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Environment, Health Top List of Reasons to Electrify Homes

A recent survey examining the reasons homeowners are interested in changing to electric systems found that environment, health and safety, and energy efficiency were at the forefront.

The survey by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) looked at why people could be encouraged to electrify their cooking, heating, and hot water systems in order to reduce the use of fossil fuels, such as gas and oil. Residential electrification is an important step toward decarbonization to meet U.S. climate goals, since building operation is responsible for 31% of energy-related CO2 emissions in the U.S.

Replacing oil and gas systems with electric ones powered by clean renewable energy is one way to reduce the amount of CO2, a powerful greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. Electrifying most U.S. residential and commercial buildings by 2050 could abate 306 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2 emissions and cut emissions by approximately 50%. Almost half of all homes now rely on natural gas as their primary heating fuel.

“Attitudes about switching from fossil fuels to efficient electric systems are net positive, but not strong enough to move most Americans at the pace needed. Targeting the right audiences with the right messaging about the benefits of making the switch will go a long way to advance electrification initiatives,” Reuven Sussman, lead author of the report, stated in a release.

The survey of about 1,800 homeowners and renters found that childhood experience with electric appliances or heating and cooling systems and belief in climate change contributed to their interest in switching from non-electric to electric heat, hot water, and cooking.

It also found that those who already owned electric lawn equipment and solar panels were up to twice as likely to electrify other parts of their homes with high-efficiency heating, hot water, or cooking appliances. Electrifying cooking appliances by far was the most likely change that might be made.

The ease of cleaning electric cooktops was a major reason for switching from gas. However at the same time, the survey found that some respondents believe that electric stoves provide an inferior cooking experience compared to gas. Other perceived barriers to home electrification included high costs of electricity and perceived inefficiency of electric technologies. ACEEE noted that some of these perceptions are based on outdated information.

The report suggests that focusing messaging about electrification’s benefits and addressing perceived barriers can help increase interest, while offering rebates and other incentives to consumers replacing a broken appliance can help convince more people to switch to electric systems.

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