It is cheaper to electrify buildings – or at least prepare them for future electrification – at the time of construction than to equip them for electrical equipment later, according to a new study from the US New Buildings Institute (NBI ) nonprofit with support from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
NBI analyzed the initial cost and life-cycle cost of two types of buildings in accordance with NBI’s Decarbonization of Buildings Code: all-electric (powered only by electricity) and mixed (electricity plus natural gas or other fossil fuels such as than propane or oil that is burned on-site).
the Building Decarbonization Code Cost Study report found that all-electric homes provide construction savings of $7,500 to $8,200, and households using mixed-use buildings are nominally more expensive. There were only incremental upfront costs – $0.33 to $0.50/sq ft – for all-electric office buildings, with most attributed to electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
According to the study, electrifying homes during construction is also much more cost-effective than making them “electricity-ready”. The avoided cost of not installing fossil fuel infrastructure is a key factor supporting the profitability of the all-electric route; Yet electric-ready construction saves the homeowner thousands of dollars compared to retrofitting to accommodate replacements for electrical equipment such as heat pumps further down the line.
Over their life cycle, all-electric homes have reduced their energy consumption by 34%, while mixed homes have reduced their energy consumption by 9%. However, all-electric homes can still result in higher utility bills due to the high cost of electricity compared to natural gas in a local area.
The study was limited to New York State, a relatively expensive market in a relatively cold climate. In regions with warmer climates and more affordable electricity, the operating and lifecycle costs of decarbonization will be better than the study results, the researchers said.