5 New Year’s resolutions to electrify your life

Want to decarbonize your home and commute? Here are some low-stakes steps to kick-start your electrification journey.
By Alison F. Takemura

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3 geometric pendant lights superimposed over the number 2024. A yellow electrical-cord border says Electrified Life.
(Binh Nguyen/Canary Media)

Canary Media’s Electrified Life column shares real-world tales, tips and insights to demystify what individuals can do to shift their homes and lives to clean electric power. 

Just a few major decisions about your home and commute can massively cut your carbon pollution — and have a giant collective impact. More than 40 percent of U.S. energy emissions stem from choices people make around the kitchen table, including where their electricity comes from, how they heat and cool their homes, and what they drive, according to pro-electrification nonprofit Rewiring America.

So why not make it your 2024 goal to start electrifying your life? Granted, it isn’t easy — and can be expensive upfront — but there are initial steps you can take to make the undertaking much smoother.

Here are five recommendations for low-stakes ways to begin your electrification journey. Feel free to copy and paste directly to your list of New Year’s resolutions.

1. Clarify your why” and create your vision

What’s motivating you to go electric? Write your reasons down and hold on to them. Electrification can be a bumpy ride, so having your motivation clear will help you navigate the challenges that arise.

Next, visualize your life in your electrified home. Do you relish the gentle, consistent and clean warmth of a heat pump instead of the inefficient blast of a fossil-fueled furnace or boiler? Do you skip the hassle of having to get gas because you drive an electric vehicle or hop on an e-bike? Do you enjoy more comfort and lower energy bills because your home wears a jacket of insulation and all its cracks are caulked? If you rent, do you cook on a sleek induction hot plate until you can convince your landlord to ditch the gas range? Maybe you even subscribe to shared community solar, an option available to renters and homeowners alike. If you need inspiration, go ahead and steal from Canary’s interactive graphic of a clean-energy dream home.

2. Look up national and local incentives 

There’s money available for electrification whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, but it takes some legwork to get it. At the federal level, the Inflation Reduction Act made a boatload of tax credits available for upgrades, including electric heat pumps for space heating and cooling, heat-pump water heaters, electric vehicles and much more. Forthcoming electrification and efficiency rebates will also help lower-income families switch from gas appliances to electric ones. Taking advantage of these IRA incentives while they last could be well worth the effort; on average, they’ll tally to $10,600 per household, according to Rewiring America.

Check out Rewiring America’s interactive calculator for an estimate of which incentives you’re likely to qualify for.

As for local incentives, search the U.S. Energy Star rebate finder with your ZIP code and check with your utility, state energy office and city government for programs that help residents electrify.

3. Schedule a home energy audit

A home energy audit is like a checkup for your abode. After an inspection and some diagnostic tests, an energy auditor will give you a prescription for how to make your home a more efficient, comfortable and healthy living space. You don’t have to rush into all the updates, but getting an audit will help you discover where your home stands. (If you rent, ask the property owner if this is something they’re interested in.)

To find a certified home energy auditor, you can look up one near you through the U.S. Department of Energy Home Energy Score program or nonprofit certifying organization the Building Performance Institute, or check with your state energy or weatherization office or utility. Be sure to ask whether any local subsidies for home energy audits are available. At the federal level, you can access a $150 tax credit. As with other types of contractors, experts recommend getting at least three quotes and reviewing sample audit reports before picking an energy auditor.

Want a sneak peek of energy upgrades an audit is likely to recommend? The DOE and BPI have a couple of illuminating home quizzes you can give a whirl.

Canary Media shows you how a home energy audit is like a doctor’s visit.

4. Make an electrification plan, even if it’s just a rough one

Start to build your roadmap to an efficient home powered by clean energy. Consider the sequence: For example, you might need an electrical panel upgrade before your home can accommodate new appliances. But you may be able to avoid a costly overhaul of your electrical service if you plan to buy low-power appliances or install devices to manage your electrical load.

Depending on your region’s climate, weatherizing your home early on in the process could be a big help. By reducing energy demands, insulating and air sealing could allow you to buy a smaller, less expensive heat-pump HVAC system or put fewer solar panels on your roof.

Also weigh when it would make the most sense to replace specific appliances based on their cost, age, contractor availability and incentive restrictions. For instance, there’s a 30 percent federal tax credit (25C) available to help defray the cost of installing heat-pump HVAC systems and heat-pump water heaters, but it maxes out at $2,000 annually. If you buy those two pieces of equipment in different years, you could claim the credit twice for total savings up to $4,000.

If you’re a renter, put efficiency and electrification incentives on your landlord’s radar ahead of time in case any fossil-fuel appliances break down. And think about portable technologies to electrify your life, such as forthcoming window heat pumps, induction cooktops, EVs and e-bikes — or even heat-pump dryers and plug-in heat-pump water heaters.

To help flesh out your plan, peruse Rewiring America’s comprehensive electrification guide, check back for their forthcoming planner and browse the DOE’s energy savings hub, a catalog of electrification and efficiency ideas.

Your plan could be a doodle on a napkin, a checklist broken down by year or a masterful spreadsheet — or some wonderful, quirky combo. Don’t sweat the format; just start planning. 

5. Find support — or even a coach

Others have walked the electrification road before, and many are willing to freely share their lessons learned. You can find them in digital communities on Reddit and Facebook, which sports the contractor-heavy group Electrify Everything, and in your own locale. You might come across experienced and enthusiastic neighbors via the social platform Nextdoor, in local interest groups or just by asking your neighbor with the shiny new solar panels where they got them.

Some passionate early adopters are even training to be electrification coaches for their communities. These volunteers are already aiding others in Massachusetts, New York and Colorado — with many more locales to come. Rewiring America and home-decarbonization consultancy Abode Energy Management launched a national electrification coaches program this year to train volunteer coaches across the country. So keep an eye out for people ready and willing to help you electrify your life.

And if you want help from professionals, either for yourself or to recommend to your landlord, there are a number of whole-home decarbonization companies that can help you build a roadmap, including QuitCarbon (operating in California), Sealed (the Northeast and eastern Midwest), Helio Home (Colorado) and Elephant Energy (Colorado and Massachusetts), and GoGridly and Zero (Massachusetts), among others.

Which electrification resolutions will you pick? Give us a shout on social — X, LinkedIn and Instagram — to let us know. And don’t forget: We’re a nonprofit that relies on donations from our readers who value feisty, incisive and fun journalism on the clean energy transition. If you enjoy practical guides that help you decarbonize, donate today. Cheers to your clean-energy moves in 2024!

Alison F. Takemura is staff writer at Canary Media. She reports on home electrification, building decarbonization strategies and the clean energy workforce.