Realtor Magazine: Builders Need to Respond to the Home Electrification Trend  

It isn’t in the print edition of Realtor Magazine, but a June 8 article on its website is titled, “The Future Is Now: Home Electrification.”

Regular readers of this column know that home electrification has been “now” for many years here at Golden Real Estate. At the Net Zero Store in our former building at 17695 S. Golden Road, Helio Home Inc. is busier than ever responding to people who want to replace their gas forced air furnaces with heat pump units and their gas water heaters with heat pump water heaters. (You can reach the Helio Home sales team at 720-460-1260.)

The primary focus of the Realtor Magazine article is on the need for home builders to include a larger electrical service as fossil fuels are phased out. Number one, it said, was to accommodate an electric car, since the major car manufacturers are committed to going all-electric or mostly so by 2030.

The article promotes the idea of installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to generate electricity for your home and car. With such a system, the author of the article correctly points out that the electrical grid can function as your home battery (thanks to net metering), but seems not to understand how it really works. He states that the utility will buy your excess solar generation but you might have to buy electricity for your car on a cloudy day. In fact, net metering allows you to send surplus electricity to the grid when you don’t need it, but you get it back at full value when needed. Everyone with a solar PV system should take advantage of the “roll-over” option allowing you to be credited for that surplus production long-term rather than get a check each January for the previous year’s over-production.

When the utility pays you for your surplus production, it does so at its cost of generating electricity — a couple cents per kilowatt-hour. But if you use your surplus electricity, you save the full retail rate (over 10¢ per kilowatt-hour) versus purchasing those kilowatt-hours from the utility.

Not understanding that process, the author promotes the idea of a home battery system, but, as I wrote before, that only needs to be considered if you have medical equipment which must run during a blackout.

The author promotes the installation of a 240V car charging station, suggesting that this could require a larger electrical panel in older homes. I disagree. The Level 2 charging station only draws the same electricity as your electric clothes dryer. If your panel can’t accommodate a dedicated circuit for the car, you could use the same one as the clothes dryer and not use both appliances at the same time. (I recognize that this is not what the code dictates, but it’s still safe if you have a 40-amp breaker on that circuit, because if you do run the dryer and the car charger at the same time, it would trip the breaker.)

Also, every EV comes with a 120V cord to plug your car into a standard household outlet. Although that only gets you 4 miles of range per hour, that’s still over 50 miles of range overnight, which may suffice, especially if you have other charging options during the day. Downtown Golden, for example, has ten free Level 2 charging stations in its garages and elsewhere.

Of course, there’s more to home electrification than car charging. The article points out that there are now electric outdoor tools—lawn mowers, leaf blowers, snow blowers, chain saws and more—that you can buy online or at Lowes. Ego Power is the biggest brand in this field, and their various tools all use the same interchangeable batteries.

Not mentioned in the article are the biggest consumers of fossil fuels—your gas furnace and water heater. As I said, you can speak to Helio Home about converting gas units to electric heat pump units.

For cooking, I have written in the past about induction electric ranges, and I’m really fond of our electric grill shown here. Lift it off its stand and you can use the grill on your countertop. You can’t do that with a gas grill! And it plugs into a standard 120V patio outlet. We bought ours at Home Depot for $100. Food grilled on it tastes just as good as when cooked on a gas grill.

Can the electrical grid handle the increased use of electricity over fossil fuels, given, for example, that by 2030 over 50% of car sales in America will be all-electric? You may have read warnings that widespread adoption of EVs will overwhelm our electrical transmission systems, but I disagree. Solar panels are being installed just as quickly and perhaps more so, and that electricity is consumed within your neighborhood if not by yourself, reducing the needed distribution from the utility. And, as I said, even with Level 2 charging, an EV only draws the same amount of electricity as a clothes dryer.

Home builders can and should adapt to this trend, and are in fact required to do so in some jurisdictions. Every new home should be solar-ready if not solar-powered, by building chases into the home which could accommodate the electrical lines serving roof-mounted solar panels. Also, garages should be wired with a 240V outlet on their front walls in addition to the usual 120V outlets on three walls.

I was encouraged to see that a new 300-unit apartment complex about to break ground in Lakewood between Colfax and 15th Place and between Owens and Pierson Streets is, according to the plans I saw, going to have over 40 EV parking spaces in its garage.

One of the more interesting flaws in the Realtor Magazine article was the suggestion that home garages should be insulated or even heated to avoid shortening the life of an electric vehicle’s battery. This is a misinterpretation of the fact that EVs lose range in the winter. It’s not that the battery loses power in cold weather, but rather that heating the car’s cabin uses battery power which thereby reduces the car’s range, as does the heating of the battery itself to its optimum operating temperature.

Do You Own an EV?  Bring it to Our EV Roundup on June 4  

It’s going to be the electric vehicle event of the summer — an opportunity for non-EV owners to meet 30 or more owners of different electric cars and trucks, to “kick the tires” and get their questions answered. If you have an EV you’d like to show to non-EV owners (and fellow EV owners), email me at Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com.

Electric Trucks Take Center Stage at June 4th Event in Golden

The Net Zero Store is hosting another EV Roundup in its parking lot at 17695 S. Golden Road during the SuperCruise event on Saturday, June 4th, 3 to 6 pm. At right is the Ford eTransit van owned by Helio Home.

At left is a Toyota Land Cruiser that was converted to all-electric, shown in a recent rally in Moab, Utah. The green logo on its side says “EVSwap,” the name of the Denver company which will be bringing it on June 4th.

Next is a green Rivian R1T, the first widely available electric pickup to be delivered to consumers. We had one at our April 2nd EV Roundup. A different one is coming on June 4th.

All three trucks are sure to catch the eye of gear heads displaying their gas-powered cars and trucks during that afternoon’s SuperCruise. We’re trying to get a Ford F-150 Lightning, too. We’re announcing the event early so that other EV owners can register their cars or trucks for this special event. To do so, email Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com. During the event, you’ll want to go inside The Net Zero Store, where several staffers from Helio Home, Inc., will be on hand to discuss the possibilities associated with electrifying your home and perhaps moving it toward net zero energy efficiency.

Other EVs registered so far: BMW i3; Nissan Leaf; Tesla Models S, X & Y, and Chevy Bolt. Register to bring your EV!

The Net Zero Store Is Open for Business!  

     Since vacating Golden Real Estate’s original home at 17695 S. Golden Road (across from Taco Bell), we have converted that net zero energy location into — what else? — The Net Zero Energy Store, and it is now open for business weekdays. The concept is simple — to sell products and services that make your home more energy efficient — either step by step, or all the way to being “net zero energy.”

    A net zero energy home is all-electric (no natural gas heating, cooking, grilling or fireplace), has its own solar panels to generate electricity from the sun, and optimizes the use of electricity through super-insulation, heat pump technology, induction ranges, high-performance windows, energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) and other widely available technology.

    The store, which has many such products on display, is manned weekdays by the sales team of Helio Home, Inc., which sells and installs all those products. Stop by to speak with a sales person who can talk knowledgeably about what’s possible in your own home.  They also have a relationship with a credit union (Clean Energy Credit Union) which lends money solely for sustainability projects and the purchase of used or new electric cars.