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.

Realtor Magazine Features All-Electric Home Trend  

This week’s email from Realtor Magazine featured “13 Home Trends Stealing the Spotlight in 2022,” and I was pleased to see that trend number twelve was “All-Electric Homes.”

I could have written it myself! I can’t improve upon the wording, so here it is, verbatim:

     More homeowners understand the importance of “decarbonizing” everything from products to transportation, and especially their homes, says Chicago- and Boulder, Colo.-based architect Nate Kipnis of Kipnis Architecture + Planning. “The way we can best do this is by eliminating all fossil fuels use from houses and including induction cooktops rather than gas for cooking, which offers safer, faster, and more even cooking,” he says. Kipnis recommends using either an air-source heat pump (mini-split) for the HVAC system or a ground source system (geotherm-al). The big payoff, he says, is that renewable energy has become the cheapest form of electricity generation.

Housing Trends Reflect Pandemic’s Influence  

The effect of pandemic lockdowns has triggered more interest in working at home, a trend that will be long-lasting and possibly permanent.

Early in the pandemic we saw a surge in real estate activity as buyers sought more space for working from home. Compounding that was a desire for more at-home entertainment and exercise. People want not only a home office, but a home theater and a home workout facility. These are features that will, in my opinion, dominate home design and buyer demands for at least the coming decade.

People feel safer at home, but they don’t want to feel cloistered. They want elbow-room.

Lockdowns also triggered more separations and divorces as couples who weren’t really in love found that being cloistered together at home didn’t work for their relationship. This also contributed to the real estate boom of 2020 and into 2021.

Real estate was considered an “essential service” in the early days of Covid-19 lockdowns, and we Realtors certainly relished the lack of traffic and traffic jams on local highways.  Those days of free-flowing traffic may be gone, but there is still a widespread appreciation of working from home and doing less commuting. This means continued buyer activity focused on finding additional home office space.

Some homeowners are finding that additional space at home instead of trading up to a bigger home. There’s increased interest, for example, in building ADUs over detached garages, not to create rental income (a great idea) but for the homeowner’s own use as a studio or office away from family distractions.

An attached garage can offer great potential for additional living space, not just as a workshop, but as a home office, art studio, workout room or even a bedroom if necessary. Heating and cooling, on top of improved insulation, will be job #1 before improving the flooring, walls and ceiling. Rather than extending your home forced-air furnace ductwork, consider installing a single-unit heat pump mini-split system.  I saw this on a garage in north Golden—a perfect application of this technology.

Click here for the Realtor Magazine article which inspired this article.

BONUS FEATURE:

Here’s an article submitted by Tina Martin about transforming your garage into a great work space:

Work-from-home jobs have become much more prevalent in recent years, with many people looking for remote opportunities or even starting their own businesses from the comfort of their houses. If you’ve just started working from home or are planning to in the near future, you’ll need a quiet, dedicated space for an office, and one place you may not have thought of to create a setup is your garage. With a few simple changes, you can transform this area into another room that comes with plenty of benefits–including more privacy and fewer distractions. You can also look for ways to make the transition to working from home a little easier at the same time.

Come prepared

If you’re going to be working from home at your own business, it’s a good idea to be as prepared and organized as possible to make the process a smooth one. This means taking steps to ensure that your company has all its bases covered legally, including creating an LLC so you can keep track of your tax responsibilities and remain in good standing with the IRS. A limited liability company comes with less paperwork and more flexibility than a corporation, so you can stay on top of things and run your business the way you want. Every state has its own rules for formation, so look up the steps for creating a Colorado LLC before jumping in.

Set up your workspace

Once you have the details figured out, it’s time to think about how to turn your garage into a room you can work in throughout the seasons. Of course, you’ll need access to wi-fi and electricity, but never try to handle electrical work on your own–hire a pro if you have to add wiring to your garage. If you already have wi-fi in your home, a simple and affordable signal extender could help you bring service to your new workspace. You’ll also want to make sure you have access to cool and warm air for the different seasons and that the garage is well-ventilated. Add shelving and a desk so you can keep things neat, and don’t forget to bring in a comfortable, supportive chair.

Let some light in

Once you know where your desk will be, think about how to make sure you have the right light for your needs. Many garages have overhead fluorescent lighting, which can be tiresome to your eyes for long periods of time. Look for a small lamp or two that will provide task lighting to the right areas and diffuse the overheads for your comfort. If your garage has a window, even better! Natural light is beneficial for working in an office because it can help to prevent disruptions in the circadian rhythm and boost your mood. If you don’t have a window, take breaks throughout the day and step outside for some fresh air.

Keep distractions out

Once you have your office space set up, it’s time to keep the distractions to a minimum. There are several ways you can achieve this, but you might start by replacing the garage door with a regular one that locks. Keep your new office space dedicated to business-only; the more it looks and feels like home, the easier it will be for you to put off work. It’s also a good idea to keep devices out of the space unless they’re necessary for your job.

Creating a home office out of a garage doesn’t have to be time-consuming or costly. With a few simple moves, you can turn this space into an entirely new room and give yourself the workspace you’ve always wanted in the process.

Realtor Association Takes Fair Housing Seriously

While it might be popular to think of Realtors as privileged conservatives (mostly Republicans) who put up with but are not fans of federal civil rights laws, quite the opposite appears to be true now. Liberal thinking Realtors are in ascendance.

An August 22 article from Realtor Magazine, the official magazine of the National Association of Realtors, makes this abundantly clear.

In 2018, NAR leadership laid bare at its legislative meetings in Washington, D.C., the organization’s “immutable past support of discriminatory and racist practices [link],” vowing to deepen its commitment to industry inclusivity and equal opportunity in housing.

The Chicago Association of Realtors, headed by an African-American woman, apologized last year for its “historically racist policies that persisted for decades.”

Click on that link above. Unless you miss the “good old days,” you’ll be heartened by what you read. It makes me proud to be a Realtor. The commitment to equality and justice is rock solid.