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This new tool will help you plan your home electrification journey

Electrification nonprofit Rewiring America has launched a free tool to help homeowners make a step-by-step plan to get off fossil fuels.
By Alison F. Takemura

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Are you itching to fight the climate crisis by breaking up with your fossil-gas appliances and internal-combustion-engine car, but feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the task? Pro-electrification nonprofit Rewiring America has just launched a free tool to help you electrify your home and commute.

The personal electrification planner is designed to help millions of U.S. homeowners ditch fossil fuels, a move needed to help the country hit its target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

I’m really excited about Rewiring’s planner,” which demystifies” electrification, said Brian Stewart, co-founder of Electrify Now, a volunteer-based nonprofit that’s not affiliated with the new tool.

Electrifying one’s home can be a gnarly challenge, involving a wide range of contractors, including electricians, plumbers, HVAC installers, roofers, drywallers and carpenters. It can also be expensive, at least upfront. Homeowners, understandably, often struggle to figure out what upgrades to prioritize, how much they’ll cost, and which, if any, of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act’s consumer incentives they could qualify for. But doing so is vital to eliminating planet-warming pollution; more than 40 percent of U.S. energy emissions stem from the choices people make about their appliances, energy sources and cars, Rewiring reports.

Rewiring America’s tool aims to ease the friction for homeowners by providing a personalized menu of electrification projects, from prewiring their home and getting an EV to installing a heat-pump system, induction stove, heat-pump water heater and solar panels.

Our hope is that [the tool helps] people feel informed and empowered,” said Tom Mercer, head of product at Rewiring America. The nonprofit also unveiled a companion page on electrification for renters, which includes relevant projects and a guide for talking to your landlord.

To use the personalized planning tool, homeowners create an account and answer a few basic questions about their car and home: the address, square footage, heating and cooling systems, and the fuels used for heating, clothes drying and cooking. Users also provide their tax-filing status and household income and size in order to predict the federal incentives they’re likely to qualify for. 

A screenshot of text describing the profile of a home, including fields for size, heating fuel, and heating system.
Some of the questions users answer to get an electrification plan (Rewiring America)

Out pops a customized electrification plan that breaks down electrifying your life into a slew of projects. For each, the tool estimates upfront costs and annual energy-bill savings. It also provides info on the federal incentives available to help lower a project’s price tag.

The tool also shows you step-by-step guides and trusted resources. For instance, the solar panels project links to EnergySage, the online solar marketplace for both rooftop solar and community solar, an option Rewiring recommends if users can’t install panels on their own roofs. Rewiring provides a video tutorial that walks you through how to use the tool.

A screenshot of "My electrification plan" shows federal incentives, estimated costs and bill impacts for different projects.
A sampling of some of the projects recommended by Rewiring America’s electrification planner for homeowners. Users can give feedback (via the blue tab on the right) directly from the site. (Rewiring America)

What’s going on under the planning tool’s hood? Rewiring estimates upfront costs using real data from thousands of electrification projects done in California and Massachusetts, adjusting for inflation and local materials and labor costs.

The nonprofit has checked with contractors that the planner’s price ranges align with rates for typical jobs, Mercer said. But if consumers do get quoted a higher price, Mercer hopes the differential sparks a conversation about why that is, rather than halting the project in its tracks.

To estimate bill savings for appliance upgrades, Rewiring America draws on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s publicly available ResStock data set, which estimates energy savings across various electrification scenarios for 550,000 modeled U.S. residences. Rewiring America’s tool picks the modeled homes most similar to yours. Then it uses historical energy prices from the U.S. Energy Information Administration to translate kilowatt-hours to dollars saved. (It’s important to note that your projected energy bills might not go down in the short term if you’re switching to electricity and getting rid of cheap fossil gas.)

Gerardo Rodriguez, who’s looking to buy a heat-pump water heater, got to test drive the planner last year. Where it shines is it gives you the information that you need,” said the Raleigh, North Carolina homeowner. For example, the tool helped him uncover which heat-pump water heater models qualify for a 30 percent federal tax credit, which could save him up to $2,000.

The tool will only get better as users and contractors give Rewiring America feedback, Mercer said. Expect a steady drumbeat of improvements over the next six months.”

Those updates will include matching users to local incentives, such as forthcoming electrification rebates as they’re rolled out by states; refining bill-savings estimates using utility rates; translating the tool into Spanish to make it more accessible to the more than 10 percent of the U.S. population who speaks the language at home; and connecting consumers to vetted local contractors.

Stewart of Electrify Now is especially looking forward to homeowners being able to find trusted contractors using Rewiring America’s planner. Some contractors are giving bad advice,” he said, encouraging homeowners to get backup gas-heating systems they don’t need — or dissuading them from heat pumps entirely. To ensure consumers have smooth experiences instead of frustrating ones, it’s important to point them to contractors who want to do this work.”

Home electrification can be a big, multifaceted undertaking, Rodriguez told Canary Media. But Rewiring America’s tool really does a good job at coaching you through what that process is going to look like.”

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