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How to electrify everything, and why

Larissa Johnson
Progressive Perspectives (TNS)

If you’re like most people, you probably only think about energy when filling up your car or paying a hefty electric bill. You probably don’t know that, since 1992, October has been designated “Energy Awareness Month.”

This October, we have several compelling reasons to think about the energy we depend on. For one, a global pandemic and the war in Ukraine have sent costs soaring. And climate change, a result of the burning of fossil fuels, is taking an ever-greater toll in wildfires, hurricanes, floods and deadly heat waves.

But we are not helpless in the face of these challenges. One of the most powerful steps we can take — as individuals and as a nation — is to electrify everything. That means replacing gas- and oil-burning appliances and vehicles with electric ones, powered by renewable energy. The potential benefits are huge: cleaner air indoors and out, lower monthly bills and a major reduction in climate-change-causing greenhouse gasses.

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An electric car and a plug-in hybrid car charge at a public charging station on Oct. 12, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images/TNS)

There are four ways you can electrify, right now.

Electrify your ride: Making the switch from a gas-powered car to an electric vehicle is a great way to save on gas and pollute less. While this may not be an option for you, you can limit how many days you use your car — the less you drive, the less wear and tear on your vehicle, which means it will last longer and you won’t have to replace it so soon.

Electrify your home: Save money and reduce emissions by replacing fossil fuel-powered systems with electric ones. Heat pumps are an ideal, energy-efficient alternative to gas furnaces, boilers and air conditioners. Efficient electric water heaters are also an option worth exploring.

Electrify your kitchen: Consider making the switch from gas to induction cooking. If not to go green, the fact that gas stoves emit asthma-inducing nitrogen dioxide may convince you. Homes with gas stoves can contain up to 400% higher concentrations of NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) than homes with electric stoves. Induction stoves are faster, more efficient and better for your family’s health than traditional gas models.

Electrify your lawn: Beyond the loud noises they generate, a typical gas-powered leaf blower emits more pollutants than a 6,200-pound truck. If raking isn’t an option, making the switch to electric leaf blowers is worthwhile — they’re clean, emit no pollutants, make much less noise and require less maintenance than gas-powered blowers.

Of course, money is tight for many right now and you may not have the cash to make these upgrades. Fortunately, the Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden, authorizes roughly $369 billion in spending on energy and climate change. In addition to boosting funding for clean energy production, the IRA offers consumer subsidies for energy efficiency and residential electrification. Rewiring America created a Savings Calculator to help renters and homeowners alike find out how much they could save by making upgrades.

For households with lower incomes, 100 percent of appliance and installation costs are discounted at purchase, meaning you could install efficient electric appliances at no cost to you.

This year, during Energy Awareness Month, it’s time to make more honest assessments about the energy sources that power our lives. And it’s time to take action — by making the switch to a form of energy that’s cleaner, greener and easier on our wallets.

– Larissa Johnson has an MPA in environmental science and policy from Columbia University and works as the residential energy program manager for Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection in Maryland. This column was produced by Progressive Perspectives, which is run by The Progressive magazine and distributed by Tribune News Service.