Building Electrification

The City of Piedmont is pursuing ways to reduce and transition off of natural gas use through electrification. Building electrification is the substitution of gas appliances (furnaces, water heaters, cooking ranges/stoves, dryers) with highly-efficient, safe, and clean all-electric alternatives (heat pumps, induction ranges/cooktops). A roadmap to an electrified home can be found here. The benefits of building electrification include lower energy costs, enhanced indoor air quality, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and more grid resiliency. Residential energy - specifically residential gas use - consistently comprises nearly half of Piedmont's total in-territory greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, building electrification is necessary for Piedmont to meet its Climate Action Plan greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. See below for information pertaining to electric alternatives to gas systems, electrification rebate and incentive opportunities, and Piedmont's electrification efforts. 

 

  • Find consumer resources at the Switch is O
  • East Bay specific electrification resources are here

Electric Alternatives to Gas Systems

The City of Piedmont is encouraging residents to make the switch to electric appliances and backup batteries. Learn more about electrification alternatives at the The Switch is On, a campaign founded in 2019 by the Building Decarbonization Coalition to educate everyone about the importance of home electrification. 
The following is a brief overview of some different appliances and why the City is encouraging electrification (i.e., switch from gas to all-electric appliances). Switching your gas appliances to electric will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, make your homes safer, and potentially save you money. For East Bay specific electrification resources, please check out this link here prepared by the Berkeley Electrification Working Group. 

Building Electrification | City of San Jose

 

Financing Mechanisms for Electrification 

The following information contains appliance-specific rebate information. Additional funding mechanisms for home electrification can be searched in the list below:

  • Green House Call offers you free energy saving kits delivered to your home. Learn more here
  • PACE funding is a way for homeowners to borrow money for energy projects and spread the cost over a long period of time. For an in-depth summary of PACE, visit the City of Berkeley's website here
  • The REEL program is a way to finance energy improvements in California. Up to 30% of financing can be used on non-energy improvements. Learn more by visiting the website here
  • Empower Procurement, a $5 million state funded program, is offerings ways to find appliances, construction materials, electronics and more. 


Major Appliances

Appliances are listed in decreasing order of energy usage. The ones at the top of the list will have a larger impact on your carbon footprint and bills. 

Heating and Cooling your Home: HVAC Heat Pump

Overview: Heating your home is the largest use of energy in households. Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) heat pumps offer an affordable method to heat and cool your home. In fact, a heat pump can replace both your air conditioner and your gas furnace, leaving you with one appliance rather than two. The three main types of heat pumps are air source, split ductless, and geothermal. The most common type of heat pump is the air-source heat pump. Advances in heat pump technologies have made them more efficient and reliable than ever. Well-known heat pump brands include Carrier, Goodman, and Rheem. 

How Does a Heat Pump Work: Heat pumps take existing heat energy in the surrounding air and use it to help regulate the temperature inside your home (similar to the way a refrigerator or air conditioner works). By moving heat in or out of your home (depending on the season) rather than generating it, heat pumps help lower heating and cooling costs while delivering reliable year-round comfort. 

How does a heat pump work?

Cost of a Heat Pump:
Heat pumps vary in price from about $4,500-$12,500. An equivalent gas furnace can cost $2,000-$7,000. Heat pumps can have a greater up-front cost than gas furnaces, but are more energy efficient, meaning that they can be much cheaper to operate (more information can be found here). They are about as efficient as traditional AC condensers, but the heat pump can function throughout the year, while the AC condenser is only used during warmer months. Studies have shown that installing heat pumps in the Bay Area are cost effective, saving you money over the lifetime of the product. One study (below) found that replacing a standard AC unit with a heat pump saved money in 84% of households. Piedmont households fall under the “retrofit package” displayed in the image below because there is very little new land development. 

Heat pumps generate savings in retrofits

Rebates for Heat Pumps:
BayREN is currently offering a $1,000 cash back rebate for replacing your gas furnace or conventional AC with a heat pump. Learn more about BayREN's heat pump rebate here. Additionally, single-family buildings can earn $3,000 for any heat pump HVAC installation through TECH Clean California incentives. Incentives are limited to two outdoor systems per household.  TECH Clean California incentives for multifamily buildings (5 or more dwelling units) are available for either central HVAC systems or HVAC systems serving individual apartments or common areas - those incentives vary dependent on system types. If you're a customer and want to find a TECH Clean California Participating Contractor, visit The Switch Is On's contractor directory. You can learn more about TECH Clean California incentives here 

Key Takeaways: Heat pumps are becoming increasingly more popular due to their dual functionality and cost-savings. A HVAC heat pump is very likely to save households money over time, especially if replacing an AC unit in addition to a furnace. They also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike gas-furnaces, heat pumps do not emit carbon dioxide (though the electricity they run on may involve carbon emissions). Further information and requirements for installing Heat Pumps in Piedmont can be found here, as well as information on where to place your Heat Pump, and whether you require a Building permit and Planning approval

 

Water Heaters

Overview: Heating water is often the second largest use of energy in the household. Replacing your gas water heater with an electric alternative will reduce emissions and potentially save you money. What alternatives to gas are there? One option is a Heat Pump Water Heater (HPWH), which uses electricity to heat water. HPWH’s are over twice as energy efficient as standard gas water heaters, and are also more efficient than standard electric tank water heaters. They function like a refrigerator in reverse, drawing heat from the air and heating your water with it. Another option is tankless water heaters, or “on-demand” heaters, which provide you with instant hot water and generally use less energy than traditional tank water heaters. This type of heater can lead to a reduced flow rate, which is especially noticeable in larger households. If you need more flow rate, installing more than one tankless heater can help meet your demands. These heaters heat water when the water begins to flow after the faucet has been turned on and the flowing water triggers the heating mechanism, meaning that there is no energy used to keep water stored in a tank hot. Well known water heater brands include A.O. Smith, EcoSmart, and Rheem. 

How Does an Electric Water Heater Work: Tankless water heaters work by heating water instantaneously without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water faucet is turned on, cold water flows through a heat exchanger in the unit and an electric element heats the water. This results with a constant supply of how water. HPWHs use electricity to move heat from one place to another, rather than generating heat directly. To move the heat, HPWHs work like a refrigerator in reverse. While a refrigerator removes heat from an enclosed box and expels that heat to the air, a HPWH takes the heat from the air and transfers it to water in an enclosed tank, as seen in the image below. 

a diagram of how a Heat Pump Water Heater (HPWH) works
IMAGE: U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Star 

Cost of an Electric Water Heater: Tankless water heaters cost between $1,000 to $3,000. HPWH vary in price from  $1,100 to $2,500. Overall, electric heat pump water heaters can cost more than traditional gas heaters. However, the added cost is not large, totaling at most $100/year over the lifetime of the appliance. You will be paying more on your electrical bill but much less on your natural gas bill. In addition, PG&E’s TOU plans can help you save money. 

Rebates for Electric Water Heaters: BayREN is currently offering a $1,000 cash back rebate for HPWHs. Learn more about BayREN's HPWH rebate here. BayREN also offers up to $400 when you upgrade to a high-efficiency gas water heater. Learn more here. Additionally, single-family buildings can earn $3,000 for any HPWH installation through TECH Clean California incentives. All HPWHs qualified as JA13 compliant and/or NEEA Tier 3 compliant are eligible. TECH Clean California incentives for multifamily buildings (5 or more dwelling units) are available for unitary HPWHs in apartments and communal spaces, central HPWHs, and HPWHs heating spas or pools - those incentives vary dependent on system types. If you're a customer and want to find a TECH Clean California Participating Contractor, visit The Switch Is On's contractor directory. You can learn more about TECH Clean California incentives here. Lastly, PG&E offers rebates up to $300 for the purchase of a HPWH. Learn more about PG&E's rebates here.

Key Takeaways: Similar to heat pump HVAC systems, HPWHs are becoming increasingly more popular due to their energy efficiency and cost-savings. A HPWH is very likely to save households money over time. Tankless water heaters are advantageous because of their long life expectancy, energy efficiency, space savings, and reduced wait time for hot water. View additional HPWH information on this pdf.


Cooktops/Ranges

Overview: Gas cooktops do not emit as much greenhouse gasses as furnaces and water heaters, but they are still important, especially when considering the air pollution they cause in your kitchen. Most Piedmont homes currently have a gas range. Gas has long been considered superior for cooking when compared to electric ranges, but due to better temperature control and faster heating times, many chefs now regard induction cooktops as just as good, if not better. Induction cooktops are more efficient than gas, transferring over 80% of the energy to the food vs. gas’s 40%. You will use less energy cooking the same amount of food on an induction cooktop when you switch from gas. Electric coils and gas used to be the only cooktops available. Nowadays, electric induction stovetops are an affordable option for homeowners, and they are comparable to, or better than, gas cooktops in many ways. Well known electric cooktop brands include Bosch, Frigidaire, and Miele. 

Electric cooktop

How Does an Electric Cooktop Work: Both electric ranges and induction cooktops use electricity to heat food. Induction cooktops heat food faster and offer better temperature control than electric ranges, and they are much more energy efficient. Induction cooktops work by using electric currents to directly heat pots and pans through magnetic induction, as seen in the image below. This results with heat energy created inside the pot or pan itself, rather than firing it from the outside. Electric cooktops work through a set of coils (exposed or inside the cooking surface) that get heated up through electricity when turned on. 

Schematic of the principle of induction stove | Download Scientific Diagram
Image: ResearchGate

Cost on an Electric Cooktop: Induction cooktops cost between $1,000 and $5,000. Electric cooktops cost between $300 to $1,000. The cost of induction cooktops has been dropping for some time, and now many are less than $800. This can be more expensive than a gas stove, but the advantages that induction brings to your kitchen help explain the price difference. If a homeowner has solar panels, the added cost of an induction cooktop should be cheaper still. One estimate says that electricity costs for a year can be $30-40 while gas costs $20-60. Additionally, induction offers safety and health benefits that gas cannot provide. Electrical induction only heats magnetic pans and pots (cast iron or stainless steel), meaning that you won’t burn yourself by accidentally resting your hand on the cooktop. There is no risk of a gas leak when cooking with induction. Gas cooktops are one of the primary contributors to pollution in the kitchen. They emit formaldehyde and carbon monoxide when you cook. Induction cooktops do not emit any pollution into your home while cooking.

 Comparing Cooktops
Issue Induction Gas
Efficiency  >80% efficient 40% efficient
 Safety Low risk of burning, no emissions Open flame, emits carbon monoxide and formaldehyde
 During emergencies When paired with solar and batteries, can continue to run. Otherwise, shuts off with electricity. Shuts off with natural gas during emergencies.
Cost A standalone burner can cost $60, while a 4 burner unit can cost $700 and more.  Many homes already have gas cooktops, but a new one can range from $500 to over $1000.

Rebates for Electric Cooktops: BayREN is currently offering a $300 cash back rebate for replacing your natural gas stove with an induction range or cooktop. Learn more about the induction cooktop rebate here.

Key Takeaways: Electric stoves are generally safer, easier to maintain, and easier to turn off and off and cool down faster. Professional and home chefs appreciate the precise, steady control, wider temperature range, and quick response time they get with electric cooktops. Learn more about induction cooking on the factsheets found here and here

Clothes Dryers

Overview: Most homes have either a gas clothes dryer or an electric clothes dryer. On average, laundry dryers have a 10-year lifespan. While traditional electric dryers do not burn gas, they are less efficient than gas dryers. So, when you are ready to purchase a new clothes dryer, consider making the switch to an electric, or better yet, a heat pump laundry dryer. Heat pump dryers can be easily installed as they do not require venting, are gentle on your laundry (since they dry at a lower temperature), and help reduce your monthly energy bill. 
How Does an Electric Dyer Work: Using electricity to power your laundry equipment can reduce emissions and get rid of some of the safety risks associated with gas (Source). Heat pump dryers work as a closed loop system by heating the air using it to remove moisture from the clothes and then reusing it once the moisture is remove. A heat pump dryer recycles air through an evaporator that removes moisture without losing heat. Since heat pump dryers do not require ventilation, they use less electricity.  
Heat Pump Clothes Dryer | Department of Energy
Image: U.S. Department of Energy 


Cost of an Electric Dryer:
 Heat pump clothes dryers cost between $600 to $1,400. Electric clothes dryers cost between $600 to $1,200. Heat pump clothes dryers can be more expensive than gas clothes dryers, and electric clothes dryers can be about the same price. Gas dryers rely partly on gas to heat the elements, while electric dryers only use electricity. Electric Dryers use more electricity when drying, but don’t emit greenhouse gases if the electricity generated from 100% renewable sources. They also should be the choice for a home with a solar energy system. Gas dryers use natural gas and less electricity. Electric options also need a 240 volt outlet to run. Heat pump dryers are also an option, but they are typically more expensive and do not perform as well when compared to electric dryers. One advantage of heat pump, in addition to their reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, is that you don’t need to vent them outdoors at all.

Information about clothes dryers

Rebates for Electric Dryers: BayREN is currently offering a $300 cash back rebate for replacing your gas dryer with a high efficiency heat pump dryer. The replacement dryer must be listed as ENERGY STAR Efficient. Learn more about the heat pump dryer rebate here.

Key Takeaways: Long popular in Europe, but relatively unknown in the United States, heat pump clothes dryers are energy-efficient and offer other benefits such as being less abrasive on your laundry due to the slightly lower temperatures. Additional information about Heat Pump Clothes Dryers can be found here

Further Energy Efficiency Upgrades

Upgrades should not stop with just appliances. Many of these options, specifically space and water heating, will work best in tandem with insulation and other energy improvements. This will allow a household to fully take advantage of energy improvements. We encourage residents to get an independent energy audit to fully understand which improvements would be best for their house. BayREN currently offers a $200 rebate for receiving a home energy score and offers suite of rebates in other areas such as air sealing (up to $150), duct sealing or replacement (up to $800), and insulation (up to $1,000). 

Benefits of Electrification 

Enhanced Resiliency

Switching from gas appliances to electric can make you more resilient to unexpected events. Gas can be cut off during an emergency, such as a fire or earthquake. Gas lines also have their own dangers, such as leaking or explosions. Electricity can also be cut off during an emergency, but there is no risk of dangerous leaks or explosions. When paired with solar panels and batteries, electricity can help make your home resilient to power outages as well. The energy generated by the solar panels and stored in the batteries can be used for power when your electrical service is shut off. This combination can both decrease danger, such as gas leaks or explosions, and increase resiliency, such as giving you different choices for power. Read through our solar page to understand more about the benefits of solar to your all-electric home. All of these upgrades will benefit from a robust system of backup power. Learn more by browsing through our guide to back up power.

Increased Indoor Air Quality

Although many of us don’t think about it, indoor air quality is important to our long term health. Most people spend about 90% of their time indoors, a number which may be higher during the coronavirus pandemic and smoky wildfire season. Indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air (when fires are not contributing to outdoor air quality). There can be numerous sources for indoor air pollution, but some of the more common ones include combustion sources such as gas and oil. Switching out gas stovetops and heaters are a relatively easy source to improve your home’s air quality. Gas appliances release formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxide. Switching to electric stoves and heat pumps can reduce the risk of these pollutants in your home.

Long-Term Cost-Savings 

Although switching to all-electric might sound expensive at first glance, there are ways to make it easier and less expensive. It will also benefit your household in numerous ways. Things to keep in mind include:

Cost of gas and electricity in the future: If approved, the General Rate Case for PG&E would mean approximately a 6% increase in natural gas rates between 2018 and 2022. Electricity rates are expected to increase by about 12 cents per kWh in 2021. While the costs of both utilities can increase, it is expected that natural gas prices will increase faster than electric prices. This can mean that switching to electrification could potentially bring about cost savings to your household.

Expected cost of energy

Savings from electricity: A study from research firm E3 found that in almost all cases, building electrification will deliver lifecycle cost savings for most home types in the Bay Area. For homes with air conditioning, the savings are particularly certain. You can find the report and read more about their findings here.

Electric appliances can have a high upfront cost, but research shows it is worth it in the long run. Homes with electric appliances are likely to save money. You can refer to the attached spreadsheet to look more closely at different appliances and how much they are anticipated to save a household.

Added cost to ADU’s: When building a new structure (such as an accessory dwelling unit or a new primary dwelling), adding a gas line to the unit can cost several thousand dollars (see below). Using all electric appliances means there is no need to add a gas line.

Estimated cost of gas

Time of use (TOU) rates are something that commercial buildings have enjoyed for many years. These rates are now available for residential accounts. A TOU rate means that the cost of electricity changes at different times of day. If you use electricity during “off-peak” hours, electricity can be much cheaper. Log into your PG&E account to learn more about time of use and determine if it makes sense for your household.

Peak pricing


In the above example, customers pay more between 4 and 9 p.m. while using electricity during other hours of the day is cheaper.

You can pick different peak periods depending on the rate plan you choose. Different rate plans have different pricing and baselines. This lets you pick better options for your household based on your energy usage. If you use more electricity, picking a tiered rate plan that reflects that can be a good decision.

Electric Vehicles: If you own an EV, call PG&E to inquire about different pricing tiers for electricity rates. You are eligible for a different tier rate if you charge at home, meaning that you can charge your vehicle using cheaper electricity. This is another reason why switching to an electric vehicle is a worthwhile switch. Also, check out our Electric Vehicles page for more information.

Piedmont's Electrification Efforts

Reach Code Resources

In February 2021, City Council passed reach codes that affect building electrification. Reach Code information such as rebates, resources, and updates can be found on Piedmont's reach code web page.

Information for Piedmont Businesses

East Bay Community Energy is hosting webinars to help businesses understand their new default electric rate structure. Click here for more information.

Are you interested in becoming a certified Green Business? The Green Business Program verifies that businesses meet higher standards of environmental performance. More than 400 Alameda County businesses and public agencies have been certified as green businesses. Learn more and sign up here.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Emissions over time


Residential carbon emissions: Grid electricity used to comprise a significant portion of Piedmont’s GHG emissions, but in 2018 most residential accounts switched to a renewable plan. Since the switch to the renewable plan, most residential energy emissions come from natural gas. As the graph above shows, household gas appliances emit over 40% of Piedmont’s greenhouse gas emissions. Natural gas in buildings have been the leading cause of emissions in Piedmont for some time. Every gas appliance that is switched to an electric alternative will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move us closer to our city and state climate goals.   

These goals were outlined in the 2018 Piedmont Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2.0, a plan that City Council passed unanimously. The CAP sets a goal for Piedmont to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 2005 levels by 2030, and by 80% by 2050. The effects of climate change can have negative consequences for Piedmont, such as increased wildfire risk, poor air quality, rising temperatures, and risk of flooding. Reducing greenhouse gas use can help mitigate the likelihood of more of these events happening.