When was the last time you caught a clear view of the Los Angeles skyline where it wasn’t covered by a thick haze of smog? If your answer was never, you’re not alone. The widespread and excessive use of fossil fuels, and the resulting carbon emissions, make it all but impossible to enjoy the natural beauty of Southern California. Sadly, this is hardly an isolated issue. In many parts of the world, outdoor air quality concerns are so high that most people wear masks daily just to keep their lungs protected. For these and countless other reasons, regulatory authorities and research groups have started the phrase “beneficial electrification”. As more auto manufacturers, appliance makers, and builders move towards electrification, it’s becoming increasingly important to know what beneficial electrification means and how it pertains to you.
What Is Beneficial Electrification?
Often referred to as “strategic electrification”, beneficial electrification is a relatively new term. It refers to the growing recognition that transitioning to all-electric gadgets, appliances, and vehicles is the right choice for the environment, humans, and future generations. However, it also acknowledges the challenge of this Herculean task. This is because electrification on any scale comes at a cost. It isn’t exactly feasible for all consumers to simply retire their gas-powered vehicles right now, or to remove all of their current gas-fired heating systems and have all-electric furnaces installed. Nor is immediate and complete electrification the best choice for local and national economies.
Just as individuals are heavily reliant upon fossil fuels for their day-to-day activities, companies and municipalities are much the same. Much of modern infrastructure is built on fossil fuels and built to support them, and thus, transitioning to electrified solutions takes time. Beneficial electrification aims to prioritize projects that will provide the greatest environmental and economic benefits right now so that the total transition is a smooth, seamless, and affordable one for parties involved.
Understanding the Changing Landscape
Climate concerns have inspired many regulatory authorities and product manufacturers to make major changes right away. For instance, some of the nation’s most trusted auto manufacturers have moved almost entirely away from the production of gas-powered vehicles. In California, the purchase and sale of new gas-fueled autos will be prohibited by 2035.
Although this change will take place at a time that appears to be well into the future, corporate and legislative actions in support of this ban will happen long before. In short, if you want to find and drive a gas-powered vehicle in California, you can expect that the cost of doing so will gradually rise until the option to buy a new gas-powered car no longer exists. Not only is opposing electrification or simply ignoring the widespread movement towards this aim certain to be costly, but it’s guaranteed to be challenging in other ways as well.
This is also true for home appliances and general home designs. If you own a gas-fired furnace, you’ll always be able to find someone who can repair your current model. But as more homeowners electrify their home heating systems and as more furnace manufacturers focus on electric power, you’ll have an increasingly harder time replacing your gas model with a new one. At the present moment, the most beneficial electrification projects for you might not include swapping out your auto or your home heating system, but as the landscape changes, they eventually will. You’ll save more money in the long run by choosing products with a measure of supply that’s capable of meeting demand, and you’ll likely find a more generous range of government incentives available as well.
What Are the Basic Requirements for Beneficial Electrification?
There are three basic requirements for a project to be considered as being beneficial electrification. These are:
- An electrification project must save consumers money over time
- An electrification project must make general grid management more efficient
- An electrification project must reduce negative environmental effects
However, it is not necessary for a project to meet all three of these requirements at once. Instead, it must only meet one requirement without negatively impacting either the other two. For instance, if the environmental impacts of an upgrade are actually harmful to the environment even though an upgrade saves consumers money and simplifies grid management, it is not beneficial overall.
This can be seen with several all-electric products. Certain electric-powered appliances and automobiles have heavy carbon footprints as the result of their production processes. Although these goods cost less to use and emit fewer carbon emissions during use, it is still important to consider the carbon emissions created when producing them.
Beneficial Electrification and Your HVAC System
Throughout the world, all-electric heat pumps are currently the most popular choice for de-carbonizing home heating and cooling equipment. In warmer areas like Los Angeles, ductless mini-split heat pumps offer an efficient, year-round solution to home heating and cooling needs. Unlike gas-fired furnaces that continuously combust fossil fuels to produce heat, the only contributor to carbon emissions in a fuel pump is the amount of electricity that’s used to power it. Best of all, heat pumps do not pose the risk of carbon monoxide exposure or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Ductless mini-split heat pumps also provide zoned heating and cooling. While a central HVAC system is designed to heat all areas of a building uniformly, ductless mini-split units have separate air handlers and thermostats in each zone or room. This eliminates the need to heat or cool rooms that are unoccupied, lowers energy costs, and cuts unnecessary energy use.
For homes that already have HVAC ductwork, upgrading an outdated gas-fired furnace to a high-efficiency electric furnace is another environmentally friendly choice. High-efficiency electric furnaces have longer lifespans, use less energy to create and maintain comfortable indoor temperatures, and they’re safer to use overall. Homeowners in LA can additionally consider upgrading their gas water heaters to electric, point-of-use water heaters that lose far less heat during the hot water distribution process. In most cases, all three of these upgrades capably fulfill the primary requirements of beneficial electrification.
Why Beneficial Electrification Matters
The changing landscape makes electrification a major point of concern for all consumers. Soon, the range of gas-fired products available will decline even as the costs of purchasing and using these things rises. However, in the present moment, companies and consumers must focus on making changes that are guaranteed to provide the best possible outcomes. This means choosing upgrades and products that have minimal carbon footprints from the outset, come with reasonable installation costs, and offer ease of installation and integration.
For most households, HVAC use represents approximately 50 percent of the monthly home energy bill. This is especially during the summer and winter seasons. For Californians, while there’s a definite push for the electrification of all automobiles, the most beneficial electrification projects are focused on streamlining home heating and cooling systems for efficiency. Fortunately, with the advent of ductless mini-split heat pumps and high-efficiency electric furnaces, those living in Los Angeles can meet all three requirements for beneficial electrification and at a reasonable, manageable cost.
At Temp Air System Inc., we offer heating and cooling services, indoor air quality services, UV light installation, and more. More importantly, we’re committed to helping Los Angeles residents reduce their carbon footprints and lower their overhead costs. We work hard to ensure that our clients have access to feasible, affordable options in beneficial electrification. If you’re ready to upgrade your HVAC equipment for increased efficiency and a lower environmental impact, call us today to get started.