Beneficial electrification is the third key element in state and local plans to achieve aggressive climate change goals. The first two key elements are: a) using energy as efficiently as possible, and b) reducing the carbon-intensity of the electricity grid through renewable energy sources. With lower carbon-emitting electricity, the third element – switching from fossil fuel use to electricity, in buildings and vehicles, results in significant carbon dioxide emission reductions.
Beneficial electrification means converting equipment from fossil fuel use to electricity use, when the conversion results in at least one of these benefits:
- reduced air pollutant emissions including greenhouse gases
- decreased customer energy costs, or
- improved utilization of grid resources.
For an all-electric new home, the heating costs will be about the same or slightly lower than for a more traditional home using natural gas for heating. However, for most existing homes that install a new heat pump system, the heating costs with the heat pump may be slightly higher.
All-electric new homes cost about the same or slightly less than homes with traditional fuel-based space and water heating and gas ranges.
It could be expensive to switch your home completely to electric heating and appliances. But we suggest a more gradual approach, taking one system or appliance at a time. First, installing a heat pump system costs more than a gas or propane furnace, but the heat pump also provides cooling. The heat pump system costs about the same as the total for a gas or propane furnace combined with a central air conditioning system. Next, a heat pump water heater costs slightly more than a natural gas or propane water heater, but there are utility rebates available in many areas. An induction cooktop/electric range costs slightly more than an equivalent gas cooktop/range, but performs better and produces no harmful air pollutants. To reduce your annual electricity costs, you could also consider adding a solar PV system, or purchasing some of your home’s electricity from a solar garden. And you can apply for a loan to finance all of the above electric conversions.
Electrification offers several potential benefits:
- Reduced emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants
- Reduced fuel costs
- Improved health and safety
- Improved performance of the electric system or equipment.
Electric cars are one example. In the home, you can electrify your heating by switching from natural gas or propane to an efficient electric heat pump. You can also switch your hot water heater from natural gas or propane to a heat pump water heater. And for cooking, you can switch your gas stove to an induction cooktop/electric range.
Electrification means converting heating systems, equipment, or appliances to run on electricity, instead of using a fuel such as natural gas, propane, or gasoline.
Air-source heat pumps (ASHPs) are essentially reversible air conditioners. Just like an air-conditioner, in the summer they transfer heat from the air inside your home to the outside. In the winter they transfer and “concentrate” heat from outside air to heat your home.
Air-source heat pumps are the most common (see question number 1). Ground-source heat pumps use water in underground pipes as the heat source (or sink), rather than air. They are more expensive than ASHPs but are also more efficient. Ground-source heat pumps can be used for larger homes, for homes in colder climates (such as Colorado mountain areas), or for multi-family buildings or schools.
There are also “air-to-water” heat pumps, which are air-source heat pumps that transfer heat from the heat pump to water rather than to provide warm air. These systems are less common, but can be used to provide hot water for radiant heating systems.
Whether a heat pump makes sense for your home depends on your current heating system, location, etc. Installing a new heat pump system will not be cost-effective in some situations. Please see the Heat Pump Resources section above.
Heat pumps provide both heating and cooling, and they work very well for both, if designed and installed properly. However, a new heat pump does cost more than replacing a furnace. If your home has a natural gas furnace or boiler and is comfortable in the summer without air conditioning, then a heat pump may not make economic sense for you. On the other hand, heat pumps only cost slightly more than a central air-conditioning (AC) system. So, if you want to add AC to your home or need to replace your existing AC, choosing a heat pump makes a lot of sense, especially with utility rebates and federal tax credits. The heat pump will keep your home cool in the summer, while also helping to heat your home in the winter, with the same or lower heating costs and much lower carbon emissions.
A ducted heat pump system is very similar to a central AC system, and the heat pump works the same as the AC system during the summer months (providing cooling to the home). In the winter months, the heat pump is able to operate in reverse mode, drawing heat from the cold outside air, concentrating it, and warming the home.
Cold-climate heat pumps achieve better energy performance at colder temperatures than standard heat pumps, and they are designed for higher efficiency over the entire range of winter temperatures. The best cold-climate heat pumps provide 70-80 percent of the heat pump’s maximum heating capacity at temperatures as low as 5 degrees F.
For a new home in climate zones 4 or 5 (all areas of Colorado except for the mountain areas), a cold-climate heat pump system will work very well without a backup furnace. However, for an existing home in these areas with a gas furnace, it will probably be more cost-effective to keep the existing furnace as a backup.
Heat Pump Water Heaters
No. Although the exhaust air is typically cooler than the room air, it is usually much warmer than the outside air during winter months in Colorado. Ducting the exhaust air outside will pull in more outside air to take its place, and will therefore increase the energy use of the house.
Yes, it’s fine to put the heat pump water heater in a finished basement. You should just make sure the cool exhaust air from the water heater does not blow directly into commonly occupied areas. Yes, this will add a small amount of energy to the home’s overall heating load. However, this amount of cool air from the heat pump water heater will have a minimal effect on the home’s overall heating system performance/consumption. In addition, the cool air will help keep the basement cool in the summer months, reducing the energy used for air conditioning.
Basements, utility rooms, and laundries are great locations for a heat pump water heater. Pick a spot that will not be frequented by occupants, and position it away from bedrooms and living spaces to fully mitigate any noise concerns. Heat pump water heaters mildly dehumidify the air around them, so they can be a helpful addition to a root cellar or pantry. You can locate the water heater in a small space as long as there is adequate airflow. This can often be achieved by installing a louvered door and grills or grates or similar air gaps.
You need the same size as for a conventional water heater. For a home with two occupants, you should choose a 40 or 50-gallon unit. For 2-4 people, you should choose a 66-gallon unit; and for more than 4 people, a 75 or 80-gallon unit.
A heat pump water heater will reduce your energy costs for hot water by 65% compared to a conventional electric water heater, and by 75% compared to a propane water heater. Your energy costs for hot water will be about the same with a heat pump water heater compared to an efficient natural gas water heater.
Heat pump water heaters are much more efficient than gas, propane, or conventional electric water heaters. The uniform energy factor (UEF) is the new metric for rating the energy efficiency of water heaters. The higher the UEF, the higher the efficiency. Heat pump water heaters have UEF ratings between 3.0 and 3.5, while “efficient” gas and propane water heaters have UEF ratings between 0.65 and 0.70. Conventional electric water heaters have UEF ratings of about 0.95.
One of the measures of performance is the “recovery time,” which means the time it takes to provide hot water during periods of high usage (when the hot water in the storage tank is depleted). Heat pump water heaters have recovery times that are slightly longer than those of natural gas or propane water heaters, and slightly better than those of traditional electric water heaters. Heat pump water heaters have an electric resistance heating element to complement the heat pump system for heating the water. In the “hybrid mode” setting, both the electric resistance and heat pump systems work together to heat the water, providing for quicker recovery than traditional electric water heaters. If your home has frequent periods of high usage, another option to improve the recovery time more efficiently than relying on the “hybrid mode” is to choose a larger tank size, and/or to increase the temperature setting to ~130 degrees F and install a mixing valve to deliver the needed temperature.
Induction cooking works by creating a magnetic field between the cooking pan/pot and the magnetic coils beneath the cooking surface. The magnetic field then heats the contents of the cooking pot.
The cookware must contain iron (cast iron or some types of stainless steel) or have a layer of material with magnetic properties. Some types of stainless steel do not work – for example, if it is a blend of aluminum and stainless steel, or if the nickel content of the stainless steel is too high.
Induction is a type of electric cooktop. Other electric cooktop types are the coil-type, which are very common, and the flat surface radiant type. The latter is more efficient than the coil-type, and as the name implies, it transfers heat by radiating it (rather than conduction) from the heating elements below the smooth ceramic surface to the cookware, with very little warming of the surrounding air. Radiant cooktops are cheaper than induction but not as fast or efficient. Both are easy to clean because of the smooth surface of the cooktop. With induction, the cooktop itself does not heat up, so it is even safer to use and to clean.
Induction cooking offers several benefits compared to cooking with gas or propane. It is safer because there are no direct flames and no fire hazard. It is healthier because there are no emissions of pollutants such as carbon monoxide and nitrous oxides. And induction also heats up food quicker than with gas or propane. Induction cooktops are also very easy to clean, because they are smooth, and the cooking surface itself does not get hot.
Yes, and induction actually heats up food or boils water more quickly than with gas or propane cooking. And with induction, it is easy to control simmering.
Yes, induction cooking is very safe, because there are no flames, and the cookware and contents heat up, but the cooktop surface itself does not get hot.