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Building Science

The Best Reason to Have an All-Electric Home

When you have to make a choice between electricity or natural gas, it's clear that electricity is better for the environment and maybe for your checkbook, too.

Photo courtesy of Energy Vanguard

Maybe you’ve heard the rumblings coming out of the environmental and building science crowd.  Maybe not. But it’s getting louder lately. The rumbling I’m alluding to is the move to switch from natural gas to electricity as the energy carrier of choice for buildings.

There are a number of reasons for doing so. Combustion safety is a big one. Your water heater will never kill you with carbon monoxide poisoning in your sleep if it’s running on electricity. Also, heat pumps can carry the load, even in cold climates. (I’ll be writing soon about a friend in Minneapolis who heats his whole house with an 18 kBTU/hr mini-split heat pump.) And depending on where you live, getting rid of gas may actually save you money on your energy bills.

The big picture

But the biggest reason, in my opinion, is related to the big picture. To see it, let’s take a look at the most recent energy flow diagram from the Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL). Here it is:

US energy flows diagram for the year 2018, from the Lawrence Livermore National Lab [Image credit: Lawrence Livermore National Lab]
US energy flows diagram for the year 2018, from the Lawrence Livermore National Lab. Click to enlarge.
It’s a complex diagram showing the inputs on the left, with the size of the line proportional to the amount of energy. (This particular type of data representation is called a Sankey diagram, the most famous of which shows the attrition in Napoleon’s army as they invaded Russia in 1812.) But let’s ignore most of the data shown here and focus just on electricity generation.

In 2018, the US used 38.2 quadrillion BTUs (Quads) of energy to generate electricity. The three biggest inputs were coal (12.1 Quads), natural gas (11.0 Quads), and nuclear power (8.44 Quads).  Coal, the dirtiest fuel we use, accounted for 32% of the fuel used in generating electricity. Solar (0.61 Quads) and wind (2.53 Quads) together account for 8%.

OK, you’re thinking, those are interesting numbers, but what are you getting at, Allison? Give me some context!

Here you go. Let’s look a bit further back in time. The 2008 LLNL energy flows diagram is below.

US energy flows diagram for the year 2008, from the Lawrence Livermore National Lab [Image credit: Lawrence Livermore National Lab]
US energy flows diagram for the year 2008, from the Lawrence Livermore National Lab. Click to enlarge.
The total source energy that went into electricity generation ten years earlier was 39.97 Quads, or about 5% higher than it was in 2018. That’s not the interesting part, though. The portion of electricity that came from coal in 2008 was 51%.

Wow! Coal dropped from 51% to 32% as the source energy for US electricity. We decreased our coal use by more than 8 Quads in ten years. Yes, the amount of natural gas we used went up in those ten years, but only by about 4 Quads. Nuclear was flat, hydro gained a small amount, but the biggest gainers were solar and wind, which increased from 0.52 Quads to 3.14 Quads. So about half of the reduction in coal use was made up by solar and wind.

Another big change happened even earlier

Now let’s go back a bit further in time. Here’s the US energy flows diagram for 1978.

US energy flows diagram for the year 1978, from the Lawrence Livermore National Lab [Image credit: Lawrence Livermore National Lab]
US energy flows diagram for the year 1978, from the Lawrence Livermore National Lab. Click to enlarge.
Aside from the improvement in chart quality, there’s another significant improvement we can see here. Coal accounted for about half of the energy that went into electricity generation (10.4 out of 20.4 Quads). But the biggest change that’s happened since the 1970s was the near elimination of petroleum and natural gas liquids (NGL) from electricity generation. It went from 18.9% to 0.6% in 40 years.

The number one reason is…

The big takeaway from these data is clear: Electricity keeps getting cleaner. We’ve gotten petroleum out almost completely. We’re now seeing coal disappear rapidly. And solar and wind are beginning to take off.

When you have to make a choice of electricity or natural gas, it’s clear that electricity is the better choice for the environment. Gas, on the other hand, is not getting cleaner. And with all the problems associated with fracking, gas has probably gotten worse.

In addition to being better for the environment, electricity may well be better for your pocketbook, too. A new whitepaper from Pecan Street, a research and policy organization, finds that converting from natural gas space heating to a heat pump could save Texas homeowners from $57 to $452 per year.

Finally, of course, having an all-electric home makes it easier to offset your energy use with site-generated solar power if you install photovoltaic modules. I’m going for net zero energy use with the house I just bought, and I’ve already changed out the old gas water heater with a beautiful new heat pump water heater.

So the next time someone tells you that electric cars or heat pumps or water heaters don’t help because they use dirty coal, you can respond by saying, yes, coal is still part of the mix but it’s decreasing rapidly. Electricity is getting cleaner all the time.

Allison Bailes of Decatur, Georgia, is a speaker, writer, building science consultant, and the author of the Energy Vanguard Blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @EnergyVanguard.


  1. marnichol | | #1

    I'm just waiting for my 28 LG 400 watt panels to show up. The installer feels we should produce about 13400 kwh annually. Our house consumes just over 14000 khw. As I always tell people that we have no flame in our home plus we have an in law suite to boot. It's all doable just now have to convince the wife to get an electric car (I might need to start making more money too).

  2. maine_tyler | | #2

    Unfortunately, what stands out to me is the large rejected energy bar coming out of electricity generation (and transportation).

    Is there a way to reconcile this as an electricity advocate? i.e. make claim that these losses are worth it?

    I understand that the cleaner electricity gets, the easier it is to accept these losses, but with the current electric production distribution, there are more losses than there are percentages of renewables, by a lot it seems. There are almost enough losses that it is effectively coal and coal alone that is producing the usable energy.

    1. Expert Member
      Dana Dorsett | | #4

      >"Unfortunately, what stands out to me is the large rejected energy bar coming out of electricity generation (and transportation)."

      >"I understand that the cleaner electricity gets, the easier it is to accept these losses, ..."

      Non-thermal sources of electricity don't have the large rejected energy component, which is mostly related to the poor thermal efficiency of thermal power plants, not distribution losses. And not all losses are created equal. The thermal losses of nuclear plants (on average) carry drastically lower environmental consequences compared to fossil burners (not that it's really "clean" exactly, just quite a bit less-dirty.)

      Local/regional averages differ widely from the national picture, but the national picture is evolving faster than most people grasp. The tipping point where new solar and new wind are cheaper than EXISTING coal or nuclear was passed a few years ago, and we're currently on the cusp of new-PV + battery being cheaper than new natural gas power. Before 2030 (well within the lifecycle of heating & cooling appliances) renewables + battery will be cheaper than existing natural gas- the change is still accellerating, not stalling. When it becomes clear that keeping the old thermal stuff going is more expensive than new non-thermal generation everywhere, the rate of all that stuff closing will pick up (it already is picking up.)

      The large utility NextERA is just one of many recently making that call, estimating that coal in the US will be replaced by new-renewables within a decade :

      1. geir_gaseidnes | | #5

        Basically any natural gas plant currently under construction is soon-to-be a stranded asset.

        1. JC72 | | #22

          Perhaps but NatGas is significantly less expensive than nuclear.

          1. Expert Member
            Dana Dorsett | | #27

            >"Perhaps but NatGas is significantly less expensive than nuclear."

            Even with conservative assumptions about future gas pricing gas is significantly less than new nuclear for sure, but not necessarily less than existing nuclear, (it's usually more even assuming a full lifecycle). It could be a toss up at best when factoring in both the stranding costs of the abandoned shiny-new gas plant and the decommissioning costs of the existing nuke are factored in.

            Lazard puts the levelized cost of running an existing nuclear plant at about $36/mwh, and the lifecycle cost of a new combined cycle gas plant at between $41/mwh - $74/mwh.


            If a gas plant designed for a 50 year lifecycle only operates for 10-15 years or at a single-digit capacity factor, those numbers are going to be much higher.

            When decommissioning costs get factored into the nuke operation costs those numbers too will skew to the high side.

            For small modular reactors to have a shot in the low-carbon electricity marketplace they have to be a LOT cheaper than new PWR nukes, and on par with renewables + storage + curtailment, all of which are still rapidly trending downward in cost.

      2. maine_tyler | | #9

        Thanks Dana, that makes things a bit clearer

    2. vashonz | | #6

      I would think that conversion and generation losses hopefully will decrease as power generation and storage gets more distributed. I'm all for small scale nuclear (Nuscale and Terrapower), and for distributed solar+storage. Eliminating the conversion of 230kV+ required for power transmission would help with the losses.

      1. Expert Member
        Dana Dorsett | | #11

        >"I'm all for small scale nuclear (Nuscale and Terrapower), and for distributed solar+storage."

        I'm completely UN-convinced that the small modular reactors (SMR) can be built and operated economically. Even if they became (eventually) economic, they can't be deployed fast enough to make a meaningful difference in the near or mid term.

        At the ever falling price of solar, wind, and storage it's a technology that would be playing catch-up, best case. Even at last year's levelized cost estimates, overbuilding renewables and curtailing half or 2/3 of the power is cheaper than building new pressurized water reactors.

        Utility scale PV at $35-45/Mwh or wind at $30-55/Mwh or $92/Mwh offshore wind is pretty stiff competition for new PWR nukes at $110-190/Mwh (without including the decommissioning costs.) Even if the SMRs are eventually down to 1/3 the cost of PWR, it's going to be tough going, since the renewables are still on a double-digit learning curve.

        The marginal cost of existing PWRs is about $28/Mwh, barely cheaper than 2018 wind & PV, before factoring in decommissioning costs or externalities. Only true believers who drank the kool-aid think the levelized cost of SMRs are going to hit close to that in a time frame that matters, but the levelized cost of renewables are pretty much already there.

        The offshore wind party is just getting started in the US, and contracts early this year in New England were averaging about $90/Mwh. Last summer's auction in the UK came in at about £40/Mwh (~USD $50/Mwh), and the offshore wind resources in New England are even better than the UK. Looking forward to 2030 it's likely to be coming in cheaper than just the operating cost of existing nuclear.

        Bottom line, it's probably worth spending taxpayer dollars subsidizing building a few SMRs to see if they can fly, but it's way too early to be banking on SMRs for running the grid or becoming a signficant part of the climate change solution. Their window of opportunity probably passed more than 20 years ago, when renewables were still expensive, and still a tiny industry, whereas now they're pretty cheap and have incumbency in their favor.

  3. Jon_R | | #3

    > it's clear that electricity is better for the environment

    Not always. In areas with some percentage of coal generation and at cold temperatures (where heat pump COP is low), this isn't currently true. In such cases, best for the environment is to switch between nat gas and electricity depending on the current outdoor temperature. In some places, nat gas is better than electricity, even when used for the WHOLE season. For example, in my Z5 area.

    The above is based on CO2. Add in all the other harmful effects of coal and one needs to be even more cautious about where they prefer utility electricity. And remember that even net zero energy buildings still use lots of utility electricity.

    > coal is still part of the mix but it’s decreasing rapidly

    This statement is actually true. But it's anybody's guess at what point in the future it decreases to the point where electricity is always better everywhere. Maybe long after a nat gas heater (used all season or only during low COP periods) has justified itself with lower environmental damage.

    1. _Stephen_ | | #32

      Paying for a natural gas furnace that only gets used 3 weeks a year is a bit of a waste though. Now your have to maintain this gas burning appliance that's constantly trying to kill you and your loved ones in the form of CO emissions, and pay for the grid connection fee all year... It'll never be worth while unless you live somewhere really really cold.

      I'll take my heat pump thanks.

  4. MattJF | | #7

    Here in Massachusetts I am looking at the following pricing:

    95% Gas Furnace @$1.50 therm = $15.79 per mmBTU
    Heat Pump with 11 HSPF @.123 per kwH= $10.88 per mmBTU

    So from a purely financial standpoint, if you are replacing equipment, heat pumps make a lot of sense in my location.

    My understanding is that we have relatively expensive natural gas, particularly in the winter. I also have relatively low electricity rates for the area from our municipal power company. My electric rate is my average rate based on time of use. It is my average prior to putting a heat pump in and I expect it to shift a bit lower as peak rate hours correlate to the lowest heating demand hours.

    ISO New England currently uses 1% coal.

    If enough people switch to electric heat, peak power could actually shift to the winter again, but we are a ways off from that.

    1. Jon_R | | #10

      Below is a correction that can be used to get HSPF adjusted to your climate. Maybe no longer accurate, but temp always effects efficiency - don't fail to adjust for climate.

      And of course during cold snaps, COP will be even lower and economically, nat gas will look better (for that period, not seasonally). But hopefully everyone can move away from $/Btu and start thinking in terms of environmental impact (often not much harder to calculate) and how it compares to alternatives.

      HSPF * (1 - (0.1041 + (-0.008862 * T) + (-0.0001153 * (T^2)) + (0.02817 * HSPF))) = corrected HSPF

      Where T is the 99% design temp

    2. Expert Member
      Dana Dorsett | | #12

      >"Here in Massachusetts I am looking at the following pricing"
      >"Heat Pump with 11 HSPF @.123 per kwH= $10.88 per mmBTU"

      You get that the AVERAGE residential retail price of electricity in MA is over 20 cents, right?

      At 20 cents you're looking at more than $17.50/MMBTU with the HSPF 11 mini-split, slightly more than condensing gas, but not dramatically more.

      The small municipal utilities are the only ones in Massachusetts with the sub-15 cent electricity these days. Littleton Light & Water is running sub 10 cents (Groton too.)

      1. MattJF | | #15


        With a 6 degree design temp, this would drop the HSPF from 11.3 to 7.17 or a 36% drop. This would move the cost up to $17.15 per mmBTU.

        I'll have to read the paper. Anyone have any comments on if this is in the realm of what should be expected?

        The paper is here:
        It looks to be from 2004, so hopefully new tech has overcome some of this.


        I moved from a 20 cent location. Reading is running the following rates currently:
        $0.144 kwh standard billing
        $.109 kwh off peak
        $.172 kwh peak

        At a HSPF of 11, the break even is 17.8 cents per kwh vs 95% furnace $1.50 per therm.

        Is that sub 10 cent standard billing and not peak/off peak? I looked quickly, but their rate schedule would take a bit of time to digest. That seems very good.

        1. Expert Member
          Dana Dorsett | | #17

          >"With a 6 degree design temp, this would drop the HSPF from 11.3 to 7.17 or a 36% drop. This would move the cost up to $17.15 per mmBTU."

          No, it wouldn't.

          The design temperature is the 99th percentile temperature bin. HSPF is a modeling of the seasonal average performance over all temperature bins in a ARI zone IV climate (which includes most of MA from mid-Worcester county & eastward). The vast majority of the time it is well north of +6F.

          But yes for those 87 hours per year when when it's 6F or colder outside the marginal cost of heat is higher. But even the January mean temperature in locations with a 6F design temp as in say, Framingham is north of 25F, and the full heating season would average north of 40F.

          See also:

          >"The paper is here:
          It looks to be from 2004, so hopefully new tech has overcome some of this."

          That paper was only modeling non-modulating heat pumps with reciprocating compressors, but even 1-2 speed heat pumps with newer tech vapor injection scroll compressors won't take a huge beating on HSPF. The testing/modeling of HSPF is updated occasionally, but doesn't truly reflect what CAN be gotten out of modulating mini-splits, nor does it point out how efficiency or performance can be degraded by sizing issues, since there is a presumptive duty cycle/oversize-factor built in.

          The current AHRI HSPF testing for mini-splits requires that the inverters be locked to 60 hertz, which isn't exactly optimal for all load conditions tested, and is absolutely NOT how they are operated in the field. The reasoning behind that requirement is probably buried in some standards update text somewhere, but it seems odd to this armchair observer.

          1. MattJF | | #20

            Okay, just went and checked the Fujitsu specs and at 5f/70f max output it has a COP of 2.1 or in HSPF terms 7.2. Considering it spends less than 1% time there, average performance will be much better as you say.

        2. Jon_R | | #24

          While the right idea, I expect that the formula is overly aggressive in reducing rated HSPF to get actual HSPF. Since climate adjusted actual HSPF is an important issue that keeps coming up, I'll make this offer: give me the COP vs temp data you want to use (perhaps from figure 5 here) and a zip code, and I'll run an hourly temp bin analysis to get a heating season COP.

          1. Expert Member
            Dana Dorsett | | #25

            >"give me the COP vs temp data you want to use (perhaps here) and a zip code, and I'll run an hourly temp bin analysis to get a heating season COP."

            That works only for single-speed heat pumps. There is a very important third factor: Modulated output level.

            With modulating heat pumps the modulated level/load at any given temperature can result in quite a range of COP. When it's very cold out the range is pretty narrow, but when it's in the 20sF (typical January average temps in zone 5 locations) the difference between optimal and worst COP across the range can vary by a factor of 1.5-2, sometimes more.

            For instance, take a look at the Mitsubishi FH12 at +17F:


            At 2,491 BTU/hr the COP = 2.03

            At 9,600 BTU/hr the COP= 3.2

            At 17,500 BTU/hr the COP = 2.32

            So which COP would you use, in the absence of information about what it's load is at +17F?

            We don't even have information about the modulation level at which the COP peaks at +17F outdoors, 70F indoors. It might be 9600 BTU/hr, but it could easily be some other level.

          2. Jon_R | | #26

            Exactly why I didn't offer to provide the COPs. One has to estimate what the modulation level will be at each outdoor temp to come up with a COP. The data here is pretty coarse but probably better than nothing. Maybe someday manufactures will provide a full map of COP/temp/modulation.

            Lots of decisions are being made based on seasonal COP and we know that a one-size-fits-all rated HSPF/3.4 typically isn't the right answer.

          3. MattJF | | #30

            I have a decent amount of load data for my house from an Ecobee on my 100k BTU 80% gas furnace. Furnace will be replaced with a ARU18RLF/AOU18RLFC slim duct.

            It's pretty straight forward to figure out load from using run time data from a gas furnace. I am still working through my attic insulation project, so the load will continue to go down a bit, but not too much more. I used this data to confirm sizing in addition to a manual J. Early morning data 2am-5:30am should be the best correlation to manual J.

            Even with 5 minute binned load data, there is not a ton you can do with that given the COP data manufactures provide. Not even the extra data from NEEP helps much beyond setting some limits. There is no NEEP listing for the ARU18RLF/AOU18RLFC, which is odd as the 3/4 and 1 ton are listed. I think we would need at least 5 load vs COP points at 5 deg temp intervals to do an okay job modeling.

            As a curiosity project, I may set up some data logging once my system is installed. I am thinking logging return and supply temps, total static pressure, power consumption, and maybe tapping fan rpm would get accurate load and COP data. An initial blower calibration at each fan setting vs static would improve accuracy. I've only skimmed a few papers on the topic and I have a bunch more work before I can play. If the method works and I can standardize a setup, the ducted systems should be straight forward to model.

            The ductless ones are a bit more wild to monitor:

          4. Jon_R | | #31

            It would be interesting to compare lab data (COP at all temps and modulations) applied to outside temp bin data to an on-site COP determination done by comparing the heat pump power usage to resistance heat power usage. Alternating daily between the two should remove most of the noise. I'd be quite skeptical of other techniques to estimate load/output and then derive a seasonal COP.

  5. john_heckendorn | | #8

    Don't mean this in a snarky way, but great ironic timing on this article (and title) in the midst of the PG&E crisis (just the first of many, I fear, and likely won't be limited to just this particular energy provider). I'm typing this from a public library in the affected zone (which is much if not most of California). Without electricity, we have no water from our well, no HVAC, no means of communication, and there are several other, less critical nuisances. In this instance, having natural gas for cooking (and sterilizing) food has been a godsend. If we were all-electric, and dependent solely on the grid, we may have had to decide to abandon our house by now -- as would be the case after a devastating earthquake. Even with emergency supplies on hand, sooner or later we would be forced to evacuate.

    Unless an Enphase solution (as an example) can help us compensate for what are likely to be an increasing number of -- and perhaps longer -- outages in the future, our only practical recourse seems to be a natural gas-fired generator, which could be a lifesaver despite its cost and relatively uncommon use. We don't have anyone in the house on life support, but in the modern world there are still substantial risks to being without any source of power for extended periods of time.

    1. Expert Member
      Dana Dorsett | | #13

      >"...our only practical recourse seems to be a natural gas-fired generator..."

      Depending on local subsidy and support, PV and a battery that gets used and paid daily for grid stabilization might be a better investment, even if it's only running the critical circuits when the grid goes down. Is that what was intended by the term " ...Enphase solution..."?

      1. john_heckendorn | | #21

        >"Is that what was intended by the term " ...Enphase solution..."?"

        Yes. This is the most succinct summary I could find on a moment's notice.

        From Enphase documentation, at the onset of a grid outage, the Ensemble platform will be able to instantly separate from the grid and provide continuous power to the home from the solar array, or if the array is not generating (at night, say), it will draw upon available alternative sources, including battery and/or generator. When grid function is restored, the system will reconnect itself. That's it in a nutshell; obviously fancy dancing is involved.

        1. exeric | | #28

          Hi John,
          I am in the same geographically affected area you are. Within the last few hours we had the power turned back on. Enphase is a good system and I intend to get the more basic versions of it in the future for the rooftop design. I like the fact that it sort of works like an internet of things where one failure mode doesn't necessarily collapse its energy generating ability. There are other cheaper systems that are similar and actually more efficient, I'm thinking SMA, but there the inverter is a single unit located separately. If it fails your system fails. The problem I have with the fully automated systems with battery backup, whoever makes it, is that one is paying an enormous amount for the convenience. I'm just not willing to pay that much for that.

          As far as being completely off grid during an emergency there is a work around. Have a propane gas fired heater that is used as a secondary heat source that is separate from, say, an hvac system. One eliminates the natural gas connection and associated monthly fees. You could still use the gas fireplace for special occasions, like Christmas if one insisted. It is going to be nearly impossible to use battery power for ALL your needs during an outage like we just had. It's just too expensive and then becomes a redundant expense when the grid operates normally. A large propane tank rents for $60 a year in my area and I keep it topped up. It also has a separate outlet to a barbecue outside.

          BTW, I was able to get by with lights, microwave, internet, and limited TV with a 1400 KWH solar generator. I had the foresight to replace my microwave with a low power 600 watt unit before the outage happened. I had to use everything very conservatively to get as much mileage out of my limited solar generator capacity..

          1. john_heckendorn | | #29

            Eric, there's an article -- -- that suggests why the new larcenous ToU times/rates that have been instituted, coupled with lower NEM2 generation value, may make the ROI of battery power a lot shorter than it was before. Because the peak ToU rates ($.39-.47/kWh in our neck of the woods) now extend well into the evening and can't be avoided/offset by solar generation, California residents may be better off scheduling their work hours to end at 9 pm so as to avoid electricity use at home. Hoping new battery technologies are more reasonably priced to allow a little more flexibility. Today they seem like a luxury only acting and sports stars can really afford.

  6. kdelucas | | #14

    So what do you say to a client who wants gas a fireplace? My husband and I built our home to be all electric. We love our induction stove, our heat pump water heater, our ductless mini-split and our PV array, but we are not fire people. It's emotional for some. We live in a city (Seattle) that has winter burn bans, so wood burning is not prefered either. I have been able to talk some clients out of gas elsewhere but they still want their gas fireplace. The electric ones just don't cut it.

    1. Expert Member
      Dana Dorsett | | #16

      >"So what do you say to a client who wants gas a fireplace? "

      A gas fireplace is to space heating what candles are to lighting. A gas fireplace isn't a necessity any more than candles are a necessity, both create local air pollution issues, but there are much dirtier things (such as open hearth wood fireplaces.)

      If people still want it for the ambience, and if they're willing to pay for the gas hookup just to run the fireplace it's up to them. It's not the greenest thing in the house, but in most homes probably not the least-green either. But for the major home energy use appliances electricity will be the least impactful approach going forward, and already is in many locations.

      It's not clear how having a gas fireplace will affect home resale value going forward. Most will reduce indoor air quality, and may eventually be viewed more as a liability than an asset.

    2. brendanalbano | | #18

      I think an alcove for burning incense or candles is an interesting way to create a fire-based focalpoint/hearth experience without having to burn wood or gas.

      An alcove for a meaningful piece of art or indoor plant could also potentially function as an organizing element to a living room. For example, this is a Japanese tradition along those lines: (caveat: I am not familiar with the history and cultural significance of the Tokonoma, so I hope I'm not abusing the concept too much here).

      These ideas only work if a client is interested in exploring the more abstract functions of a fireplace. If they want a gas fireplace because they want exactly a gas fireplace... well, there's not much to say to that!

    3. ar_t | | #19

      For clients who want a gas burning fireplace you can also tell them that carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas and can kill people in their sleep. I'm sure this is not news. The gas can be on but not being burned off by the absence of a flame. It's also more energy wasting because you are required to have the throat damper permanently open to the outdoors to prevent CO2 accumulation when you have a gas fireplace, because of possible CO2 poisoning. It's a fossil fuel. You are damaging the air quality inside and outside for the people that follow you. You could spend that considerable money on better bathroom/kitchen fixtures, door hardware, which people actually touch. The new generation is more concerned with global warming than having a gas fireplace. Just a thought.

    4. JC72 | | #23

      Vented or ventless?

      If it's vented I wouldn't worry about it because I suspect that actual usage is limited to just a few times of the year (ie, Holidays)

  7. dangrs1 | | #33

    I'm all electric with a geothermal system but use a 100 pound LP cylinder for my cooktop because I prefer cooking with gas. That LP cylinder has lasted over three years now.

  8. JonathanBeers | | #34

    I basically agree with David Roberts of Vox when he writes:
    "1. Clean up electricity
    2. Electrify everything"

    The link above has a paragraph titled: "Substantial electrification will require targeted policy" He also writes: "Don’t bother waiting for conservatives to come around on climate change"

    How fast we can green the grid and how fast we should switch from high-efficiency gas to high efficiency electric equipment vary considerably from region to region. Here's a link to emissions for different regions: (And yes, I realize this link doesn't take fugitive methane emissions from natural gas into account, which is another argument for beneficial electrification.)

    In cold climates, there are a number of barriers to overcome to get contractors and building owners to install electric equipment instead of gas.

    Among the barriers is cheap natural gas. In Madison Wis., residential natural gas prices have peaked around 60 cents per therm in winter months the past 2 years. Electricity costs about 13.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

    Do the math with this gas price, and it's tough to sell heat pumps over high-efficiency gas unless one can completely eliminate the monthly gas meter charge. (At least on a cost basis - environmental reasons might convince some.) Residential natural gas prices in the summer have dropped as low as 30 cents per therm.

    In closing, a link to mapping real-time electric emissions for the extra-nerdy. Electricity emissions vary continuously:

  9. Jon_R | | #35

    > 1. Clean up electricity 2. Electrify everything

    Exactly. But clearly some people don't understand that some areas haven't yet made enough progress on #1 for #2 to make sense environmentally.

    > In Madison...environmental reasons might convince some

    If 63% coal is correct, I hope not.

    1. vap0rtranz | | #38

      Not everyone in Wisconsin runs off Madison G&E. For a lot of the state, including where we are, and Michigan's UP, it's WPS. WPS does have it's own problems -- here's another Sierra Club article, since you like them :)

      If we are to believe WPS, only 40% of their own generation is coal, but the Devil is in the Details. A large chunk (30%) is purchased from other grids. When I tried looking at those details, it appears that peak load is often purchased from NatGas power plants, but WPS itself doesn't say.

      The bigger debate is WPS has such low alternative generation despite hydro, and the debate for Wisconsinites in general is the old 'wind turbines kill birds' mentality here. Just one county over, citizens protested wind turbines going up. It amazes me how concerned Americans are about birds killed by wind turbines but don't give a 2nd though to cars on roads killing deer, possums, squirrel, and the occasional turtle. Perhaps we should protest roads! :)

      1. Jon_R | | #39

        Re: Sierra Club calling for plants to be shut down
        As they are currently learning in California, there is more to power grid design than just cost, capacity and environmental impact. Redundant plants have a positive effect on reliability. But even so, coal needs to go away.

  10. user-6544780 | | #36

    I live in Maine. I have a Post & Beam, SIP house with solar grid. But I keep a LP gas heat stove, for back up in case of a power outage in winter. Almost everyone in Maine has a back up heat source. My house is too tight for a wood stove so a direct vent gas stove is there instead.

    Alex Wilson, in a presentation I heard about 5 years ago, was focused on creating a way to use part of your solar array in a power outage to maintain essential services and allow you to stay in your home. I am still waiting for that. The Life Safety Code requires that the grid be off when the power goes off. This change would convince a lot of people in Maine to go solar. Many just can't get past the idea that when the grid goes down, their solar panels become boxes on the roof.

  11. Jon_R | | #37

    > I am still waiting for that

    It's now available in the form of hybrid inverters.

  12. tfarwell | | #40

    We're 100% electric with a 12 kW solar array. Air source heat pump in western Oregon. Being all electric was the catalyst to add solar, then upgrade water heaters, and do quite a bit of air sealing and added insulation. We're not net zero, but now better than 85%.

    We haven't had the power out for more than 4 hours in over 10 years, and it rarely goes out at all. Our backup plan is my workshop that has a wood stove. It would be "camping out", but reasonable in a pinch. We also have a small camp trailer with a generator - lots of options. I can't fathom making choices about our energy use and environmental footprint over what may happen a few days a year at most - that would be purely emotional.

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #41


      As a general proposition I agree with you, but for some of us the equation isn't that straightforward. We have already had five outages so far this fall, one lasting 14 hours. Last year we were out on one occasion for five days. The increasing strength of winter storms may be a trend that makes this level of intermittence the norm, not an anomaly. We have had neighbours move because they were too elderly to deal with the "camping out", and on one occasion because of the demands of their disabled children. Resilience is something each homeowner needs to assess depending on their unique circumstances.

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