websites are good but don’t seem to address real-world issues of residential solar panels.

      2. I think James points are valid but another key point to me is that not only is gas a more efficient use of energy, it is also more cost effective. Couple points though, gas is a petroleum product and most often the result of oil production. Your comments that electricity is getting cleaner is true but that can also be said for all of the energy choices. Those Sankey diagrams like anything else are subject to interpretation. The biggest thing that is evident to me from the charts is that the use of gas has jumped over the years because it is no longer routinely flared but instead captured and brought to market for use including electrical generation. Another obvious point of the chart is that there is no way petroleum will be replaced by biomass, solar or wind power at least not for many decades if at all; not in any of our lifetimes anyway. People once were saying that coal was on its way out but it appears to be still well entrenched. Once people realize that the lower cost energy sources have lower carbon footprints they can then again use what is better for their pocketbook to select their energy sources.In summary; i think you removed your gas meter a little bit too early.

  2. My home is already total electric. Problem is I can not afford solar panels and can no longer afford to invest in a HPWH or a 2 stage heat pump. Anything to increase efficiency equipment wise is out of the question. I’m more interesting in saving me money than the environment at this time. I was looking into a HPWH like the Rheem model from Home Depot. I figured the ROI on that was 3 years or so but the price on that has went up quite a bit.
    Another aspect which has me a bit baffled is that a NG power plant is a bad idea I think but NG heating isn’t so bad. Would it not be better to have NG or propane heating at home as those case get ~95% efficient? By the time the power gets your house the power plants efficency is only around 20-30% from what I understand.

    1. Shae, yes, thermal power plants generate electricity at an efficiency of 35 to 40 percent. Transmission and distribution losses bring that down to the 30 to 35 percent range. Using a 95% efficient furnace is roughly equivalent to using a heat pump with an average coefficient of performance (COP) of 3. But the electricity to power the heat pump doesn’t come from 100% gas. And, as I mentioned above, it keeps getting cleaner every year.

      Here are a couple of articles related to your question:

      The #1 Reason to Have an All-Electric Home

      The Electricity Multiplier Effect for Home Energy Efficiency

  3. I used to be in the gas only cooking camp. I’ve always used gas cooktops. Resistive electric burners can simply begone. However, I’m very excited to switch to an induction model. All my cookware is induction compatible and I know it’s cleaner for IAQ. Everything I’ve read, both anecdotal and professional alike, say that induction is as good if not better than cooking on a gas range. Faster, cleaner, better are all common adjectives when talking about induction vs gas and especially resistive electric.

    I will quickly dismiss arguments saying “Is the grid ready”. This isn’t an overnight thing, it’s a gradual swing. Moving heat with heat pumps is where space and water heating are (or should be) heading. As homes get better insulated and air sealed, there will be less of a need to have a massive fire burning to heat/cool our own “micro-environments”. I see a future of equipment working symbiotically to move heat in and out of where we want it, perhaps with a gas backup for areas that experience those occasional extreme cold conditions. I’m sure there are examples where gas is the best option, but those are going to be few and far between. Not a lot of people live close to the earths poles.

  4. Allison

    In the process of selling my California all electric retrofitted, net zero, low maintenance, low water, HRV, filtered air down to 0.3 microns, 2-3 degrees or less room to room most any day of the year, quiet, cement board siding with a 9 yr old paint that looks brand new, new roof and triple pane lowE, argon fiberglass windows, waste water heat recovery home and the general public does not really care. Lower offer than the neighbors home. Clients only care about the interior WOW look which we did not do. No granite counter tops or hardwood floors and remodeled bathrooms.

    Moved to Michigan and have meet some nice people here and mentioned our home above and it was as if it was foreign and just passed over the conversation.

    After 41 years in this business I would have hoped we were further along in efficient homes. ):

    1. I feel your pain. I have NEVER met a person IRL that was interested in home efficiency or saving money on their utilities.

  5. Shae

    I have meet thousands until they find out the new BMW, Lexus, Boat cost about the same….

  6. For heating water and air conditioning/heating, heat pumps are a no-brainer.

    Induction makes the most sense for IAQ, if you don’t have adequate ventilation.

    For energy efficiency though, I think it’s a wash for cooking between induction and natural gas. For induction you have the losses from electricity generation and transmission, for a gas range you have the lower efficiency of heat transfer.

    I’ve cooked on induction while traveling, and I still prefer the control you get with gas.

    1. I’m a prolific cooker and I, too, prefer gas cooktop control, but I decided to convert to all-electric over a decade ago. I quickly adapted to electric cooking and haven’t looked back. I continue to use a propane outdoor grill. Life is full of trade-offs and living w/o combustion appliances indoors is more important to me than dogmatic insistence on gas cooking. We human beings are very adaptable.

      From an economic standpoint, differences between gas and electric are negligible in the context of the overall home energy pie. However, those who otherwise go all electric but insist on gas for cooking will pay a significant premium in the form of fixed charges for metered natural gas service or rental charges for a propane storage tank. And most propane suppliers impose a 100 gallon (or higher) minimum delivery, more than a gas cooktop is likely to consume in 20 or 30 years!

      As an aside… a client installed a pair of 20 lb propane tanks for his gas range. The tanks were of course located outside. Turns out they lose pressure during extreme cold weather, making it difficult to cook! Apparently that’s not a problem with the large storage tanks.

      We have a long way to go before coal and natural gas are no longer the dominant fuel for electric generation so I don’t buy the environmental argument for electric cooktops, ovens and clothes dryers. My conversion to all electric was purely based on economics. The (small) additional cost for electric cooking and clothes drying was more than offset by eliminating monthly service charges for a natural gas meter.

  7. At least where I am at in SC, mostly suburban or rural, people think that gas is better (for heating and cooking) because they can sustain a power outage, but we’ve never had more than a 4 or 5 hour power loss fortunately so I think it’s a bit overblown. Whole house generators are pretty affordable as well. Gas was unavailable to me when we built, except for propane so we went all electric – heat pumps and tankless electric water heater (I love it but it does use 3x60amp circuits alone!). We have a propane fireplace that we use on extremely cold nights but that was also before we got a really GOOD inverter heat pump.

  8. As you all may know, gas is dirt cheap in Pennsylvania because of fracking. Interesting how many people who support less fossil fuel use are not concerned about using gas. The dangers of fracking, because their heating bills are so low, are overlooked. Sigh…

  9. I encounter many of the same biases in favor of gas, particularly for cooking. Nearly all the high end new custom homes we work on feature 6+ burner “trophy” propane ranges and one or more tankless propane water heaters.

    I’m a big fan of induction cooking and heat pump water heaters, but my recommendations nearly always fall on deaf ears.

    It also seems that whenever a new subdivision has access to natural gas, that becomes a marketing tool. Our area (suburban Jacksonville, FL) recently underwent expansion of natural gas availability.

  10. As I have posted before, I build hurricane/disaster resistant homes using precast concrete panels and go for less than 1 ACH50 in every one. For me, any combustion device equals two holes in my envelope. One for air in and one for exhaust out. If there is a range hood involved then that is two holes right there, and fairly large ones at that. I try to have only one makeup air hole for general IAQ. Have been using tankless electric water heaters as well. Inexpensive and pretty efficient. Heat pump water heaters seem to be the best but more costly.

  11. As long as my electric utility (Georgia Power) produces a large part of its electricity from coal and natural gas, I have no qualms using natural gas to heat my home, cook, heat domestic water, and dry my clothes. I’d rather spend the money I save using natural gas for improving the energy efficiency of my house than switching to all electric and waiting for the utility to produce a substantial amount of its electricity from renewable sources. My gas appliances will probably need to be replaced by the time that happens anyway.

  12. Nyc is requiring all new residential construction provide solar for 4kw . some roof orientation and features prevent solar
    Builders are installing gas heating in houses
    The electric utility company is starting to offer incentives
    The fire department doesn’t allow battery storage for fire reasons with lithium
    what happens if the grid goes down and everyone is electric

  13. While I use electricity to space and water heat in Central Texas, almost all existing and new housing stock uses natural gas when available. Natural gas is less expensive to run and certainly has the reserve btus to handle a week of freezing temperatures like we experienced in February.

    Until recently you could not get a quality variable speed ducted heat pump system to bolt up to existing and new duct systems. Even now most non Trane/Mitsubishi dealers are against the complexity, cost and perceived unreliability of their variable capacity options.

    I can drive through a new master planned community today and still find two or three single stage split systems installed on each house. Even on relatively tight spray foam houses which have achieved a degree of acceptance. So ducted variable capacity cost reductions, improved reliability in the builder brands and education of the buyers is still needed. The spec builders and developers are hopeless unless they are high end tech nerds like Risinger.

  14. Our current “go to” system for multizone new builds is Trane’s XV20 / TAM9A split system. We’ve done up to 5 zones on one of those systems, though I prefer to cap that at 4. Our custom new builds always get foam insulation so that attic ductwork is within indirectly conditioned space.

    We do have a client whose older home now has 7 Mits minisplit heads served by 3 multizone outdoor units. She recently reported greater comfort and reduced electricity usage following removal of a ducted mini system.

  15. Here in the Pacific NW codes have just changed and will be shifting the needle in a big way. Our builders are moving to electric space and water heating – many are sticking with gas cooking as it is a demand by consumers. The on demand gas water heater is hanging on too but starting to lose to HPWH.
    It’s really a consumer education challenge – builders rightly so – try to appease their customers.
    Keep up the good work Allison!

  16. I want to mention one thing. In many areas the effect of electrification on low income households can be quite severe. We need to deal with that issue. The Energy Institute at Haas included this statement in their review of this issue:
    “Regulators can mandate and ban natural gas for new buildings. However, without additional policy and rate reform, California’s high electrical prices mean that electrification mandates will raise costs for households.”

  17. Hello Allison, haven’t seen you in a few years. Enjoyed your recent articles on cooling in your home with high humidity, but onto this subject. Electric cooking aside, my smart electric meter says the 80-100 kwh I use each month are mostly for my refrigerator and its defroster (heater) going on, as I have all LED lights . My building has central gas heat and hot water (atmospheric boiler yet the building is heating at 5Btu/ft2/HDD and DHW is less than a 1/4 of the total gas usage ) in a 17 unit, 17,000 gsf multifamily building. In the next two years, my building will convert to 94% efficient modular gas boilers and fuel use should drop in half. But the electricity you are buying from Georgia Power is indeed 44% gas/oil, 34% coal, 13% Nukes (please don’t call this clean energy, you have enough drought issues, you know), 8% Hydro, and 1% renewables. So 78% fossil fuel is used to generate electricity for your house, and as you note in your article, at 35% from the plant to the plug at best, you’re creating more carbon by going electric than if you stayed with high efficiency gas heat, DHW, and stoves. I want the grid to go green before I go electric and “kiss and old flame goodbye” as a DC Based electric utility used to use in their ads (I have the hat, will send you the pic). Oh, and my electricity before my service charge is 25 cents/kwh, similar to gas at $7.32/therm. So currently (no pun intended) converting to all electric is increasing carbon in most of the country, and in NYC, an economic nightmare. Your pal, Andy

  18. The comments about costly electricity in some areas are spot on – I was astonished while reviewing my Mom’s electricity bills in northeast Massachusetts…approximately $0.25 / kWh…more than double national average. It’s hard to advocate electrification of heating tasks in such areas if nat gas is also available.

    Electric tankless water heaters strike me as a bad idea – tankless heaters are sensitive to hard water, encourage the moral hazard associated with endless hot water empowering endless showers, and could fare really badly if peak demand billing is imposed on residential customers as is under discussion near me.

    I can’t imagine living anywhere the fire department gets to regulate what kind of battery I choose to install in my home…that’s too much government!

    Reduce cost of using propane buy buying rather than renting the tank – rental tanks are a license to the tank owner to print money – the tank owner becomes sole supplier of propane at whatever markup they like – no other supplier is allowed to fill a rented tank. In short, “buy the tank and then play the field” (as to getting it refilled).

    An earlier participant wrote: ” People once were saying that coal was on its way out but it appears to be still well entrenched” – Um, not so much. Coal’s portion of electricity generation is down about 50% from its peak 15-20 years ago, and its downslope remains steep.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top