Live comfortably while saving energy at home: it may be easier than you think. Depending on our home, goals, and budget, we can:
just change some habits, like lowering the thermostat at night
make simple, low-cost modifications to the home
make moderate-cost upgrades that don’t significantly affect the structure
make deeper (but more costly) energy retrofits
The big challenge is to stop burning fossil fuels in our homes (and our cars). This path— which aligns with St. Paul's climate action plan— calls on us to:
reduce the energy we need: insulate and air-seal the home, choose efficient appliances, etc.
electrify everything: water heater, stove/oven, clothes dryer, and yes, even space heating and car
rely on the electric utility to follow through on its goal of becoming carbon-free.
The home also needs to be ready for the smart grid: allowing certain appliances to draw electricity from the grid at the most efficient time— not necessarily at the moment it's tapped for use. For example, the smart grid will tell your home when the grid can most easily supply power to your electric tank water heater.
Figuring out how to cut energy use, maintain comfort and convenience, and help the grid is not straightforward. Here's opportunity for adventurous homeowners to lead. For more ideas, contact Tim Wulling.
One SAP neighbor built a net-zero house with garage-roof solar panels.
Another added 10 inches of insulation to his attic floor.
Discussing home energy at our 2013 Transition Festival, and promoting clothesline use in a 2017 project with Hampden Park Coop.
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From gas to electric
Make your home part of the climate solution
A Home Electrification Group meets occasionally to discuss strategies for switching from gas to electric at home: appliances, space heating, and more, learning from each other and from expert presenters. Topics have included electrification basics, service panels, heat pumps, energy audits, and project reports from neighbors. They meet a few times a year on Saturday mornings at the St. Anthony Park Library. All are welcome. To get on the notification list, email info@TransitionASAP.org.
The group leader is Tim Wulling of St. Anthony Park. He's a retired electrical engineer, lifelong renewable energy advocate, and founding member of Transition Town–ASAP. Read his article Go electric in the Park Bugle.
Home Energy Resources
Go Electric: Your Guide to the Inflation Reduction Act explains IRA rebates for low-income households and tax credits for higher incomes, including a link to IRA Savings Calculator.
Pocket Guide to All-Electric Retrofits of Single-Family Homes (free download, 90 pp) has comprehensive info ranging from major appliances to electric barbecues, snow blowers, sauna heaters, and fireplaces—including costs; electrifying on a tight budget; and a “watt diet” to avoid an electric panel upgrade. From Redwood Energy.
Electrify Everything in Your Home (free download, 103 pp) is a guide to comfy, healthy, carbon-free living with extensive info on major appliances, heating & cooling, rooftop solar, battery storage, and electric vehicles, with checklists for homeowners and renters. From Rewiring America.
Electrify Everything Minnesota offers a good, brief overview including costs of converting appliances and HVAC to electric.
Home Comfort 101 (free download, 67 pp) shows how to view your home's performance in terms of comfort, health and safety, durability, and efficiency, especially its heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment (HVAC). One of several Comfort Guides from Nate the House Whisperer.
Air Source Heat Pump Buying Guide (free download, 18 pp) is a good intro that includes questions to ask a contractor. From Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership.
Minnesota Air-Source Heat Pump Collaborative is a great resource for homeowners, with links to FAQs and a list of vetted contractors.
Cold-Climate Heat Pump List reviews heat pump manufacturers and models with technical performance data and excellent graphical presentation. Get the data on the model your contractor offers. From Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership.
Check out Energy Star Certified Products for new ways to conserve, money-saving tools, rebates, and offers.
The US Department of Energy's Energy Saver site has resources for conservation and using renewable energy technologies at home, including Do-It-Yourself Guides.
The MN Department of Commerce's Home Energy Guide shows how to lower your bills and live safer, healthier, and eco-friendlier.
Passive House Design Principles can help you make deep cuts in your space heating needs.
The St. Paul Climate Action & Resilience Plan outlines the city's framework for addressing climate change.