The building industry is gearing up to do its part to help the U.S. reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Published September 9, 2022
Major Shifts on the Way
In 2021, the United States submitted a commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Meeting this lofty goal will affect every sector of the economy and require major shifts in the way the construction industry builds homes, apartments, and commercial buildings. Building departments across the country are adopting stricter energy codes, requiring building envelopes to be tighter, insulation values to be higher, and electric mechanical systems and appliances to be installed in new construction instead of gas ones.
The Road to Electrification
Electrification will affect every builder in the coming years, so what will it take to gear up for this shift?
- Electric heat pumps
- Ductless mini-splits are great for open areas and small buildings but cannot effectively serve several rooms with one head
- Ducted systems can replace conventional ducted gas furnaces but not always on a 1-to-1 basis. Approximately 2,500 square feet of conditioned floor area is the ceiling for a single heat pump system to serve.
- Some air source models are 50% efficient even at -13 degrees Fahrenheit. Ground source heat pumps can run at 100% efficiency even in extreme cold.
- Heat pump water heaters
- Operating costs per year are much lower than most conventional water heaters but typically cost more upfront
- Require condensation line to drain
- Many models can run on a single 15 Amp breaker
- Induction stoves and electric ovens
- Induction heats pans faster than electric or gas and requires magnetic pots and pans.
- Much better for indoor air quality
- Induction stoves are typically more expensive than gas or electric but are more energy efficient
- Electric fireplaces
- Cheaper up front and to operate
- Much safer than other fireplaces and can be installed in any room
- Low maintenance while still providing supplemental heating
- Other gas equipment
- Outdoor fireplaces and grills are still allowed in all-electric construction but will require propane tanks
All-electric construction is on the horizon, and many builders are opting to incorporate some or all of the requirements already. While the equipment and appliance costs are often higher than gas, many utility providers offer generous rebates for electric equipment and operating costs are typically much lower for the end user, especially when paired with solar. Builders also can save a great deal by avoiding running gas lines.