Reduce your home's emissions by taking advantage of new programs.
As the world grapples with planetary warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions, many of us are embracing changes to help reduce our impact. The way we heat and cool our homes is one place where we can make a difference, both to the Earth’s health and our own. New rebates and granting programs funding the switch to renewable technologies will help make this easier and less expensive. But how do you get started?
Where do our home emissions come from?
Homes in the United States are responsible for about 20% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions annually. These emissions come directly from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, fracked gas and gasoline. Shifting your home energy towards cleaner alternatives is a critical component to slashing emissions and creating a healthier future for all. It’s also an important part of meeting our commitments under the Paris Agreement, a legally binding, international treaty on climate change.
The problem with "natural" gas
Natural (fracked) gas is accessed by “fracking,” or cracking the earth open, a process that pollutes the air, water, soil, and even those that live close to the well.
Researchers have found hazardous chemicals near wastewater disposal sites that increased carcinogen benzene levels in pregnant women. This has been linked to preterm birth and low birth weight in babies. For these and other reasons, fracking is banned in France, Germany and the UK, along with several Canadian provinces.
Additionally, burning natural gas around children, such as on a gas stove, increases the incidences and severity of asthma. This is due to the air-contaminant nitrogen dioxide. Other appliances that give off the same emissions include water heaters, gas furnaces and fireplaces.
Not only do gas appliances pollute the air in your home, but they also destroy the climate. The main component of natural gas, methane, has a heating impact of 86 times carbon dioxide over a 20-year span. This essentially means that it has a more detrimental short-term impact on our climate.
Where to start
The easiest way to begin lowering your home’s impact is by replacing your gas-powered appliances with electric options. Half of Americans now have the option to purchase green energy directly from their supplier, meaning both the appliances and the energy that powers them can be emissions free. The rest can purchase green energy certificates to help speed the transition towards renewable energy.
Electrifying your home appliances might sound tedious, but it has never been easier. Figuring out which brands or models you want, comparing prices, and scheduling installation are just some of the steps to take. Choosing energy-efficient appliances is another. Here’s where to start.
- Cooking: Replace gas and propane stoves with electric ranges. Induction cooktops are an excellent option for chefs and foodies who like the precision of gas cooking, without the emissions. Rather than using radiant heat to cook your food, induction cooktops use electromagnetic energy that reacts with the iron in your cookware to create heat. They heat faster, change temperature more quickly, and are the most energy efficient of the home cooking options–three times more efficient than gas.
- Space heating and cooling: The average heat pump uses one third to half the energy of regular baseboard heating and saves homeowners money and emissions when compared to gas and oil furnaces. At 300 to 400 % efficiency, heat pumps collect heat from the air, ground or water and transfer it to your house. They can also do the reverse, cooling indoor air during summer, making them a great two-in-one solution.
- Water heating: Electric hot water heaters are easy to locate and install. Set the temperature at 120 ºF and wrap in a thermal blanket for even more efficiency.
As you are making the switch, use the same practices you would when buying any appliance. Are there certain settings or functions that you want? Do you want to prioritize? Remember to account for the space you have as well. Dimensions are crucial as some of them may be too big to even fit in the space it belongs in, or even fit through the door. You might also want to decide if the brand matters to you.
The most important thing to know when replacing gas appliances is to work with your gas company to ensure the gas line is properly capped off. Not properly sealing off a gas line leaves the risk for a gas leak to occur.
How to pay for upgrades
Before you start scheduling installation appointments and purchasing your appliances, you need to figure out how much you can afford. Determining what you’re willing to spend is critical. Thankfully, recent investments are making these upgrades more affordable than ever.
One of the ways you can save money is by exploring rebates offered by your utility company. Another way is to explore granting and rebate programs offered under the new Inflation Reduction Act. The Inflation Reduction Act is the single largest investment toward climate change in American History and offers a number of different programs to homeowners.
Citizens who take part in the new rebate and discount programs under the Act could save $10,000 or more. Rebates apply to everything from heat pumps and solar water heaters to added insulation and better windows. Once you’ve finished with rebates and discounts, the savings will continue as you earn tax credits for your upgrades and pay less in energy costs.
Even if you’re not poised to increase the energy efficiency of your home, you can still save as energy bills stabilize. Industry tax credits will both lower the upfront cost of purchasing clean energy and its production, thanks to longer-term market guarantees. Investors and businesses will be able to plan and build new infrastructure without seeing power credits decline until emissions do. Households will also benefit from more stable energy markets that aren’t tied to fossil fuel world politics.
To calculate how much money you can save under the Act, visit Rewiring America’s savings calculator.
What about grants?
That’s all well and good, you might say, but who can afford to pay for these new technologies? Aren’t rebates just a portion of the overall cost?
The answer depends on your income. One of the programs offered, the High Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act, specifically targets low and middle income households.
If you make under the threshold amount for your area (less than 80% of your region’s median income), you are eligible for rebates covering the full cost of your upgrades, up to $14,000. If your household earns between 80% and 150% of your area’s median income, you’re eligible for rebates covering 50% of the cost, also up to $14,000.
But what’s even more helpful is that customers can expect to receive most of these rebates at the point of sale.
Example eligible upgrades:
- Heat pumps (for space heating)
- Heat pumps (for water heating)
- Electric stoves
- Electric dryers
- Insulation, venting and sealing
- Thermal windows
- Installation costs
- Electrical wiring and breaker boxes
Tax credit savings
Households taking advantage of energy efficiency upgrades will also be eligible for tax credits come filing time. The Energy Efficiency Home Improvement Credit will allow you to deduct up to 30% of the cost of your upgrades (including both equipment and installation costs) from your income, up to $1,200 (or up to $2,000 for heat pumps).
After you have made decisions about your budget and what you’re looking for, it’s time to shop for the appliances. You might be able to shop sales for some appliances, such as stoves, but for other appliances, try to get quotes from multiple installers and compare prices. This is likely to save you a lot of money.
If you’d like to take things a step further, consider using solar energy to help lower your electricity bill and reduce your home’s carbon footprint. Solar power is one of the fastest growing sectors today, and home solar installations is becoming more affordable every year. Since 2010 alone, the cost of solar modules has decreased over 15% per year. Thankfully, rebate and granting programs apply to these solutions as well.
Taking an active role in lowering your emissions, improving your health, and saving money on your electric bill are just a few of the benefits of transitioning your appliances away from oil and gas. As the world moves away from an era of fossil fuels, being proactive with your choices is a worthwhile investment to keep your family and the environment safe!