The following is a press release issued by Pletcher Consulting:
In pursuing his long-term commitment to lower his carbon footprint, over the past 40 years Mike Cannon has converted his Ukiah home from all-electric to all-natural gas and now back again to all-electric energy.
The Pilates instructor and former forester described his process during a recent luncheon presentation to members of the Kiwanis Club of Ukiah. He offered himself as an example of our collective future, where rooftop solar charges our electric cars, fuels home heating and air conditioning, and powers new-age appliances—maybe even earning us pocket money from the sale of excess solar electricity to the local utility.
To reduce the worst effects of climate change, “we have a lot to do,” Cannon told the group. “But the biggest takeaway is that you can do it gradually. If you need to replace an appliance, replace it with something that is electric, which is new technology and nothing like the old. We all need to do that and—if we all pick away at it—in 20 years most of this stuff is going to be replaced and we’ll be where we need to be or a whole lot closer.”
Cannon said he’s always been attuned to environmental issues. In college back in 1975, he wrote a report on the greenhouse effect—how adding carbon dioxide to earth’s atmosphere causes warming—which scientists even back then were linking to potential human-caused climate change,” he told the group.
But since then, burgeoning computer technology allowed scientists to piece together environmental clues, Cannon said as he projected recent computer models and charts that showed clear evidence that human industrial activity is warming the planet and that extreme weather effects of climate change are already upon us.
Cannon was convinced that he had to do his part to lower carbon emissions. So when he bought an old home near the Ukiah golf course in the 1980’s, he decided to switch to cleaner power. The house had electric heating coils mounted in the walls of each room and an electric water heater that was old and inefficient, a set-up several people in the audience remembered from their own original Ukiah homes.
“It was hugely expensive to run my house, and those old electric appliances were horrible. So what did I do? I switched it all over to natural gas. I knew natural gas wasn’t the best choice environmentally, but it was cleaner than burning coal to make electricity,” Cannon said. Again the audience nodded.
He bought a gas dryer, replaced the electric cooktop with a gas stove, tore the heating coils out of the walls and installed a gas furnace, then added air conditioning. By the mid-1990’s, Cannon had converted his home to gas.
Cannon sighed. “Now electric products are absolutely the way to go,” he said. “They are a completely different technology. And with solar on the roof, you can run them virtually for free.”
So, he explained as he showed pictures and explained the benefits of heat pumps and induction stoves, he began to make the long switch back to an all-electric modern home.
It started in 2004, when Cannon installed a heat pump mini-split heating and cooling unit in a Pilates studio he added to his home. He wanted something simple, energy efficient, and very quiet, since he was in the studio all day working with clients. The only maintenance he’s had to do in 18 years is install new batteries in the unit’s remote control, he said.
Happy with that, Cannon took the plunge when he remodeled his house in 2015. By then, his gas appliances were old. So he switched them out with super-efficient electric technology. Out went the gas furnace and air conditioner, in came additional mini-split HVAC units. Out went the gas hot water heater, in came a heat pump water heater. The gas oven and stovetop were replaced with a electric convection oven and induction stovetop that uses magnetic energy to heat a pot of water as quickly as a microwave. Solar panels installed on the new roof now provide an average 130% of his energy needs and earn him an annual rebate of several hundred dollars from the City of Ukiah utility.
With rock bottom energy costs and rooftop solar electricity to spare, Cannon purchased a used electric car and installed a level 2 charger alongside his driveway. It’s satisfying to drive a car powered by solar electricity, especially considering that gas prices are now so high, he said.
Next, Cannon designed and built a simple all-electric home on a lot he owns in Elk. Even in a foggy climate, the rooftop solar panels produce excess electricity for the living quarters on the second floor and a rental unit on the ground level. He receives an annual rebate from Sonoma Clean Power, the default public power provider for Mendocino County households outside of Ukiah.
By now, his audience was asking so many questions that Cannon ran out of time. So to summarize, he said, “I want to emphasize that you can do all this gradually. You don’t have to go out and spend $100,000 to completely change everything plus get an electric car. Switch your lightbulbs to the new LEDs. When your appliances age out, replace them with new technology electrics.”
Someone asked about cost, and Cannon nodded, acknowledging that today’s heat pumps and induction stovetops can be more expensive.
“But people don’t factor in the payback period of these very efficient products,” he said. “And there are rebates that make them affordable.”
Look at it this way, he offered. An induction stovetop might cost a few hundred dollars more than replacing a gas range, but “gas is getting really expensive. And what if you go solar in five years? You’ll be really sorry that you have a gas stove when you could be cooking for free.”