The world is in the midst of a climate crisis caused primarily by burning fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and gas.
Armed with this simple fact and a passion to change the status quo, a group of leading local architects and designers (Breathe, Kennedy Nolan, Hayball, Bates Smart, Auhaus, Plus, Nest, Maddison, Bower, John Wardle, and more) recently teamed up to launch ‘get off the gas’ — a social media campaign encouraging more all-electric homes.
Around 70 per cent of Australian homes use a form of gas for their cooking, bathing, or heating — but there are alternatives. An all-electric home is not only more environmentally sustainable when powered by solar or GreenPower, it’s often cheaper to run in the long term, and just as elegant in appearance.
The recent residential work of Austin Maynard Architects, Ben Callery Architects, The Sociable Weaver, Architecture Architecture, and EME Design are just a few examples of beautiful homes with no gas connection.
So if all-electric homes are possible, why don’t we all have them?
According to Jeremy McLeod, founding director of Breathe Architecture, Australians have built a reliance on gas after decades of advertising and lobbying from the gas industry.
The requirement that all new builds be connected to the gas network was removed just weeks ago in Victoria.
There’s also a longstanding perception that gas, especially when used for heating, is cheaper than electricity. However, with gas prices rising, and electric appliances becoming more efficient, Jeremy says this is no longer the case.
‘Some of the all-electric technology like induction cooktops and heat pumps for hot water are more expensive to buy than their gas equivalent, but their installation is generally simpler and more affordable. Also, these appliances are generally more efficient and are cheaper to run over the life of the building.’
As more homes transition to becoming all-electric, Jeremy says energy generators will increase supply to meet that demand. ‘Importantly, as we push down demand for gas, this will also lead to less reliance on gas and future gas exploration.’
This is especially important in the current climate, with Australia experiencing recent shortages of electricity and gas. Just this week, the national energy operator activated emergency measures to guarantee gas supplies for Victoria amid concerns the state faces a winter shortage.
‘All-electric households with solar (and eventually batteries and electric vehicles) will increasingly be an integral part of the energy system, helping to balance supply and demand across the day and through the seasons,’ says Jeremy.
Going all-electric is particularly relevant to new homes that don’t require replacing gas appliances and infrastructure. In the case of homes with existing gas systems (that have already contributed significant carbon emissions in their manufacturing) Jeremy says these may be worth keeping until the end of their lifespan.
‘This is [about] progress over perfection. It’s totally okay to take one small, manageable step at a time, moving towards an all-electric future. The key is committing not to buy any new gas appliances,’ he says.
Companies such as Goodbye Gas in Victoria can help home owners navigate these decisions to make the switch.
Australia’s built environment industry is a long way off being proud of their carbon footprint, but Jeremy says investing in an all-electric future is a move in the right direction.
‘We’re optimists at Breathe, but we’re also pragmatists. This is such an easy step for all of us to take, but it also has an incredible impact.’
Architects, clients and builders can further encourage a more sustainable residential environment by creating smaller homes; renovating over rebuilding; orienting buildings to the sun; and investing in low carbon, locally-sourced, and natural materials wherever possible.