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With climate changing, it’s time to electrify our homes

After a winter short on snow, and a maple sugaring season that started in January, the big mid-March storm brought some of the snowfall many of us expect all winter long — but for how much longer?

We’re already seeing the effects of Climate Change in our state, our country and the world, bringing inconsistent snow, increased drought, flooding, and longer tick and pollen seasons.

There is a limited amount of additional carbon we can burn to keep climate change from becoming catastrophic, and change is already happening faster than expected.

The new report that came out from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last week says it all:

“The choices made in the next few years will play a critical role in deciding our future and that of generations to come.”

It’s up to us, folks. One-third of Addison County carbon emissions come from our buildings. Yes, lots of change will need to come at the utility, state and national level, but most of us have at least some control of our homes, even if renting, and we’re going to need to make changes that count in the next decade. 

What CEAC is doing

The Climate Economy Action Center of Addison County (CEAC) has been tracking county energy use and exploring how the big climate picture relates to Addison County, with a climate action planning process over the past two years. The bad news is that in two years of tracking, our energy use has not decreased. The good news is that the carbon intensity of the electricity from Green Mountain Power is getting cleaner, so electrifying homes, even without solar power, can have a big impact on carbon emissions.

CEAC is pushing forward with action to help Addison County residents reduce their carbon emissions while improving home health and comfort. What are we working on? CEAC is focused on finding ways to make it easier for Addison County residents to make big reductions in the amount of carbon used in their homes. We will be organizing events, providing information on costs, benefits, savings and financing options, and connecting people with the solutions and support needed to implement them.

What You Can Do

Electrify Everything and Tighten Up 

This is a great time to plan personal steps, as there is lots of new funding available from the state and federal government in the form of rebates, tax credits and low-interest loan programs — including paying through your electric bill.

Make a Plan: Whether you own or rent, check out the Efficiency Vermont Energy Auditors list, or contact Heat Squad or CVOEO to schedule an energy audit. Audits should include a blower door test (to find out where your house is losing heat and money), energy savings calculations, indoor air quality checks, tax credit and rebate information, and an electrification plan.   

Electrify Everything!: When something that runs on oil, gas or propane wears out, it is time to replace it with an efficient electric version, be it a hot water heater, or heating system, a car or a lawn mower. Heat pumps make the most efficient use of electricity.

Tighten Up: Heat pumps work better when they don’t have to work as hard, so weatherizing homes and making bigger improvements when renovating will save money and energy and be more comfortable.  

It’s not just about saving energy and carbon

Greater comfort and better indoor air quality are just two of the side benefits of making these improvements. When this work is done, we can find great satisfaction in knowing that there are no sources of carbon monoxide or nitrous oxide in our homes to cause health issues, delight in the comfort of a warm floor without drafts, enjoy sitting by warm windows without condensation or mold in the winter, and delight in never paying another fuel bill, or with the addition of solar, perhaps any energy bill at all.

We will need more professionals to help with this work!

If you or someone you know is just starting out, or looking for a new career where they can make a difference — without needing a college degree — think about becoming an electrician, HVAC installer or weatherization specialist. 

Visit the CEAC website’s new Resources section at ceacac.org/resources or contact CEAC at [email protected] to get started.

Editor’s note: Jean Terwilliger of Cornwall is an architect at Vermont Integrated Architecture, a member of the CEAC board and a member of the 2023 Vermont Climate Catalysts Leadership Program. 

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