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All-Electric is the Past and Future

Winter 2017
A version of this article appears in the Winter 2017 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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December 05, 2017
Since 1993 the Federal Energy Information Agency (EIA) has reported a non-stop, national growth trend in all-electric buildings, led by the Southern states at 44% of all their built homes (Figure 1). Why is all-electric growing when conventional wisdom is that “gas is cheap?” In fact an all-electric home costs at least $4,500 less to build according to KB Homes and City Ventures, and in apartments I have documented $3,500 savings per residence by building all-electric. These savings have always been there—electricity is always delivered, but plumbing for fossil fuels is optional—but cold climate performance has historically been the Achilles Heel of air source heat pumps. Below 40 0F and the compressor wouldn’t put out heat, requiring electric resistance that became too expensive in 1970s in all but the hydro-heavy Pacific Northwest. But that was then—for almost 15 years now here have been inverter-controlled compressors that can operate above the Arctic Circle down to -15 0F, as proven by the Canadian ZNE homes designed by Habitat Studio. Growth in all-electric homes with heat pumps is a national phenomena, illustrated by ICF International in their 2016 Propane Market Outlook that was commissioned by the propane industry (see Figure 2)—...

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