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Meet the All-Electric Home of the 21st Century

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Jean Pierre Clejan of GreenLogic Energy presents The All-Electric Home of the 21st Century at the Potato Barn in Sagaponack. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

Jean Pierre Clejan of GreenLogic Energy presents The All-Electric Home of the 21st Century at the Potato Barn in Sagaponack. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

Jean Pierre Clejan of GreenLogic Energy presents The All-Electric Home of the 21st Century at the Potato Barn in Sagaponack. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

Jean Pierre Clejan of GreenLogic Energy presents The All-Electric Home of the 21st Century at the Potato Barn in Sagaponack. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

Brendan J. O’Reilly on Nov 22, 2022

Heating, cooling and powering a home exclusively with green energy is not only possible, it’s affordable.

That was the overarching message of The All-Electric Home of the 21st Century, a presentation by solar power provider GreenLogic offered by AIA Peconic at the Potato Barn, a SilverLining Interiors home project designed by James Merrell Architects and currently under construction in Sagaponack over the footprint of an existing agricultural building, on November 14.

Jean-Pierre Clejan, a technology executive with GreenLogic, which has offices in Southampton and Manorville, explained how PSEG Long Island offers a number of rebates for choosing the most efficient electric appliances and provides even bigger incentives for homes that are fully electric or close to it.

“The power companies are incentivizing the daylights out of the all-electric home,” Clejan said.

But it’s not all about the money. Clejan also detailed how efficient, electric homes are responsible for less carbon emissions that contribute to climate change than homes that rely on fossil fuels.

Residential and commercial buildings represent the lion’s share of energy consumption in the United States — more than transportation and factories, he pointed out. And according to 2020 data, residential and commercial buildings together make up 36 percent of U.S. emissions, which is tied with transportation for emissions, he added.

“If we can lower the emissions of our projects, we can really make a difference,” he said.

Clejan identified a number of problems with designing and building homes with fossil fuel-reliant heating, cooling and appliances.

“Once we introduce fossil fuel to a home, we’ve created a permanent carbon footprint,” he said. “Whatever that fossil fuel is used for, it’s always going to have a carbon footprint. We don’t have another kind of fossil fuel that doesn’t. So that’s the nature of the beast.”

Fossil fuel use also creates a series of hazards, from gas and carbon monoxide leaks to explosions, he noted.

“I live in Nassau,” Clejan said. “Every winter, someone’s house blows clean off the foundation from a natural gas leak.”

And there is the expense to think about.

“You can’t make your own fuel,” Clejan said. “Whatever they want to charge for that is what they want to charge for that. Electricity you can make.”

When he referred to making electricity, he was talking about solar panels, which the Potato Barn has a full complement of. In fact, he said, the project has the legal limit in New York State for residential solar with net metering.

Under state law, the maximum size of a home solar system with net metering — which gives homeowners credits for the extra electricity their systems put on the grid — is 25,000 kilowatt hours. Clejan said that a system in this climate, when perfectly oriented, will generate 30,000 kilowatt hours per year.

“This is a super productive application,” he said of the Potato Barn, with its south-facing, low-pitch roof with no shadows blocking the sun.

New York State’s net metering rule, introduced in 1999, requires that electricity suppliers pay as much for the solar energy they get from homeowners as they charge for electricity.

“Net metering makes the return predictable,” Clejan said. “Once you start buying and selling at variable rates, it’s no longer predictable.”

For all-electric homes that don’t produce all their own electricity with renewable energy from solar and wind, fossil fuel emissions are still a concern — for now.

Clejan said that while much of the electricity that the power company delivers to homes comes from fossil fuel sources, that will change in the coming years under New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

The law, known as the Climate Act, requires that greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide in the state be reduced by 40 percent by 2030 and by no less than 85 percent by 2050 when compared to 1990 levels.

“All of the electricity that’s coming out of the socket is going to be green one day,” Clejan said.

New York also belongs to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an initiative by 12 states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector. The initiative pushes power providers to add renewable energy to their portfolios.

“The bar keeps moving,” Clejan said. “Year after year, the renewable quotient keeps going up.”

He shared a map of the entire United States showing which states have a mandatory renewable portfolio standard that keeps escalating. The states that don’t have such a standard, he noted, are coal, gas or oil producing states.

Until the day that all the power that comes out of the socket is from a renewable energy source, all-electric homes can reduce their carbon footprints by minimizing consumption.

“The more efficient you can be, the less wasteful you are, the better it works,” Clejan said.

He emphasized the importance of a tight building envelope: “There’s nothing like a great envelope,” he said. “You’re not heating and cooling the whole neighborhood. This is great stuff.”

He also noted that passive solar building design can further reduce the heating and cooling loads of a home. And because homes only have so much roof space for solar panels, the easiest way for homeowners to make all their own energy to meet their needs is to consume less, he explained.

The PSEG All-Electric Homes program does allow for two exceptions.

“The only fuel that’s allowed is propane for your stove, if you must, and gas for your generator,” Clejan said.

He touted the benefits of induction ranges compared to gas ranges but acknowledged that gas is still very popular for cooking.

“There’s some people that just have to see the flame,” he said.

Induction ranges boil water in half the time of an electric resistance stove and have less fumes and wasted heat compared to gas ranges, Clejan said. He spoke of the San Francisco Bay Area’s ban on gas ranges in commercial kitchens and how quickly opinions have shifted, according to case studies.

“There was pushback when they didn’t know what they were doing,” he said, “but once the chefs got used to the commercial induction stoves: ‘We’ll never go back. This is much better.’”

Clejan ran down other appliances and mechanicals that consume less energy and lead to greater PSEG rebates: The most efficient dishwasher, compared to an Energy Star washer, uses $3 less annually in electricity but far less water. The most efficient refrigerator saves $28 a year. Front loading clothes washers are the most efficient compared to top loaders.

And there is another savings consideration: The difference between having a front loader and a top loader can be the difference between needing to install an extra solar panel.

And while the clothes dryer is one of the biggest consumers of electricity in the home, it doesn’t have to be.

Clejan said in Nassau, where natural gas is prevalent, gas dryers are popular because they are cheaper to run than electric dryers at PSEG rates. But there is a monthly charge for a natural gas hookup and fuel prices fluctuate, he noted.

New technology is changing the gas-versus-electric equation. Heat pump dryers, which work by simultaneously heating and cooling and causing water to condense, use far less electricity than traditional electric dryers. And they are rebate eligible.

Heat pumps are also far more efficient than conventional tankless electric resistance hot water heaters. A conventional tankless heater costs $1,600 per year to operate at PSEG rates or requires 600 square feet of solar panels, Clejan said, while hybrid electric air source heat pump water heaters cost just $376 per year to operate and have the additional benefit of dehumidifying and cooling the basement in summer.

As far as home heating goes, Clejan said electric baseboard heat — “heating your house with an electric toaster element” — is prohibitively expensive.

Heat pumps are more efficient than electric baseboards and are popular in New York City apartments where they can’t have ground loops for geothermal heating, he said, explaining that heat pumps work by heating outside air in summer to cool indoors and cooling the outside air in winter to heat indoors.

Heat pumps will work in 100-degree or 20-degree weather, but not very efficiently, he said. “It can take a lot of energy to push heat into 100 degree air.” And he said the system life for a heat pump on the East End, with its salt air, is 15 years.

Geothermal systems are cheaper than heat pumps and natural gas, according to Clejan. He explained that the ground on the East End is at a constant temperature of 53 degrees at a depth of 10 feet.

“It’s easy to move heat into 53-degree ground,” he said. “As a matter of fact, there is no air conditioning system that can come close on the cooling side to a geo.”

And on the heating side, he said the “infinite reservoir” of 53-degree ground warms houses in winter.

The plastic pipes will last 100 years underground, he said, and the rest of the system is indoors, not exposed to the elements. In fact, there are geothermal systems on Long Island from the 1980s that are still running, he said.

Historically, systems were monolithic, but new equipment has two stages, Clejan said. The first 60 percent of the unit is used for cooling in summer and heating in winter. The second 40 percent turns on only when it’s really cold outside in winter, around 30 degrees.

“At record cold, both stages will be on. So it can dehumidify effectively using the first 60 percent of the unit. I can heat very comfortably using the first stage, but when it gets cold I got a whole ’nother gear.”

For every one unit of electricity spent, a geothermal system gets five units of energy out of the ground, making geothermal systems 600 percent efficient, Clejan said.

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