A downtown street

My experience going electric

By Diane Bailey

SIO Blog: My Experience Going Electric

Author: Diane Bailey, ED of Menlo Spark and SIO Ambassador

As the executive director of Menlo Spark, a Switch Is On Ambassador, and a long-time environmental geek, I am dedicated to supporting citizens who make personal decisions that benefit the environment like electrifying their homes. In fact, I am one of those citizens. Over the past seven years, I’ve been trying to “walk the walk” by swapping out my gas appliances for electric ones, one by one.

How to start your electrification process: one appliance at a time

Like many homeowners, my family didn’t electrify all at once; instead, we found it more cost-efficient (and less disruptive!) to replace our old gas appliances with electric ones as the gas ones approach the end of their life cycles.

Since our cars used up the most fossil fuels in our household, we decided to begin our electrification process by replacing my car with an electric vehicle.

Next, our gas dryer was near its last legs so we replaced it with an efficient electric one. Happily, we found it could be done at a similar price! However, we did run into a couple of challenges with replacing our water heater: first, our area didn’t have many energy advisors able to install an electric one at the time, and second, the few there gave extremely high estimates.

Fortunately, I was able to work with SunWork, a nonprofit dedicated to making renewable energy and electrification projects affordable. They used my home as their first test for electric heat pumps, and it was a great experience! Moreover, my electric bills have remained steady since.

For my next step, I decided to go the DIY route and replace our gas range with an induction stovetop from IKEA. Doing it by yourself is not necessary, and most people will find it easier to use a full-service for induction stove installation, but I personally enjoy exploring different ways to electrify while keeping the cost low so I can make good recommendations to our partners in the community. I realized I’ll still need a contractor to help with the installation itself, but am still very excited about the switch and trying out as much as I can on my own!

What I’ve Learned: Use Available Resources

Despite a few installation hiccups along the way over the past seven years (mostly just due to the scarcity of electric-trained professionals in our area) I’m very happy with my results. My electric appliances are all efficient and reliable, and since I began the process I’ve seen the development of numerous resources to help people electrify.

More installers are enrolling in energy networks, while costs of appliances and installation are falling (especially when factoring in the increasing number of electrification rebates and incentives). My hope is that energy companies can continue to learn and improve electrification processes going forward.

Meanwhile, I hope to continue supporting and testing out new programs that will ease the transition to efficient and accessible electrification. Here is my advice for homeowners interested in electrification:

  • Take advantage of energy audit programs in your regions. For example, Home Energy Analytics’ HomeIntel program offers free energy audits to PG&E customers. These programs allow homeowners to reduce their energy bills and find out how to begin the electrification process.
  • Electrification doesn’t have to be a huge one-off project! Many, like me,  find it more manageable to replace gas appliances one by one as each approaches the end of its life cycle.
  • If you’re doing a remodel, go fully electric and use full-service firms if possible.

Once you learn about how climate change is already affecting us, you realize it’s all hands on deck. Home and building owners have the opportunity to create a positive environmental impact through assessing the choices they make in their homes and choosing to go electric when possible.

If you’re interested in going electric but not sure where to start, I highly recommend starting with Switch is On to find incentives in your area, vetted lists of contractors, and a wealth of information about each step along the way.