By what year should we stop burning natural gas & gasoline?

It’s an emergency that we reduce our burning of fossil fuels, sooner the better.

We need to stop burning fossil fuels now.

You should plan to replace any fossil-fuel-using appliances by 2030 at the latest.

Stop Burning Stuff

How to prepare for the future?

Learn about options for major appliances before you need them

Many of the next generation of major appliances are more sensitive to certain conditions. This allows them to do more with less energy, but requires a certain amount of preparation and consideration when upgrading.

Budget for more spend upfront, with smaller operating costs

When choosing between fossil-fuel-type equipment and electric-type equipment, usually the electric-type equipment has a higher price tag. But, the cost to operate the equipment is lower, making its lifetime cost equal or less.

 

Ie. A heat-pump furnace costs more to install, but each year costs less to operate than a natural-gas furnace.



Consider electrified options when replacing major appliances

For each of the major appliances that you have which run directly from fossil-fuels, consider an electrified alternative. By using electricity, you have many options for where and how you get that electricity. It could come from a coal power plant, natural gas power plant, or renewable sources. 

 

With more electricity usage, your electrical service and panel size may need to change

As you add more appliances to your house which use electricity, you may find that you need to upgrade your electrical service (200A should be fine), and also add more breakers to your breaker panel (perhaps adding a sub-panel to provide more spaces).

 

It usually costs less to have the panel changed at the same time as adding other electrical needs, but this can make emergency repairs more complicated (because who wants to do an electrical panel/service upgrade before being able to replace their furnace in the middle of winter?). So, you may want to review your electrical situation early, and plan on budgeting some money to perform some upgrade work before you absolutely need it. This can also reduce your cost, because you’re not paying “emergency” rates, and your schedule is more flexible.

Decrease Home electricity usage

Reducing usage through energy efficiency improvements

Once you’ve identified doors or windows which are leaking air, you may be able to fix these issues with some caulking, or spray foam. Depending on the complexity of the problem, you may be able to do it yourself, or hire a professional.

 

Energy Efficient light bulbs (ComEd Program/rebates?)

If you have any incandescent (traditional) light bulbs, you can replace them with LED bulbs which will provide the same amount of light, for 10% of the electricity costs. It also has the benefit of reducing the amount of heat emitted by the bulbs, which can be significant/unwanted in the summertime.

 

Your utility company probably has a program for doing an energy assessment (which is a very lightweight form of Energy Audit), and will offer you discounted prices on LED bulbs, programmable thermostats, and other things.

 

Upgrade light bulbs

Changing incandescent lightbulbs to LED bulbs can save a bunch of electricity.

 

One thing to bear in mind is that any lights on dimmer switches may need special LED bulbs which are dimmer-ready. In the worst case scenario, you may need to replace the dimmer switch with a newer LED-compatible switch.

 

Renters

As a renter, your options for what you can do to improve your energy usage/supply are more limited.


With your landlord’s approval, you can get a ComEd energy assessment.

If you are paying for your own electricity, I would recommend that you purchase LED light bulbs to replace any incandescent bulbs. And, when you move out, you can put the incandescent bulbs back in (keep them safe in a box somewhere).

 

Also, you can look at air-sealing any doors and windows, which will have the added benefit of improved temperature control.

 

Any drafty windows can be addressed using inexpensive weatherization material (like the shrink-kit for window insulation) ($6/4-pack). Putting these up over drafty windows in the winter can make a large difference.

 

Reducing the draft of doors can also be relatively inexpensive, depending on why it’s drafty. Carefully removing the molding around the door, may help identify areas which would benefit from window-and-door spray foam (to do some air sealing).  Ideally, you’ll do this in coordination with your landlord, but if you’re doing it carefully, and for the benefit of you, and future renters....

Heat-pump water heater

Water Heater -> Hybrid Water Heater

A traditional water heater works by heating water and storing it in a large reservoir tank, for use by the house when they need hot water.

 

There are a few other types of hot-water systems.

 

On-demand water-heaters work by heating water at the time that it needs to be used. Benefits: you only use energy when you need hot water. Disadvantages: you need to size the system to be able to keep up with your hot-water demand. You also need a lot of electricity to power the system.

 

Hybrid-electric heat-pump water heater, uses electricity to move heat from the air surrounding the water tank, into the water tank.  It also includes electric heaters in the tank, to provide supplemental heat if there’s more demand than the heat-pump can provide.

 

Benefits: Unlike an on-demand system, it has a large tank of water, behaving like a traditional system. Its annual operating costs are much lower (on average, $300/year cheaper). Does not require exterior venting. Disadvantages: The recovery-time for this system is usually longer than a traditional system. (if you use all the hot water, it takes longer to replenish in heat-pump-only mode). It also costs more ($1700 vs $600).

 

Benefits: Much less costly to run than an electric-only water heater, because heat-pumps have an efficiency of 250-400%, compared to an electric water heater with a 100% efficiency.

Electrification of Cooking

Replace your Stove with an (electric) Induction Stove

There are many different types of stoves available. You may be familiar with gas stoves and traditional electric stoves (red coil top). Another type of electric stove is the Induction Stove. This type of stove is also electric, but a different technology than the traditional electric stove.

 

An Induction Stove uses magnets to heat the cooking pot, instead of using resistance to heat and element, which then transfers the heat to the cooking pot. By doing this, there are many benefits, including precise control and faster boiling of water.

 

When comparing gas stoves to induction stoves, be sure to compare the wattage of the individual elements. Based on my reading, it looks like a

3,700W should be equivalent to a high-end open gas burner @ 25,000 BTU. (link)

There are induction stovetops with 4,200W burners (link), which would boil water faster than an open-gas burner.

 

Other benefits include improved indoor air quality, which can have an impact on asthma and other respiratory conditions. (see references)