Consumers need to know: Electrified homes are better homes

Sponsored article: BlocPower shares the benefits of electrification.

There is momentum growing in the United States and around the world to electrify buildings.

The attention is well deserved. Buildings account for around 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, similar in impact to the transportation sector. Heat pumps have gone prime time, debuting this month on Wirecutter, Wired and Bloomberg. In states like New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul has called for “2 million climate-friendly, electrified or electrification-ready homes by 2030.”

Even the highest levels of the U.S. government are talking about the need for more heat pumps. The Department of Energy called them an essential part of fighting the climate crisis, and the war in Ukraine has invoked calls to use the Defense Production Act to mine minerals for energy storage and ramp up supply chains and a workforce to install electric appliances, like heat pumps, in the U.S. and Europe.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm discussed healthy homes and heat pumps with BlocPower in fall 2021 in a hangar at JFK Airport.

To make this all work, politicians, advocacy groups, community organizations and climate technology leaders need to work in lockstep to enable building decarbonization at scale.

Then comes the hard part: getting electric stoves and heat pumps into the millions of homes and buildings still burning fossil fuels for cooking, air and space heating. We’re not talking about workforce development, or engineering or construction—though there’s plenty of work to be done there, too. We’re thinking about educating consumers that electrification is not only the best choice for the climate and possibly their wallet, but also for their health and comfort.

(Almost) nobody installs a heat pump to go green

The climate impact of electrification is an important benefit that a lot of folks care about. It’s just probably not why a family or a building owner switches to a heat pump.

Whether you’re one of the millions of energy cost–burdened households or a property owner staring at an income statement, money matters first for most decision-makers. A recent study from energy and decarbonization experts in Europe concluded that uptake will depend on ensuring “heat pumps are cheaper to own and operate than fossil-fuel systems,” along with reducing “capital costs associated with first-time heat pump installations.”

Today, though, only a subset of buildings will have the right combination of incentives, utility prices, local climate and accessible, low-cost financing (like BlocPower offers) to produce strong enough project economics for a job to get done on ROI alone.

For everyone else, we must reframe the conversation.

Electrified homes are better homes

When we let a cost comparison guide a conversation on a heat pump versus a gas or oil-burning furnace, we’ve fallen into a false equivalence trap.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has presented findings of a consumer panel on air source heat pump adoption. At the top of the list of purchase decision drivers—ahead of saving on energy bills—was the ability to both heat and cool. Boilers don’t do that.

Other key benefits motivating heat pump adoption included room-by-room, consistent temperature control, air purification and summertime dehumidification.

In other words, heat pumps are a huge comfort upgrade.

Now we’re cooking with gas (and formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and nitric oxides)

Conversations around gas versus induction stoves go down a similar path, often centering on perceptions of what cooks better (induction does). Only one of these options is poisoning our indoor air, though.

Stanford scientists released a shocking study of gas stoves this January, finding that “most stoves and associated nearby piping leak some methane continuously,” and numerous reports have identified the link between degraded indoor air quality from gas stoves and childhood asthma. Another study from Rocky Mountain Institute concludes that children living in a home with a gas stove have a “24–42% increased risk of having asthma.”

Nothing matters more to families than a child’s health.

Electrification will make us healthier and happier

We know driving down costs for building decarbonization solutions is critical to adoption, and some research is showing average owners can save $1,000 a year—but electrification offers much more to households than lower energy bills.

As we work to make upgrading to electrified homes and buildings affordable for all, let’s renew our focus on all the benefits that consumers are willing to pay for: improved indoor comfort, healthier indoor air, all in one heating and cooling, and yes—helping protect our planet.