I pity the fool

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Posted by: stak
Posted on: 2022-03-28 12:07:02

Over the past few years we've been reducing our direct use of fossil fuels in our household. This involved switching out three fuel-powered machines for electric equivalents: our car, water heater, and home heating.

The car was the first one we did (in late 2019), and was the one with the largest up-front cost. But given the supply chain shortages and rising gas prices, I'm glad we got that one done first. I haven't done a detailed financial analysis but I know that our insurance went up (simply because the base price of the EV was a lot higher than the ICE we had before) and all other costs went down. Overall I think financially it's a slight win in terms of operating costs, but the payback period for the up-front cost will be pretty long. However the pleasure of driving an EV counts for a lot! It just feels nice, even now 2.5 years later.

The water heater was the next one to go (in mid-2020). Previously we were renting a gas water heater; the rental company was not the best and I was eager to ditch them. After doing the math I concluded owning was strictly better than renting, so we purchased an electric water heater and had it professionally installed. The payback period on this was quite short, and we're already net positive two years later. Even if we have to replace it every 6 years (the warranty lifetime) it's still a win over renting. Plus the electric heater is new and doesn't look like it's going to explode if I look at it wrong (the old gas heater was quite old). Functionally it's equivalent or better - water is hot.

And finally, last week we replaced our nearing-end-of-life gas furnace and AC with an electric heat pump (plus a new gas furnace as an auxiliary heat source). It's only been a week but so far I'm pretty happy with the heat pump. Based on the rated capacity, I expect the backup gas furnace to only kick in a few days a year. The real test will come next winter though, so I'm going to withhold final judgement until then.

We still secondary fossil-fuel-based things like a propane BBQ and gas fireplace, but they're very infrequently used. It's quite satisfying to have all our primary energy needs met by the electrical grid. In Ontario at least most of our electricity comes from non-carbon-emitting sources, so that's a nice bonus.

I keep wondering what life would be like if things like cellphones and laptops ran on fossil fuels. Imagine having to open up a little port and pour in a thimble of oil into your phone every night instead of just plugging it in. I'm glad we live in the future.

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