The Covell Commons Homeowner’s Association alerted resident members last year they would need to replace their Zinsco electrical panels by May 1, 2024, due to pressure from their insurance company because the panels are not considered safe. The Homeowner’s Association subsequently invited Cool Davis to provide guidance to residents, which wrapped up this past January with a full hour video presentation and home tour hosted by Kristin Heinemeier, Cool Davis Board member and Covell Commons resident.

Why does an electrical panel replacement process prompt community members to call on Cool Davis? If homeowners plan to replace their gas-powered home appliances with super-efficient, low carbon heat pumps, their electrical panels need to be the right size to accommodate that extra load.

A thoughtful and well-informed process

“Home electrification is not required now, but … the state building code is moving towards an all-electric baseline,” Kristin said. If you have to replace your electrical panel for any reason, “you don’t want to be told in five years, ‘Oh, you’re going to have to replace your panel again.’ ”

Thankfully, as Kristin pointed out, “through the miracle of physics, electrical end-uses are three times as efficient as natural gas.” Even so, going all electric could require a larger capacity electrical panel. Many homes, even those built recently, were built with 100 amp electrical panels, which might not be enough.

Thankfully there are new resources like Home Intel and technologies that can help you understand and manage those increased electrical loads without an increase in amps.  New technologies like “smart” panels can possibly avoid expensive panel capacity increases.

A prime example of why a thoughtful and well-informed “make a plan” process is needed.

Scroll down for Kristin’s story and what she decided to do! The resources and information found here are beneficial for anyone in our region looking to replace their electrical panels, whether homeowners or property managers. Dig in!

The video: Make a Plan for a Clean Energy Home

In the video, served up on the Cool Davis YouTube channel, Kristin discusses Cool Davis’s mission to advance climate solutions through community engagement. She outlined the steps to create a clean energy home sharing her personal electrification journey as a case study. She explained heat pump technology and how she puts it to work in her home.

After the presentation, Kristin introduced other speakers including other non-profits and HVAC and electrification contractors who are seeing a major increase in demand for heat pump installations. They emphasized proper sizing, customer education, and temperature regulation differences compared to traditional gas furnaces. Speakers highlighted the importance of planning ahead for larger loads, for example, for vehicle charging or heat pump water heaters. Incremental upgrades, load shifting, energy audits, and working with contractors early in the process were also recommendationed.

New smart panel technologies that allow advanced controls between appliances, solar, batteries and the grid to optimize energy use were discussed near the end.

Guest speakers were Danny Fox of Greiner Heating, Air and Electric, Alex Sloan of Electrify My Home, and Bill Dakin, formerly with Frontier Energy

Watch the video on our YouTube channel.

The home tour

The second part of the event in January was a drop-in home tour at Kristin’s home at Covell Commons, which already enjoys many of the electrification measures discussed in the video. Despite a rainy day, 28 neighbors (homeowners, tenants, and landlords) either watched the presentation live or visited Kristin’s home.

During the tour, neighbors asked questions of the HVAC contractor on site, who pointed out characteristics of her home to inspire them. Several neighbors shared their own planning process for panel replacement and appliance swap-outs. This kind of “show and tell” tour with an expert and a trusted neighbor is pivotal for homeowners hoping to move beyond the planning stage into the action stage.

Kristin’s story

Over the years, Kristin has installed a heat pump space conditioner for heating and cooling; replaced and supplemented attic insulation; sealed her attic, overall envelope, and ducts; and installed an electric vehicle (EV) charger. Because the EV charger would have caused her electrical panel capacity to be exceeded, she had an automatic switch installed that does not allow the EV charger to operate when the dryer is running.

Like her neighbors, Kristin’s indoor electrical panel is a hazardous “Zinsco” model (while the outside one is not), so she is currently also making decisions about how to have it replaced. She wants to take the next step in “making a plan,” as Cool Davis suggests, and install an electrical heat pump water heater in the future. Will this max out her panel or require a higher capacity one?

Because Kristin’s contractor assures her that a 120-volt heat pump water heater will be readily available in the near future, her current panel probably has sufficient capacity to add this electric end use without upgrading. So, she has decided to do a simple “like-for-like” replacement of her indoor electrical panel, meaning the same capacity, and make no changes to her outdoor panel.

She plans to wait until the “right” time to replace her old gas water heater: being ready to quickly replace it, the minute it starts to become unreliable, and saving money on the new heat pump water heater by watching out for rebates, tax incentives, and big sales.

Cool Davis gets it done

As a Cool Davis Board member, Kristin encouraged her homeowner’s association to look to Cool Davis for assistance. She stepped up to connect neighbors, share knowledge and resources, bring in other experts, and share her story. Home Energy campaign staff and volunteers trained and mobilized by Cool Davis made it all come together! “This is the kind of event that Cool Davis does,” she said. “We reach out to homeowners and residents in Davis to help them through this process of pursuing sustainability.”

Cool Davis home electrification articles

All-Electric Heat Pumps FAQs (highly recommended!)

Video of Clean Energy Home workshop (Cool Davis Home Energy & Efficiency YouTube playlist)

Presentation: Make A Plan-Clean Energy Home Workshop Presentation Final_PDF

The Electrification Path to Our Fossil Free Future by Chris Granger

Turn Off the Carbon Pump and Turn on the Heat Pump! Heat Pumps Explained in Basic Terms by Kristin Heinemeier

Smart Panels Manage Loads by Eugen Dunlap

Cool Davis home energy guidance documents

Cool Davis Understanding My Home Worksheet Final

Cool Davis All-Electric Planning Guide Final

Cool Davis HVAC Common Terms

Cool Davis Working w Contractors Cheat Sheet Final

Cool Davis Contractor Bid Comparison Table


Visit our Ways to Save webpage for utility bill assistance programs and home energy incentives.

Cool Davis related articles

The Electrification Path to Our Fossil Free Future

Rising Bills

Council Members Favor Voluntary Approach to Home Electrification

Slow and Steady: The Transition to an All-Electric Home

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