Moving from Gas to Electric Heating — Are You Ready to Make the Switch?

Moving from Gas to Electric Heating — Are You Ready to Make the Switch?

“If you ask, ‘How on Earth are we going to power the modern economy cleanly,” said Saul Griffith, founder and chief scientist of Rewiring America, “all roads point to electricity!”

Yes indeed, there is a smarter, more efficient alternative to setting millions of tiny fires everywhere — burning fossil fuels in countless engines, furnaces and boilers to energize cars, trucks, homes and factories while creating unwanted pollution that heats the planet.  For example, a gasoline-powered car uses only about 30 percent of the energy in its fuel to move its wheels, with most of the rest wasted as heat. An electric car uses about 80 percent of its energy.
Fortunately, the United States is already moving in a more “plugged-in” direction. Sales of electric vehicles broke records last year, accounting for 5.8 percent of new cars sold. Electric heat pumps  outsold gas furnaces for the first time, A new climate law with plenty of incentives is providing billions of dollars in subsidies to hasten the transition.
Most homes and businesses already use electricity to power air-conditioners, lights, refrigerators and other appliances. But millions of buildings also burn fossil fuels, mainly natural gas or fuel oil, to power furnaces, hot water heaters, stoves, ovens and clothes dryers, together producing 13 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to published reports.
The good news is that electric alternatives already exist for most gas appliances. Electric heat pumps, for instance, essentially act as two-way air-conditioners that can provide cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.
Heat pump technology has dramatically improved in recent years, with many models able to operate efficiently in subzero temperatures.
The State of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection recently proposed a rule that would require thousands of apartment buildings, schools, and government buildings to replace heating systems with electric boilers.
sub: Electric Boilers Promote Better Health, Pure and Simple.

Besides the notorious greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide  and methane, natural gas-fired boilers and furnaces emit dangerous nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxide, as well as volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter.


Heat Pump Options for Hydronic Systems

Another fossil-free energy alternative is the hydronic heat pump that uses outdoor heat energy to warm water. It works by circulating a refrigerant through cycles of evaporation and condensation. A compressor pump then moves the water between two heat exchanger coils or pipes.

The warm water can be released in each room through tubing in the floor or baseboards, or it can be used to provide domestic hot water.

Hydronic heat pumps can be more efficient than gas or oil, even more so when combined with solar electricity. They can be 250–350% more efficient than a high efficiency boiler.

When choosing a heat pump, you can consider:
  • Energy Star rating
    Heat pumps that qualify for Energy Star status need to have a SEER rating of at least 15 and an HSPF of at least 8.5.
  • Advanced features
    Smart Grid technology can help save money on energy bills and reduce environmental impact.
  • Materials
    Heat pumps made from sustainable materials like recycled plastic or bamboo can be a good choice.
  • Climate
    In colder climates, look for a higher HSPF. In warmer climates, look for a higher SEER.

What to Consider for Commercial Boiler Upgrades

When upgrading to commercial electric boilers,  commercial property managers have several important issues to consider.
The key issues to evaluate include fitting the boiler(s) in the building, reducing the total cost of installation, and maximizing system reliability and longevity. Consulting with a professional with deep expertise in electric boiler technology, infrastructure, and conversion will streamline the process and facilitate optimal results.

Power Availability and Access

The first step for property managers is often to call their power company and ask, ‘Are you able to give us the power we need?’ Depending the size of the property, a large building  will need access to hundreds, if not thousands, of amps.
Reducing the Cost of Conversion

Building managers also need to consider the added cost for the utility to upgrade their power to the building. Additional electrical infrastructure enhancements may be required as well, such as wiring and upgraded circuit breakers. 

In the conversion, physically moving and manipulating a large electric boiler through doors and narrow corridors during installation can be difficult — particularly in older, space-constrained buildings.

Getting the boiler through doors into the building can be a challenge when a typical doorway in an older building is only 30-in. wide, or less.

Another problem is the difficulty of removing the existing boiler, which usually is quite large. Because of this, it is common to leave the existing boiler in place.

In light of these challenges, property managers are finding a more effective solution in high-capacity electric boilers that are specifically designed to fit through doors and other space constrained areas.

Product Selection

Before selecting an electric boiler, it is essential for building managers to also factor in longevity, reliability, required maintenance, and installation options. In this vein, for managers that use a hot water loop with their electric boiler, a heat exchanger may be used to reduce exposure to pipe scale and significantly extend longevity.

As commercial building managers increasingly convert from fossil fuel burning to eco-friendly electric boilers to combat climate change and promote health, consulting with an expert like Derr Heating and Cooling can simplify the process, reduce total cost, and increase reliability and longevity.
With a new plan in sharper focus, far more of America’s energy can come from electricity. As a result, the country would use less energy overall, since electric devices are more efficient than ones that burn fossil fuels.
“There are people who say this is impossible, and people who say this isn’t challenging at all,” said Ben Haley, an energy expert and co-founder of Evolved Energy Research. “I’d say it’s somewhere in between: It’s challenging, but it’s not impossible.” [DHC]