Starting Our Journey to an All Electric House

A Simple House With A Garden And Tress Around.
Starting Our Journey To An All Electric House 6

If it’s true what the old Chinese proverb says, that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, then this is the first step of our journey to an all electric house. It’s an assessment of exactly where we’re starting from as we embark on our home electrification journey at the tail end of 2021. 

The plan is to switch our house over to all-electric in whatever time frame makes sense (within reason) and whatever budget we can afford. 

Some of the items we’ll have to replace are quite old and, therefore, in need of replacement anyway. Others are fairly new and their replacement has to be seen as an “environmental cost”. Exactly how we’ll account for that is something we haven’t yet decided. 

It probably makes sense to replace the least expensive items first, as well as those that are not long for this world anyway. And we should replace them before they actually die. 

We also plan to keep an eye out for various incentives offered either by our state government, the Federal government or our local utilities. 

Here then is a look at where we are as we start our electrification process.

About Us

We’re Michael and Karen, an empty nester couple in our very early 60s, who  live on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We raised our family and still live in a three bedroom house that was built in 1991. We’re the only owners the house has ever had so we’ve been here a little over 30 years at the time of writing. 

I (Michael) would describe myself as a committed environmentalist. I’m very concerned about climate change and want to make a difference in whatever number of years I have left. 

Karen, not so much. She certainly isn’t anti-environment but she loves her gas stove, likes driving an SUV and considers recycling to be a chore that she probably wouldn’t bother with if her husband wasn’t willing to do it for her.

We’re both still working so have a decent household income to cover the costs of electrification. But we’re certainly not wealthy enough that cost is no object. These upgrades will have to be budgeted and many simply can’t be done until we saved up the necessary funds.

On the Driveway

The area where we live has no reliable public transportation so two cars are pretty much a necessity, even for an empty nest couple, like us. Michael drives a 2017 VW Passat and Karen drives a 2008 Lexus RX 400h, both powered by gasoline. Although the Lexus is described as being a hybrid, it’s not one that you can plug in.

An Image Of A Black 2008 Rx 400H Lexus And A White 2017 Vw Passat Parked In The Driveway.
Starting Our Journey To An All Electric House 7

Michael drives anywhere from 50 to 150 miles a day for work. Karen’s works from home so her journeys tend to be short trips to the gym, shops, etc. She does, however, frequently drive to visit family on the other side of the state, about 150 miles away

The nearest shop is well over a mile away and weekly grocery shopping at any of our preferred stores entails at least a 20-mile round trip. 

Karen absolutely hates filling up her car with gas, so you would think she would be an ideal candidate for an electric vehicle. Yet it is Michael who is determined that the next car he buys will be an electric (although making the switch is proving to be more difficult than expected). 

Since neither car is particularly old, and wouldn’t ordinarily be replaced for several more years, making the switch to an electric vehicle sooner than would otherwise be necessary would be a decision made purely for environmental reasons.

But changing Michael’s car to an EV would switch the vast majority of the family’s driving to electric, leaving just Karen’s shorter trips to be powered by gasoline.

We have a private driveway but we do not have a garage so any charging infrastructure we install will have to be outdoors, probably located on the side of the house. 

Inside the House

The house is heated with natural gas, which was only brought into the house in 2014. Up until then, we had oil for heat and electric appliances for everything else. Bringing gas into the house for the first time was considered a big win back then (before we realized the dangers of gas), and we were even helped to do so with a rebate from Mass Save.

An Image Showing The Kitchen With A Gas Stove, Drawers And A Sink.
Our Gas Stove Is Barely Eight Years Old And Already We’Re Thinking Of Switching It Out For An Induction Stove

That enabled us to finally bring in the gas stove that Karen had always wanted, as well as a gas-powered tumble dryer that we picked up dirt cheap at an estate sale.

So we have a furnace and a gas stove that are barely eight-years old that we’re now thinking of switching out for electric. And, on top of that, Karen (who does most of the cooking) is going to take some serious persuading before she gives up a perfectly good gas stove, that she waited 22 years to get into the house, in favor of going back to electric cooking.

The one saving grace is that our 30-year-old kitchen is in serious need of remodeling, a project that we’ve been planning for years and we’re both very excited about. That makes now the perfect time to explore induction stoves and make that part of the larger kitchen upgrade. Otherwise, there’s no way she would go for it.

In the Garden

We’re both keen gardeners and have the usual array of garden tools that you might expect any suburban home to have. Of these, two – a lawnmower and a chainsaw –  are powered by gasoline. Meanwhile, a hedge trimmer, a leaf-blower and a weed-eater are powered with electricity. 

Replacing the chainsaw won’t be too difficult, the old one is on its last legs anyway. But the lawnmower is fairly new so, like the car, replacing it with an electric one would be an unnecessary cost made purely for the sake of the climate.

An Image Showing The Garden With Orange And Pink Flowers And More Green Plants And Trees.
We’Re Keen Gardeners But We’Ll Have To Remove A Lot Of Trees If We Want To Go Solar

One rite of spring we have always enjoyed is “burning season.” You can only burn brush between the months of January and April in our state so, throughout the year, we gather up a huge brush pile behind the shed and have several burning days in the spring. 

In addition to getting rid of all our yard waste, we toast marshmallows and generally get in the mood for spring. We love it!

But, of course, all that carries a significant carbon footprint so we probably need to invest in an electric chipper as a more environmentally friendly way to get right of our brush. 

Finally, like most suburban gardens, we have a grill for outdoor cooking. It’s powered by propane and becomes a main form of cooking through the summer and early fall. Of course, the unique flavor you get from grilling is hard to replicate with electricity, but there are electric grills on the market, so we’ll see.

On the Roof

The back of our house faces southwest and the roof is less than five years old so, on the face of it, you would think it would be an ideal candidate for solar. And since Michael works in the solar industry, that should be a no-brainer, right?

The problem is, we live on a very heavily-wooded lot. When we first bought the house back in 1991, we were penniless newlyweds and couldn’t afford to pay a lot for landscaping.

A Satellite Image Of The Roof Of The House Showing Where Is The Suitable Place To Put Solar Panels.
A Satellite Image Of The Home Shows Just How Unsuitable The Southwest-Facing Rear Roof Is For Solar Panels

I took down a number of the smaller trees myself in the first few years after we moved in, when I was a much younger man, but I left those I considered too big, or which were dangerously close to the house. 

And as kids came along and budgets got even tighter, we just never found the time or the money to get them taken down.

And besides, I like trees, and the shade they provided kept the house cooler in the summertime.

Well, if they were too big thirty years ago, you can imagine how much bigger they are now. And some of them are so close to the house that they would split it in two if they ever came down in one of the increasingly frequent storms we now get around these parts.

Bottom line, we would probably need at least $10,000 worth of tree work done before we can even think of putting solar on the house. But it’s an expense we would probably be taking on regardless of solar, simply because of the danger to the house that they now pose.

Crunching the Numbers

Based on December 2022 rates, we currently spend about $890 per month on energy, which breaks down as follows:

Electricity Bill (Eversource): $168/month on average

Gas Bill (National Grid): $156/month on a budget plan

Gasoline for Michael’s Car: $440/month (2 fill-ups/week on average at $55 each time)

Gasoline for Karen’s Car: $120 (2 fill-ups/month on average at $60 each time)

Gasoline for Garden: $10 (2.5 gallons to last the entire season)

Propane for Grill: $66 (Three tank exchanges per season at $22 each)

Add all those energy expenses up for the year and it comes to $10,684. Divide that by twelve months and you get $890.33 per month.

Steps Towards Our All Electric House

So that’s where we are starting from. Join us as we begin our journey to an all electric house.