Iowa Electric vs. Natural Gas
Is it time to make the switch?

Electric vs. Natural Gas: Should Iowa Homeowners Make the Switch?

Iowa homeowners deciding to make the switch to solar often cite the desire to save money on utilities as a key reason. With rising costs for electricity from power companies across the US, the option to wipe out your power bill and generate all the electricity your home needs right on your rooftop is an attractive one.

But for 48% of Americans who use natural gas to power their homes, even a switch to solar won’t see you completely owning your power. When making the switch to solar, it’s worth considering moving from natural gas to a fully electric home. That way you make the most of a solar power system you own.

Regardless of who you are, concerns from the environmental impact of natural gas to reduced air quality in your home might still be prompting you to look into how to head towards all electric appliances at home.

Is There a Reason to Keep Natural Gas in Your Home?

Most homeowners say they are sticking with natural gas as a power source to save money. But in Iowa in 2021, that line of reasoning stops making as much sense. As we head into the winter of 2021, many Iowans will see their natural gas bills rise by 46-96% over what it cost last year.
When you factor in the rising cost of natural gas with general efficiency and lifespan of home appliances, natural gas stops being an obvious choice. Energy efficiency is better for electric appliances, and natural gas and electric appliances generally have the same expected lifespan.

Plus, if you have a solar system on your roof generating all your electricity through even the chilliest of Iowa winters, all electric appliances make even more sense.

The good news is that switching to an all electric home is relatively easy. Most homes in the U.S. are already wired and ready to go for a connection to an electrical grid, and providers like MidAmerican and Alliant are friendly towards net metering. But uninstalling natural gas from your home comes with a cost. To make sure the gas line that was attached to your home doesn’t leak and become a safety hazard, you’ll have to arrange for your local natural gas supplier to come out and cap the line.

Without cost savings as the driving reason for sticking with natural gas, another common reason is simply preference. Aspiring at home chefs, or big families who want to avoid bickering about who used up all the hot water, might prefer natural gas appliances for the specificity natural gas provides with cooking and heating.

If you love to flambé your meals, and your last family reunion was a fiasco when grandpa used up all the hot water before grandma got a chance to shower, it makes sense you might prefer natural gas. But it’s important to understand the impact natural gas use in your home can have.

What are the Drawbacks of Natural Gas?

Fracking, a term that has quickly entered most Americans’ vocabulary, is likely the top reason you can think of to not use natural gas. It’s true that the process for extracting natural gas has serious risks including chemical spills, degradation of the water supply, and overuse of public water sources in areas already at risk for droughts. Given that Iowa has worked hard to move into the #1 state in the US for renewable energy, it’s clear Iowans value energy sources that don’t cause undue harm to the environment and their communities.

However, there are other lesser known issues with natural gas use in the home. A study from Rocky Mountain Institute and Mothers Out Front found that just using a gas stove to cook regularly produces elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide. Raised levels of nitrogen dioxide in the home can lead to a variety of respiratory and cardiovascular issues, including things like worsening asthma, which is especially concerning for children, the elderly, and anyone with pre-existing health conditions.

Aside from this cause for alarm, many of us are aware of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from natural gas in our homes. Even with that signature rotten egg smell to help alert you, natural gas connected to your home is a very real risk factor for deathly leaks.

Why do Iowans Prefer All Electric Homes?

With 1 in 4 homes in Iowa relying on electric heat (versus 1 in 8 homes for natural gas), it appears that Iowa homeowners already prefer electricity to natural gas for their homes. One reason for this may be that electricity in the home is overwhelmingly safe. With electric appliances there simply isn’t the risk of unsafe levels of nitrogen dioxide or gas leaks. All electric appliances in your home also result in savings from better energy efficiency, and the option to unplug any so-called vampire appliances sucking extra electricity to increase savings.

Beyond the above reasons, an all electric home means you can take advantage of home appliances becoming more technologically advanced. In the last few years the price of energy efficient appliances like induction stovetops has decreased, and we’ve seen an increased availability and capability of on-demand and tankless water heaters. Electric appliances are quickly adapting to meet the preferences of folks who prefer natural gas appliances with electric alternatives.

For Iowa homeowners looking to go solar, concerns about environmental impact are likely a big factor in the decision. Switching from gas to electric means that you’ll not only get to make the most of your solar power system, but can feel even better about how green your home energy system is.

Where natural gas impacts the land, water, and air, electricity from clean sources like wind, hydroelectric, and of course solar by comparison have minimal environmental impact. Clean energy advocates and companies are also continuing to improve these systems towards better sustainability. Iowa is already heading towards this sustainability, seeing coal powered energy drop from 53% of energy production to just 24% in 2020. This is great news for Iowa’s future, since coal burning power plants will soon need to make changes to meet the country-wide move towards 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity announced in April of 2021.

Whether you go solar or not, non-electric appliances seem to be fated to go the way of the dinosaurs we’ve been using to fuel gas and oil burning stoves, water heaters, and dryers. 

Why Isn’t Everyone Switching to Electric?

Given all these factors in favor of moving to all electric appliances in the home, you might be wondering why everyone isn’t already doing so. The short answer: the switch can be expensive up front. Purchasing new electric appliances, depending on what you need to replace, might cost thousands of dollars. For homeowners, that cost can be daunting, especially if your current natural gas appliances still have years of use in them. Additionally, for homes with older electrical systems, the additional appliances plugging in may also require an upgrade. Not to mention that homeowners have to cover the cost to cap natural gas lines no longer in use.

The great news? Homeowners who make the switch to solar can see lifetime savings that will make up for any costs associated with converting your house to all electric appliances pretty quickly. Make sure to also check to see what rebates from Iowa and the federal government are available to homeowners switching to energy efficient electric appliances.

Electric vs. Gas: Which Wins Out?

All electric homes look like what we’ll all have in the not-so-distant future, and not just because of the cost savings. The reality is that the U.S. is moving towards a green, renewable energy future, and electric appliances are ready for that future in ways natural gas appliances simply aren’t. Homeowners who want to be ready for this future and make the switch to all electric home appliances right now should weigh if there’s a way for them to make the switch sooner rather than later. Some things to consider include the cost to purchase new appliances, any updates your home needs, and the needs of your family.

Luckily for homeowners who are considering the switch to solar, the monthly savings you’ll see from wiping out your power bill will quickly pay for the cost to convert your appliances to all-electric.

If you’re ready to take the first step and find out if your roof qualifies for our zero down program, it’s as simple as answering a few quick questions. Purelight Power can help make the switch to electric appliances and solar simple.

   
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