Whole Home Electrification (Podcast)

In this podcast, Jared Grier, owner of Cape Cod Heat Pumps, talks about the role of heat pumps in whole home electrification. He explains how they operate efficiently and effectively, and outlines how they can help homeowners reduce their carbon footprints. Finally, he talks about the process for whole home electrification and how solar panels complement everything.

John Maher: Hi, I am John Maher. I’m here today with Jared Grier, owner of Cape Cod Heat Pumps, an HVAC contractor in Marstons Mills, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, specializing in ductless heating and cooling technology and focused on detail, quality, and professionalism. Today our topic is whole home electrification. Welcome, Jared.

Jared Grier: Great speaking with you today, John.

Why Whole Home Electrification Is Growing

John: Yeah, thanks. You too. Jared, what is whole home electrification and why is that gaining popularity now?

Jared: I think there’s a couple reasons. Big push by the state of Massachusetts. That’s definitely changing the landscape quite a bit. Most customers that are going to hear this are pretty familiar with the Mass Save program. Mass Save has been around for about 20 years or so now, and they’ve gone from “we want to be energy efficient when we’re dealing with our fossil fuel systems” to now that’s progressed to “we want to push for electrification”.

That’s all because of a state law that was passed by Massachusetts a few years ago that is mandating it. That is mandating the reduction of greenhouse gasses in Massachusetts by 50% by 2030. So if you think that we’re in 2024 here now, we’ve got about six years to go and we’ve got a long way to go.

Top that with the state is also looking to electrify one million homes. We’ve got a lot of work to do. There’s the push by the state, the push with Mass Save, and then you’ve just got individual choice. You’ve got a lot of customers that they see the news, they watch the news, they read what’s going on, and they understand that there’s something happening here with climate change and they want to do their part to help that and keep it at bay as much as possible.

If we’re able to produce electricity from cleaner sources here down at the Cape, we’ve got obviously the wind farms that’s been very controversial, not going to go there, but it is a clean source of energy. You’re seeing a lot more solar on people’s homes. You’re seeing a lot more solar farms. So we have all these ways to now produce electricity in much higher capacities than we ever have in a conscientious and sustainable way, and we’re trying to harness that here in the state.

Converting Your Home to Electric

John: Okay. When we’re talking about whole home electrification, we mean just that. Taking all of your appliances and your heating and cooling and hot water and all of that and powering that through electricity rather than fossil fuels. What are some of the systems and appliances in a house that might need to be switched over to electric in order to achieve whole home electrification?

Jared: Yeah. Depending on the customer, they might not necessarily go to full true electrification and just pick and choose their battles, because when you think about what uses fossil fuel at your home, there’s a lot of things, right? We’ve got our heating system, we’ve got our cooking appliances, we’ve got our domestic hot water systems, and then, quite frankly, you’ve got your vehicle.

Whole electrification is changing all of those things to some sort of electrical device. With the heating, it would be heat pumps. When it comes to your car, it would be an electric car. When it comes to your stove, it would obviously be an electric stove.

Obviously, you’ve got washers, dryers, all these appliances. Oftentimes, people, they may just do partial and choose to do things as they go or as things break. Some people, they’re going to go right off the bat and they’re going to want to change everything. So it’s not very uncommon for us to be in a home and a customer will go with a heat pump system and then maybe put in a hybrid heat pump water heater as well, and then maybe look to upgrade their range. Again, everybody’s level of how far they want to go with this is really determined based on their wants, needs, age of their home, and quite frankly, their budget as well.

Is Electric Heating Efficient?

John: Is heating with electricity an efficient method of heating? What technology and innovations have happened recently in order to make whole home electric heating possible?

Jared: Yeah, so obviously when people hear heat pumps, they don’t really think that’s an energy efficient way to heat their homes. But they’re also thinking about the heat pumps that we used 30 years ago in the ’80s during the oil embargo and electric heat and heat pumps were really popular.

John: Or maybe even those old baseboard types of electric heaters with the thermostat that you might have, especially maybe on the cape, like a three season type of home.

Jared: Exactly. Exactly. When we think about heat pumps, often people are thinking about those. When you think about electric heat, as you just mentioned, people are thinking about electric resistant heat. What’s different is obviously heat pumps have come a long way, and I’m not necessarily going to get into that right now, but what also, with heat pumps, we’re not creating heat, right? With other fossil fuel sources, you’re burning a fuel to create heat.

With a heat pump, how it works is we move heat. We’re just taking heat from outside, bringing it inside, and with all the various different technological advances that we’ve made with this equipment, we’re able to do that very efficiently and even at the really cold temperatures that we might experience here.

Challenges of Whole Home Electrification

John: Then, are there any limitations or challenges to implementing whole home electrification and maybe in certain homes or certain areas?

Jared: Absolutely. As I just mentioned, budget is going to be everybody’s biggest concern, right? To go full electric, if you’ve got a house that was built in the ’80s, it could be quite costly to you to do that. You might be looking at a full service upgrade, right? You’re looking at all those various different appliances I just mentioned and changing those out to an electric option.

One thing I do hear from a lot of customers that’s a misnomer… and I understand that the grid on the Cape is not that great, but a misnomer is that we don’t have that extra capacity, and we really do. The grid here on Cape was designed for our peak load. That’s the summertime. That’s 90 degrees out, 80% humidity, and everybody gets home at 4:00 and they turn their AC on. That is the peak demand that they look at and that they size everything for. In this winter time, most heating systems are a fossil fuel source, so we have all that excess electricity available to us. We have the ability to electrify many of these homes and the majority of our homes here because, again, we’re not using all that excess capacity that we have available to us.

As I start out and mention, too, it’s going to be somebody’s budget that’s probably going to be the biggest decision maker on what they tackle and when. If they call us, obviously the heating and cooling is a big part of what they’re looking to do maybe initially or maybe at the tail end of what they’ve done, and obviously I tell people, “Don’t do it all at once.” As things break, as things need to be replaced, that’s going to be the time to maybe choose an electric option versus replace that gas stove for another gas stove.

First Steps Toward Whole Home Electrification

John: Okay. Yeah, that’s good advice. What are the first steps that a homeowner can take toward this whole home electrification?

Jared: Well, obviously we encourage everybody to call Mass Save, have an audit done, have them come out, do a full assessment on your home. They’re going to give you some great suggestions, whether it be weatherization, your heating and cooling, what you could do, various different appliances throughout your house that we just talked about that you could upgrade or change as well. That’s going to be a great initial first step. Another great step would give us a call. Give us a call here at the office.

We’ll have one of our estimators come out and take a look and meet with you. They can talk to you about what all your various different options are, talk to you about your budget, what you’re looking to have done. We can come up and develop a solution for you. We also have our own electrical department now. So if you do need to upgrade your electrical service, that’s absolutely something we can offer you as well.

Solar Power and Whole Home Electrification

John: Then finally, where this gets us in terms of when we think whole home electrification is, “Hey, can I put solar panels on my roof and power everything with solar and get off the grid and be just totally electric in that way rather than using electricity from the grid?” Is solar panels an option and can they power a house when it’s all electric?

Jared: That’s really going to depend a lot on the home. That’s going to depend a lot on the roof line, where it’s facing, any sort of vegetation as in trees that might be shading. But newer homes, absolutely, that’s an option. Albeit depending on the size of the home, you still might end up with an electric bill because of what we can come up with in terms of capacity for solar. Older homes, it’s going to be a little tougher because your demands are going to be higher because it’s not as well insulated. Again, we can only go so big with solar.

What I do tell people though is solar is a great marriage with heat pumps. If you’ve got an oil furnace, you can’t stick a straw in the ground and suck up oil that you’re going to put in your tank and heat your home. But if you do heat pumps and add solar to your roof, you’re now producing the electricity that you’re indirectly going to be using to heat and cool your home.

John: Right. You just need to be aware that, if you have everything in your house running off of electricity, you may not be able to produce enough electricity with your solar panels to power all of that. Right?

Jared: Yeah. Again, there’s so many things to consider when it comes to that, that it’s really hard to say. Newer homes that are maybe on the smaller side, absolutely we could do. Larger homes that may be older, early 1800 century homes, well, again, their heating demands are going to be really high, and so it’s going to be tough to be able to produce enough electricity off of the solar panels.

To Learn More, Contact Cape Cod Heat Pumps

John: All right, well that’s really great information, Jared. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Jared: Thanks for having me, John.

John: For more information, you can visit the Cape Cod Heat Pumps website at ccheatpumps.com, or call 508-833-HVAC. That’s 508-833-4822.