Things are Popping!

Here’s a sampling of some of the great happenings out there in the big wide (and ever-expanding) world of energy efficiency, zero carbon, and green.

DOE Launches Home Improvement Expert

DOE’s Building America program has a new resource called Home Improvement Expert, developed to help homeowners with energy-related home improvements by using 21 individual home improvement checklists. These can be attached to vendor contracts to help ensure quality work and help vendors be more competitive. This is important because research shows energy-related home improvements are significantly non-compliant with industry best practices concerning performance and savings.

More information on the checklists is available on the DOE website.

Meritage’s CR Herro My Latest Hero

Quoted in Builder Online magazine, Herro makes several points that I frequently rant about in my classes and talks:
  1. We need to fix how valuations are done to capture the benefits of above-code energy features
  2. Getting to zero is about figuring out how to spend your budget wisely
  3. Roofs need to get simpler to reduce cost and better accommodate solar arrays
  4. Educating the value chain is key to success
  5. “It’s much better to be your own disruptor than to have disruption done to you.” Well said!!

Thanks to RMI’s Bruce Nilles and NYT writer Justin Gillis for this excellent article on why electrification makes sense — including giving up your gas stove! Kudos!

Induction Cooking Is the Bomb!

I have a kind of strange admission to make, for an eco-freak. I am eagerly awaiting the death of an appliance. Admittedly, this has happened before, but then it was an aesthetic issue. This time it’s about climate change.

I want to ‘decarbonize’ my home — eliminate all sources of fossil fuel combustion so that I can get the gas line capped off at the street. That means we will need to swap out all the gas appliances for electric: space and water heating equipment, the clothes dryer, and the kitchen range.

I expect our situation is pretty similar to a lot of other people’s. It’s hard to justify the expense (and embodied carbon footprint) of scrapping appliances that haven’t yet reached the end of their useful lifespans, and there are some logistical challenges, too, such as getting adequate electrical supply to the range location. 

Unlike many, though, I don’t have an attachment to cooking with so-called “natural” gas (which is methane, a greenhouse gas that is 80x more potent than CO2). I’m already persuaded of the many benefits of induction cooking over gas. It’s faster, more efficient, reduces burn risks, and results in cleaner indoor air by eliminating natural gas combustion byproducts. And perhaps best of all, the CLEANUP will be much easier!! The gas cooktop has far too many nooks, crannies, and crevices that get coated with muck from my husband’s liberal interpretation of “tablespoon” when it comes to the application of olive oil. 

Many people react poorly, though, to the idea of giving up their gas cookery; their only point of comparison is old-style electric ranges — which bear little resemblance to today’s induction appliances. Induction is a magnetic technology, and the fact that the ranges plug into the wall is irrelevant (gas ranges plug in, too). 

I’d like to recruit YOU to join the induction campaign! Learn about induction, test it out (single burners can be had for ~$50), and take your recalcitrant friends, family members, and clients to a showroom – a live demo of this technology can be very persuasive. Consumer Reports also has some great resources:

  • ‘Which is better’ – the highest performing stoves tested by CR are induction models, and one is cheaper than 9 other models in the top 10!
  • ‘Pros and cons’ – induction cooktops are faster & respond better to dialing back the temperature

Now get cookin’ with your campaign!

Electrifying News!

lightning bolt | Dawid Cedler | Flickr

I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately about electrifying — that is, building an all-electric new home or eliminating natural gas and propane appliances in their existing homes. That’s something I plan to do myself any day now!
Meanwhile, for those building new or buying new appliances, I encourage choosing electric options. In case you’re not already of the same mind, here are my reasons:
1. I live in California, where we are rapidly moving towards cleaner and cleaner electricity production. Already 30% of our electricity is “clean,” i.e., produced by renewable energy sources such as wind turbines and photovoltaics, and Governor Brown recently signed legislation committing us to a 100% clean electric grid by 2045. Many other states will inevitably follow suit.
2. The International Panel on Climate Change has told us we have 12 years to throttle back fossil fuel emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change — but have you noticed that each time the IPCC reports, that time window gets smaller? I mean, smaller by more than the time elapsed since their preceding report! That means we probably REALLY have 5-10 years to cut emissions. Drastically.
3. Gas combustion in buildings is a very, very large fraction of our overall societal emissions. This is a part of the equation that as individuals we have the ability to change.
The single biggest objection raised to going all-electric is, “I can’t stand cooking on an electric range.” Here’s the good news: cooking on today’s magnetic induction ranges, although they do plug in, is otherwise a dramatic improvement over not only old-style electric cooking, but also over residential gas stoves. Everyone I know who has switched says they will never go back. I can’t wait to switch for the easier cleanup alone!!
Here are a couple of recent articles about induction cooking for your reading pleasure: