No more fireplace? No more gas oven, range, furnace or water
heater? While some new-home buyers may react with, “Say it
isn’t so!” others might exclaim, “It’s about time!”
One day, even the die-hard chef whose fifth-generation peach pie
requires simmering in a cast-iron skillet over natural gas flames
might agree that this news is not all bad. The same may go for the
parent of five who learns that electric clothes dryers can be more
efficient and longer lasting than gas dryers.
“Historically, natural gas was what many people wanted,”
says Lisa Vorderbrueggen, East Bay executive director for
governmental affairs for the Building Industry Association of the
Bay Area. “And from our members’ perspective, building
decisions are largely driven by consumer perspective.”
Vorderbrueggen adds that some consumers do not necessarily like
the idea of all-electric homes, but agrees that many may appreciate
playing a direct role in the reduction in greenhouse gas
“Builders are very focused on the buyer and don’t want to
build homes no one wants to buy,” she says. “On the other hand,
in terms of the infrastructure side of things, not having natural
gas means one less utility they have to include.”
Darren Holland, operations director for San Jose-based Robson
Homes, emphasizes the same point, noting that infrastructure
savings are passed along to buyers through home pricing.
A growing body of legislation is aimed at reducing greenhouse
gas emissions from residential and commercial buildings to 40
percent below the 1990 levels by the year 2030.
Among the actions aimed at achieving the greenhouse gas
reduction goal is a 2020 California Public Utilities Commission
order instituting rule-making that explains: “Over the next 25
years, state and municipal laws concerning greenhouse gas emissions
will result in the replacement of gas-fueled technologies and, in
turn, reduce the demand for natural gas.”
And this year, a growing number of cities is eclipsing the
state’s mandate by now issuing residential building permits only
for projects without gas hookups. The cities include San Jose,
Morgan Hill, Alameda, Berkeley, Mountain View, Cupertino and
Hayward. Several others still are considering the same action.
Some municipalities even adopted energy reach codes, which
require that new construction reaches beyond the state’s minimum
requirement for energy efficiency.
The transition away from natural gas will require time and
interdisciplinary cooperation between municipalities, builders,
buyers and, possibly, the state. Much of that reduction in
greenhouse gases will come by way of updated practices in new
“Another advantage for the consumer is that
solar is now mandatory for new construction in California,”
“With solar, you can generate all the power you need for your
own home, without taxing the electric grid,” he says, noting that
the cost of the system is factored into the cost of the home.
“Theoretically, you could put a big solar system on a house and
have zero or extremely low energy bills for the life of the
Builders also break out the cost of the solar system so that
eligible buyers can apply for a federal income tax credit of up to
26 percent of the solar system cost.
Meanwhile, solar readiness in new homes became part of the
building code in California this year.
“The expected payback on the solar system is seven to 10
years,” Holland notes.
All-electric will require more amps
No builder or legislator can avoid the reality that, for buyers,
the upfront costs of an all-electric home are higher than those
with electric and gas.
“High-quality, all-electric appliances tend to be pricier, but
also higher quality, longer lasting and easier to repair,”
A new house built before California’s solar requirements and
individual cities’ recent, all-electric requirements might have
required a 150 to 200 amp electrical service. But homes with
top-quality, all-electric appliances may require a 400 amp
It’s wise to think of the future. While a home’s solar
system may produce more energy than needed, the electrical system
needs to support those high-functioning appliances. Better to up
the amps in the beginning than to have to replace the electrical
system to accommodate higher electrical loads for future home
Watch this space for a future column covering the various grade
and efficiency and quality levels of electric appliances.
Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
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