Introduction In commercial and residential buildings, most electrical components are hidden from sight. The only components that are exposed include
The state of California recently passed new energy policies that incentivize building electrification. Simply put, these codes encourage the use of efficient heating & cooling systems and electrical design in California homes. This move can lead to a significant decrease in the use of natural gas and fossil fuels in buildings.
Interestingly, the CEC (California Energy Commission) has already approved these codes. However, they’ll only impact some businesses and all new residential construction. Some of the affected businesses include; grocery and retail stores, restaurants, motels, and medical offices.
In this article, we’ll look at the benefits these policies may have by advocating for all-building homes in California!
What is building electrification?
Electrification involves the shift from fossil fuel use towards the use of electricity to power commercial buildings and home appliances. This process will significantly reduce the emitted greenhouse gasses, helping the state accomplish its GHG reduction goals. More notably, electrification provides great comfort, better air quality, and lower energy costs.
Benefits of all-electric homes
- Reduced energy bill
New electric appliances tend to consume less energy compared to natural gas-powered devices. Therefore, using all-electric appliances in your homes can help you save money on your energy bill.
- Improved safety and indoor air quality
Replacing natural gas appliances with electric ones can enhance the air quality of your indoor living spaces. This is because, unlike natural gas, electricity doesn’t produce harmful emissions. Besides, when you’ve gas appliances, you have to maintain and inspect them regularly to avoid dangerous exposure to harmful gasses.
- Increasing the building’s energy efficiency
Lastly, electric appliances have better energy efficiency than the ones that run on fossil fuels. Specifically, they consume less energy and are 3 to 5 times more efficient than their natural gas counterparts.
- Curbing Greenhouse gas emissions
All-electric homes are essential in helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, buildings in the USA consume around 40% of energy, while California accounts for nearly 70% of electricity. That aside, combustion of fossil fuel in commercial and residential buildings in the United States accounts for 29%.
To sum things up, switching to all-electric homes can cause a significant reduction in GHG emissions. As an example, it could reduce carbon dioxide by 45% in 2020, yet this may increase to 82% fewer tons in the next 3 decades.
Opponents of all-electric homes in California
Even with the benefits we’ve mentioned above, the shift to all-electric appliances in electrical design in California has some serious opponents. The most significant opponent is Southern California Gas, which is the largest natural gas facility in the state. According to the argument, moving too quickly from natural gas will burden California homeowners with higher energy bills.
In addition, pro-gas advocacy groups have been funded by SoCal Gas to prevent local governments from implementing all-electric building codes. Nonetheless, over 40 counties and cities in the city have limited or banned natural gas use in new buildings. At the same time, some cities have updated or passed all-electric ordinances in the past months.
Moving on, property owners and builder groups have also conflicted with the all-electric ordinances. Like Southern California Gas, they’re claiming that this shift can increase costs or go against the users’ desire for fossil fuel appliances.
On the contrary, studies demonstrate that all-electric MEP designs experience a significant reduction in their utility bills. This is mainly accomplished by using heat pumps to replace gas-fired heaters. On the same note, replacing gas-fired ranges with induction stovetops reduces health risks. Besides, they replace 2 sets of energy delivery systems with one, meaning they’re cheaper to build.
In that regard, building industry groups recently wrote a letter to the California Energy Commission to dispute those claims. According to the letter, the members of the groups argued that all-electric homes have the same or slightly higher utility and construction costs compared to mixed-fuel construction. Moreover, they suggested that all-electric homes have higher energy costs in some parts of California.
Lastly, the groups suggested that the California Energy Commission had previously promised to abandon an all-electric standard in the prevailing Title 24 code cycle. In return, builders would support the implementation of the solar incentive for new homes proposed under the last Title 24 code cycle.
Title 24 Code Cycle
Title 24 is an energy code in California that is designed to reduce unnecessary or wasteful energy consumption in existing and new buildings. These Building Energy Efficiency guidelines are updated every 3 years by the CEC in a transparent and public process.
One thing you need to note though is that these guidelines do not prohibit certain appliances. Instead, they set strict guidelines that builders have to comply with. Changes made to this 3-year building energy efficiency code cycle can affect the building plans for the next 10 years. As far as electrification is concerned, the 2019 Title 24 update mainly focused on low-rise and single-family residential homes.
Today, most commercial buildings and homes in California use natural gas to heat water, cook, dry clothes, and heat/ cool air. Yet natural gas appliances have been demonstrated to produce unhealthy particles, worsening both outdoor and indoor air quality. For that reason, all existing and new buildings in the state should aim to shift towards electric appliances in their electrical design. In that regard, the state of California must act promptly to give appliance makers and builders the guidance they need to implement all-electric construction.