Switching your home from gas to electric can save money, but this expert says planning the transition helps
Jenny Edwards doesn’t mince words on the topic of using gas in the home.
“Stop it, that’s my point of view,” she told ABC RN’s Life Matters.
For a decade, Ms Edwards, director of sustainability and regulatory affairs at the Property Council of Australia, has helped Canberra households – most of which have gas heating, hot water and cooking – do just that.
“There really was a myth – we were all sold on the idea of gas and that’s why it was picked up in Canberra and Victoria in particular,” she says.
But she argues that households can switch from gas to electric “and be just as comfortable – even more comfortable – and have a lot more money in their pockets”.
Ms Edwards offers tips for homeowners and renters to reduce their gas usage and, as energy prices soar across the country, save money too.
“Have a plan in place to change”
Turning off the gas means losing the fumes and flames from your home, says Ms Edwards.
And gas “also contributes to the moisture content of your home…and of course there’s the impact of climate change. It’s a fossil fuel.”
Free online resources like MakeTheSwitch.org.au offer advice on why and where to start, but one of the main things to consider before switching, says Ms Edwards, is to have a plan.
“You may not be able to afford [transition to electricity] all at once and… you don’t want to replace devices that are still working, but [they] are going to die at some point and you want to have a plan in place to go all-electric. »
“Once you get rid of all that stuff, you no longer pay the gas hook-up charge, which is $350 a year here in Canberra.”
Costs vary across the country, but savings can be made. For example, for a Victorian couple, waiving the connection fee meant a saving of $1.50 per day.
Across Australia, the cost of wholesale energy is skyrocketing and electricity prices are on the rise.
Natural gas prices are also high, but a transition from gas will always result in lower energy bills, Ms. Edwards said.
For example, reverse-cycle air conditioning for heating is “much, much more efficient than gas [heating] — five to ten times more effective,” she says.
In addition, the gas “cannot be used to cool your home” and “cannot be compensated by photovoltaic/solar panels”.
She says it’s important to consider individual states and territories because there are such varied climates across the country.
Ms Edwards hopes the “significantly cheaper” costs of going all-electric will be affordable to everyone, especially low-income people and vulnerable households, arguing that those households should receive government support to make the switch.
“There is no doubt that the initial cost of change will be tricky for many, and this is where the government needs to help low-income households.
“We can’t leave [low-income earners] behind,” she said.
Start with the biggest gas guzzler
“The biggest gas consumer in your home is your heating system,” says Edwards.
For those who use centralized ducted gas heating, it encourages improving the energy efficiency of the home to reduce reliance on it.
“So insulation and draft sealing – draft sealing which I can’t stress enough – once you’ve done those things you’ll find that in a typical Canberra house you you don’t need a centralized heating system,” she says.
“A few separate systems, these reverse cycle heat pump air conditioners, should be able to do the job.”
The next important element is the gas hot water system.
“It’s going to die one day,” Ms Edwards says, and when it does, “don’t rush to your local gas supplier and plumber and replace it with another gas system.”
“Take the opportunity to switch to a heat pump hot water system. It’s super efficient.
Cooking without (without) gas
Online calculators can help determine the payback period when switching to induction cooktops, which Edwards recommends for their energy efficiency.
Woks have been a sticking point for some when it comes to cooktops, but Ms Edwards says there are manufacturers now producing induction cooktops with a curved gap, and others making flat-bottomed woks.
“There’s really no excuse now, and many restaurants are also switching to induction cooking, because it’s so much more comfortable in a kitchen, without the flames and all that extra heat and fumes.”
She recommends renters “have a conversation with your landlords — not all landlords are bad.”
“Direct them to resources, like MakeTheSwitch, and ask them to think about how improving their rental property will actually improve the comfort of their residence and improve the durability and lifespan of their property. Some owners will join you,” she says.
“If they don’t, then draft sealing really is the best thermal value.”
She suggests using a wood filler to seal between architraves or the wall around windows in living areas.
“Even if you don’t own the property, it’s a small investment that will pay off in terms of comfort and lower bills,” she says.
Finally, for homeowners and renters, she says there is a cheap workaround instead of expensive double-glazed windows,
“A layer of bubble wrap – on those windows that don’t have a great view and don’t let your winter sun in – can make [a normal window] works like a double-glazed window.”
Ms Edwards says she challenges people “to think about alternatives”.
“There are big wins to be won with really simple measures.”
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