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There’s no reason for new homes to include gas, report finds

The Commons Hobart, images: Small Giants Developments
The Commons Hobart, images: Small Giants Developments

New homes that go all-electric with solar would save between $9000-$18,000 over 10 years compared with a home that has gas appliances and no solar, according to new research from the Australian Technology Association (ATA).

Even homes without solar would be better off, the Household Fuel Choice in the National Energy Market report found (though there was only a marginal benefit for Sydney and Adelaide).

“There is just no reason economically for new homes to be built with both electricity and gas,” ATA energy analyst Dean Lombard said.

He said this had been the case in the warmer north of Australia for years, but now – with rising gas prices and electric appliances with better efficiency and lower cost – it’s true too for colder states like Victoria and Tasmania.

“Heat pump hot water and split system air-conditioning systems are just far more efficient than gas appliances and solar systems are cheaper than ever,” Mr Lombard said.

For existing homes, those with just one gas appliance – out of space heating, water heating and cooking – would be better off switching to electric at replacement time under all circumstances. Whether existing homes with two or more gas appliances were better off switching to electric depended on where they were located and whether they had solar.

In all cases (though marginal in Sydney) it was better to replace a failed gas space heater with an electric reverse-cycle air conditioner. However, much of the time those with gas hot water and cooking appliances were better off staying on gas.

The new report is an update to modelling the ATA conducted in 2014. The ATA’s 2016 contribution to The Fifth Estate,Is gas heating really cheaper than electric?, was based on the previous modelling, and continues to be one of our top ranked stories, particularly in Autumn as the weather starts to cool down.

People are taking notice

Some governments, homebuilders and businesses are starting to take note of the economic benefits of choosing electric over gas.

In the ACT legislation was recently passed to remove the obligation to connect homes to gas in the 6 Star Green Star Ginninderrycommunity.

The government’s modelling showed that each home could save about $14,000 over its lifetime by cutting out gas.

Monash University has also committed to cutting gas at its campuses.

Eco-development The Cape at Cape Paterson in Victoria is only using electric appliances and solar for its 230 homes.

The ATA predicts The Cape’s homeowners will save a combined $2 million over 10 years by going all-electric.

“By eliminating gas from the whole estate and replacing with the highly efficient all-electric home operating systems and solar power, our householders avoid annual gas usage and gas connection costs, as well as the upfront construction costs of connecting to gas and running gas plumbing through homes that occur with gas-connected estates,” The Cape’s director Brendan Condonsaid.

The ATA has made six recommendations for governments to help spread the benefits of cutting gas, which include:

  • educating the building and energy industries, along with new home buyers, of the substantial value of solar-based, all-electric homes
  • reviewing policy and programs that subsidise/support the expansion of gas networks
  • providing better information for consumers regarding the cost of owning and operating gas and electric appliances
  • strengthening the regulatory oversight of the marketing of gas as cheaper and more efficient than electricity
  • providing support to landlords, and disadvantaged owner-occupiers, to replace less efficient and expensive-to-run appliances with more efficient appliances
  • considering the impact of fuel switching when making energy consumption and demand forecasts

Read Household Fuel Choice in the National Energy Market

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