Chas Macquarie: Healthy homes and energy savings

Chas Macquarie

Chas Macquarie

Switching to electric cooktops, furnaces, and water heaters will make our homes healthier to live in and save us money on energy costs. Contrary to Jim Hartman’s statements in his June 17 column, there are a number of studies showing that gas stoves increase the risk of health hazards in the home, particularly the incidences of childhood asthma. Here is just one:

For most homes, heating and cooling use the most energy, so switching from a gas furnace to a high-efficiency electric heat pump will significantly reduce heating and cooling bills. Heat pumps transfer heat energy from outside your home to the inside. They will heat your home in the winter and cool it in the summer, much like your refrigerator cools your food.

If you have a gas furnace and a central duct system, a heat pump can replace your existing furnace when it gives up the ghost. For homes without ducts, there is a ductless version, called a mini-split heat pump, that will heat or cool individual rooms. You can learn more about heat pumps here:

A tax credit of $2,000 is available now for a heat pump, and beginning in 2024, state programs will offer low-and moderate-income households’ rebates of up to $8,000.

Two years ago, I replaced my 25-year-old gas furnace and AC unit with a heat pump. It cost $12,500 – just $500 more than my neighbor spent to replace his failing gas furnace with a new gas furnace. I have already saved more than $500 in two winters’ reduced energy bills. I will save about $450 a winter going forward. One thing I learned in this process is the importance of finding an HVAC contractor that is familiar with heat pumps. Several contractors I contacted had never heard of them. This will change as people realize how much money they will save on energy bills and demand for them increases.

The Inflation Reduction Act includes rebates and tax credits for replacing non-electric appliances with high-efficiency electric appliances, including water heaters, clothes driers, stove tops, and ovens, as well as upgrades to the electrical wiring. The rules are complex; fortunately, Rewiring America’s website has a guide to the IRA programs and includes an interactive calculator that will give you an estimate of IRA upfront discounts, tax credits, and energy bill savings for your home:

How much a household saves on energy costs depends on their income, size of house, and the upgrades they install. For Nevada, Rewiring America estimates that electrifying space and water heating would reduce energy bills for 1.1 million households by an average of $334 per year.

Installing heat pumps, electric water heaters, and stoves will create additional jobs for plumbers and electricians in our state, as well as indirect sectors such as manufacturing and finance. In short, the IRA will be an economic boost to Nevada and the country, while saving American households billions of dollars in home energy costs. No wonder it is supported by over 70 percent of American voters.

We all like clean air and water and want our homes to be as safe as possible. To pass a healthy environment on to our kids and grandkids requires that we reduce our consumption of polluting fossil fuels, according to 99 percent of peer-reviewed scientific research.

As beneficial as the IRA is in saving Americans money, it does not get us the carbon pollution reductions we need to avoid the worst impacts of a warming planet. For that we will need additional measures such as a Carbon Fee and Dividend policy. Carbon Fee and Dividend would place a steadily rising fee on carbon pollution and return all the money raised to the American people in a monthly dividend. Thousands of economists support this policy as the most effective way to reduce our carbon emissions. You can learn more about the policy here:

Fossil fuel companies want to slow down the transition to renewable energy sources like wind and solar because it would cut into their profits. Last year, while many Americans struggled to pay their heating bills, the big five oil companies made record profits of $196 billion. Just like the tobacco companies did 50 years ago, they employ marketing firms to mislead the public about the harmful effects of their products. In fact, they employ some of the same firms that worked for the tobacco companies.

Ignore the propaganda and disinformation; do a little research for yourself. Switch to efficient electric home appliances and save on your home energy bills. You don’t have to do this all at once – just as your existing inefficient appliances need replacing.

Chas Macquarie is a Carson City resident, a retired civil engineer, and an advocate for lower energy costs.


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