Facts about Electrification | AEC

Electrification Risks

How much does it cost to switch my home to heat pumps?

It can cost between $18,500 and $42,000 to convert a home to heat pumps as the primary heating source. That includes the cost of two or three heat pumps, a heat-pump water heat, required upgrades to the electrical panel, and other modifications to make the home heat distribution system compatible with heat pumps.1

Will I be comfortable and warm with electric heat?

Heat pumps are not as efficient in colder climates, so if you live in a region where the temperatures regularly drop to freezing or below, you will need a backup heating system. When the temperature drops, the outdoor unit on a heat pump freezes up and needs to run through a 15-30 minute defrost cycle, sometimes as frequently as every 35 minutes! As recently as 2019, only 6% of new homes in New England, and 10% in the Mid-Atlantic, were built with heat pumps as their primary heat source because of these drawbacks.2 New laws may change the percentage of heat pump homes, but they can’t change the temperature issues!

Is there enough electricity to power all the homes switching to heat pumps?

In a word, no. There isn’t enough electric power generated or the distribution infrastructure needed to meet peak needs right now.3 That’s why electric utilities send out alerts to all their customers before high demand periods like cold snaps or heat spells, asking them to conserve energy.4 The utilities are already warning that electrification could lead to rolling blackouts, and one company told its customers to stock up on at least a week’s supply coal or wood pellets for their stoves because of anticipated power outages.5

What’s the big deal about a blackout? We’ve had them before.

Most people can survive a short power outage that lasts an hour or two with little more than some discomfort. But extended power outages risk more than the food in your refrigerator going bad. Many people rely on electric medical equipment to survive, and “neighborhoods with more households that rely on electric medical equipment also have higher rates of poverty,” according to the New York City Department of Health.6 Without electricity, these medical devices won’t work, whether it’s a nebulizer or an oxygen tank. The DoH determined a four-fold increase in respiratory hospitalizations and 189 deaths during and after the city-wide 2003 blackout. In addition, doctors from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have determined that hospitalizations and deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning increase during and immediately after power outages of a day or more.7

Is electricity clean energy?

Electricity isn’t as clean an energy source as the corporate utilities would like you to believe. While there might not be any greenhouse gas emissions when you flip a switch in your home, electric power plants are the country’s biggest user of fossil gas8 and use 90% of all the coal – about 500 million tons per year.9

  • 500 million tons of coal would fill up 4.3 million train cars, stretch 55,512 miles, and be able to cross the country from New York to California 19 times.
  • The 11,584 trillion Btu of fossil gas used per year to generate electric power is equivalent to the energy in 84 million gallons of heating oil! That would fill the average home heating oil storage tank 306,626 times!

How much pollution comes from electric generation?

Power plants in the United States produce between 1.6 and 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year.10 They also create emissions of other dangerous pollutants, like sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX), particulate matter, mercury and others. These emissions can lead to many forms of respiratory and heart diseases and increase the chance of contracting some forms of cancer.

How do the electric utilities perform in terms of environmental justice?

More than half of all power plants in the country are located in low-income communities, and minority, low-income and indigenous populations bear a disproportionate burden of environmental harms and adverse health from power plant emissions.11

Can’t we just increase the grid capabilities?

Eventually, the grid infrastructure may be able to meet the demands of the “electrify everything” movement, but it will take decades and cost as much as $7 trillion, or $50,000 per home.12

If electric heat isn’t the answer, what’s another solution for reducing greenhouse gases from home heating?

If your home already runs on home heating oil, you can easily reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by making sure your fuel dealer is delivering Bioheat® fuel. Bioheat® fuel is a blend of renewable biodiesel and ultra-low sulfur heating oil, and is compatible with all oil-fired boilers, furnaces, water heaters and storage tanks. It costs you nothing to switch to Bioheat® fuel.

What is Bioheat® fuel?

Bioheat® fuel is a renewable liquid heating fuel that is produced in the United States from renewable resources such as used cooking oils, rendered animal fats, soybean oil and other oils from plants and vegetables. By 2030, the biodiesel in Bioheat® fuel will have displaced 529 million gallons of petroleum in heating oil. It is delivered by your heating oil dealer, and if you live in New York, Rhode Island or Connecticut, you are already using it!

1 The Economics & Environmental Performance of Biodiesel vs. Electric Heat Pumps, R. Sweetser and R. Albrecht, 2019
2 Eyeonhousing.org/2019/12/air-conditioning-and-heating-systems
3 ISO Newswire, December 6, 2021
4 ISO Newswire, Harsh weather conditions could pose challenges to New England’s power system this winter, December 2021
5 Groton Electric Light, December 2022
6 https://a816-dohbesp.nyc.gov/IndicatorPublic/beta/data-stories/poweroutages/
7 Worsham, Woo, Kearney, Bray and Jena; Carbon Monoxide Poisoning during Major U.S. Power Outages; New England Journal of Medicine; December 30, 2022
8 EIA, Monthly Energy Review, April 2022, U.S. energy consumption by source and sector, 2021
9 EIA, Coal Data Browser, W.W. Electric Power
10 EPA, Power Plant Emissions Trends – Annual Carbon Emissions
11 EPA, Power Plants and Neighboring communities
12 OilPrice.com, February 25, 2021
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