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Gas Stinks – Why Homes Of The Future Will Be All Electric
Natural gas is an affordable way to get your BTU and it’s a “relatively” clean fuel. That’s why so many people use it for heating, cooking, heating water and drying clothes.
Despite all its advantages, I don’t think gas will be the next big thing. Although we are far from fracking, which is a problem in itself, I think gas is a gonner.
Today, 75% of the energy used to fuel homes is generated by burning fossil fuels. It is delivered to our homes in the form of electricity and natural gas or oil. Burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change and is not a long-term sustainable solution. So where does that leave us? Nuclear energy and renewable energy sources. Nuclear energy has problems, see Fukushima. Renewables are the only thing that makes sense.
The good news is that renewable energy sources are part of a simple solution to climate change and that adding renewable energy to homes is now happening faster than most predict.
If we all had electricity generating stations in our homes, electricity would be a clean solution for our climate. Interestingly, it’s currently one of the dirtiest solutions because most electricity is generated using coal, but if we add PV or wind power to our homes, the energy mix would change and electricity would become a good option.
Here’s my prediction: the homes of the future will be completely electric.
According to the law of the land, homes must be more energy efficient. You remember when we didn’t have airbags in cars, that’s about where we are now with homes. Today we have the technology to build much better, but no one says we should, so it’s business as usual.
The International Energy Code of 2012 began to increase the required efficiency of buildings, increasing the air tightness and insulation requirements of homes. Each subsequent version of the code will increase the energy efficiency of buildings.
Solid, well-insulated houses
As houses become tighter and more comfortable, significantly less energy will be needed to heat the space and maintain its comfort. It will certainly take some energy, but just a sip instead of a sip. Gas and oil were the sources of heat because they are more affordable. With less demand, the financial incentives to add gas and/or oil to our homes won’t be as great.
In a cramped home, combustion appliances that burn fuel can add pollutants like carbon monoxide to the air. The reason this is a problem in a tight house is because the pressures inside the house are less likely to dissipate through leaks. In a leaky house, a bathroom vent is no big deal. In a cramped house, it can cause negative pressure and prevent natural draft from the combustion device. This leads to something called backdrafting and can push or spill bad things like carbon monoxide into your home. Since carbon monoxide can kill you, it’s really not a good thing.
It is possible to design a tight home with enclosed combustion appliances, but since there is no guarantee that the appliances will always work flawlessly and safely, architects and designers will think twice about including them in the home.
Cooking is probably the biggest reason people love gas. Gas is much more sensitive than a traditional electric stove. Guess what, there is induction cooking which is a chef’s favorite because it cooks quickly and reacts very quickly. Induction furnaces are expensive, but the flip side is that they are very cheap to run. The only catch is you have to use steel or stainless pans, if you can stick a magnet you can use it.
There are electric dryers, gas dryers, condensation dryers and clothes lines. Alternatives to gas dryers are electric and condensation dryers. Condensing dryers make the most sense in a high-performance home, as they are ventless and have no practical path to the outside through which heat and cold can travel. Some give them a bad reputation because clothes can come out wrinkled. An electric dryer that is not located in the building envelope and supplemented with a clothesline is another alternative.
The sun’s energy can be used to directly heat water or to generate electricity to run an efficient water heater such as a heat pump water heater.
Keep it simple
Pipes are needed for gas, and wires for electricity. One system is simpler than two, and since electricity can do everything, there is no need for two systems. Simplifying to one system means paying one bill instead of two every month.
When the demand for energy decreases, it makes sense to think about renewable energy. Renewable energy sources are becoming more affordable, but they are still a big expense. It is much cheaper to add 2kW to your home than 10kW.
An all-electric house can be a net-zero house, one that produces as much (or more) energy as it consumes during the year. In theory, you can still have gas and have net zero energy if you generate enough electricity to offset your gas consumption. But that wouldn’t benefit you financially, so where’s the incentive? Admit it, we’re more likely to net-zero if it makes financial sense.
Electric cars are not our vehicle of choice yet, but I think they will be. One idea of the future “smart” grid is that we will use our electric cars as battery storage for the grid, modulating high and low currents and ensuring a more stable energy flow. An electric house with PV on the roof and an electric car in the garage is a nice loop. Charge the car at night with excess cheap energy from the grid, turn on the car during the day when you are at work and add a little to the grid when needed and use a little when not.
Electric houses were predicted to be the wave of the future in the 1930s for very different reasons. Then, it had to do with all the new inventions that were coming our way. We were all supposed to live like the Jetsons. Now, more than ever, we want to simplify and perhaps live more like people in their 30s.
We have all this great technology that allows us to build comfortable homes that produce as much energy as we use, and we can do it all with electricity. No need for dual systems, no need for complications. It will be easier, smarter and cleaner just make it electric.
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