The steady increase in demand for electrification and decarbonization in homes
By Aaron Smith
The Energy and Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA) represents a community of over 70,000 high performance builders and their partners across North America. In 2022, our members have seen a steady increase in demand for electrification and decarbonization in homes. There are many factors responsible for this trend, but steps being taken at the federal and state level as well as individual homeowner concerns about the environment and healthy indoor air are driving this change.
There are several programs that are driving adoption at the federal level: the ENERGY STAR NextGen Certified Home Program, the Zero Energy Ready Home program and the Inflation Reduction Act.
Building on the success of ENERGY STAR, the ENERGY STAR NextGen Certified Home Program is designed to meet the challenge of climate change and will require new homes to be highly efficient and incorporate advanced efficient electric technologies and electric vehicle charging capabilities to deliver significant energy and emission savings that will help build a clean energy future.
The Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) Program represents a whole new level of performance with rigorous requirements that ensure outstanding levels of energy savings, comfort, health and sustainability. With the addition of a renewable energy system, the home can offset all of the home’s operational carbon emissions.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was passed into law making urgent investments in a greener future. This act makes significant progress towards America’s climate goals. This bill will accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies, reduce global emissions, lower energy prices, help export American innovation, strengthen our economy and build a reliable and affordable energy sector. Even better, builders can now receive a $2,500 rebate for building to ENERGY STAR and a $5,000 rebate for building to ZERH.
Collectively, the United States is taking action to set up future generations for more sustainable living habits that will lead to healthier homes and outdoor environments. Builders play a major role in this debut. New building technologies like heat pumps, induction cooking, solar and batteries are providing innovative pathways toward attainable options to create an all-electric decarbonized home.
Homeowners are embracing the opportunities that electrification can provide for safer homes that are electric and offset operational carbon. There is a major push toward the electrification of everything. We are seeing trends showing the prioritization of buying electric vehicles, swapping furnaces out for heat pumps, installing induction cooktops and leveraging electric dryers to reduce emissions.
Tax incentives are helping homeowners take things a step further by investing in solar energy and battery storage. Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems installed in the last year are eligible for a 30% tax credit. Additionally, batteries are providing homeowners the freedom to reduce their reliance on the grid, creating opportunities for cleaner energy and saving money.
In 2022, we saw more incentives to electrify. The next step will be decarbonization.
The first step in reaching a decarbonized future is tackling operational carbon. Minimizing greenhouse gas emissions due to building energy consumption. This means, removing any devices that burn carbon in the home, using solar energy as discussed earlier and minimizing energy grid usage. There are an infinite number of benefits that follow operational decarbonization, but most important to consumers may be having a healthier home and community.
There are a lot of positive changes occurring, but looking forward, the industry will need to focus its attention on embodied carbon. Embodied carbon looks at the total carbon used in the construction of our homes. This is going to be difficult, and the journey has just started. EEBA has begun recommending carbon calculator tools like EC3 and BEAM to consider the carbon impact of different materials. This will be a critical next step as we look to decarbonize the home building industry.
The goal is to continue to learn, innovate and support one another on this learning journey. That’s why our motto at EEBA is, “how we build our homes, is how we build our future.”
Aaron Smith is the CEO of the Energy and Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA) which represents a community of over 70,000 builders and their stakeholders across North America that are truly the early adopters and innovators in driving sustainable transformation of the homebuilding industry.