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Home electrification sees more financial incentives

Interest in electric home and water heating growing across Boulder County, Colorado
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With rising gas prices and unprecedented tax credits and rebates, DR Richardson of Elephant Energy believes that there’s never been a better time to consider electrifying a home.

As of 2020, 11% of Colorado households were all-electric while 82% used natural gas, according to the Residential Energy Consumption Survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This is compared to the 26% of households nationwide completely powered by electricity.

Richardson is one of the co-founders of Elephant Energy, a Boulder County-based company that started a year and a half ago to help homeowners along the Front Range electrify their homes.

“One of the most important levels that we have in terms of the energy transition is to electrify homes,” he said. “We have to stop burning fossil fuels in people’s homes. The good news is that’s incredibly possible. It uses existing technology, and it results in a way better outcome for customers.”

Home electrification includes things like heat pumps instead of furnaces and air conditioners, electric water heating instead of gas, electric cooking and other efficiency upgrades. Many of these technologies are not only more environmentally friendly, but cost less to operate with more efficiency, according to Richardson.

While the electric grid may not be entirely renewable yet, Richardson argues that choosing an electric appliance to heat your home for the next 15 to 20 years, as electric companies continue to improve their climate friendliness, is better than being tied to a gas appliance for that same amount of time.

“It’s just getting greener every year,” he said. “It’s a similar argument to the (electric vehicle). With the EV, it’s not like it’s pure — just using solar wind and unicorn and rainbows — there’s still natural gas and coal coming into the mix. Because they’re so much more efficient … it really reduces the total carbon emissions today, and that trajectory improves over time.”

The Platte River Power Authority, Longmont’s energy provider, has committed to an energy goal of 100% non-carbon energy by 2030.

Along with going greener, homes that electrify are seeing more financial incentives, from high gas prices to tax credits and rebates both locally and federally from the Inflation Reduction Act that passed last year.

“The Inflation Reduction Act just makes it so, so easy to get a lower priced up front system and be able to avoid those high cost methane therms that the utilities have been so good at pushing us on for the past decade or so,” Richardson said.

Tax credits up to $2,000 for heat pumps, electric water heaters, electric panel upgrades and weatherization are now available. Richardson expects additional rebates for low or middle income households, worth thousands of dollars, to become available in the summer or fall.

On top of the federal incentives, Efficiency Works offers rebates for these types of upgrades to homes in Longmont.

Richardson said the first step to electrifying a home is different for everybody, as it depends on what appliances are the most outdated. He said it's important to learn these things about your home to figure out where to start.

“The advice we give everyone is, look, there’s no perfect answer,” Richardson said. “The best thing you can do is just get started. It doesn’t have to be all at once. It can be over time depending on the specific parameters of your own home.”