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All Electric

by Gary Hedden

We need to switch from fossil fuels to electricity, but can we? Yes, says David Kaneda and he knows how to make it happen.

Kaneda is an architect and engineer with Integral Group and he has over 30 years of experience designing electrical systems for buildings. He spoke May 9 at a workshop held before the regular meeting of the Board of Silicon Valley Clean Energy. He told the group about some of the Zero Net Energy buildings that he has worked on, many in our area, and he showed pictures. Turns out ZNE buildings are beautiful as well as energy efficient.

A building doesn’t have to be all electric to be ZNE, but Kaneda recommends it. With residential buildings, the sticky point often is the water heater and the cooktop. The efficiency of heat pump water heaters is so good that the payback to cover the higher installation cost is quick and that makes it a good deal. The cooktop is more about giving up the familiar gas-fired cooktop to try something new. Kaneda’s wife certainly wasn’t interested, but he got her to try a Küppersbusch induction cooktop with a “dimple” for the wok and she loved it. The cooktop doesn’t get hot so she could spread a cloth under the wok to catch all the splatters. Quick and clean. Another test was from a restaurateur. He told Kaneda he wouldn’t allow it in his new kitchen unless it would work with scallops. He went to a test kitchen, tried it and it passed with flying colors.

Isn’t that often the case? We need to try things to become convinced. So what else should we try? Ice is a phase change material that uses and generates a lot of energy without a temperature change. That could put some of the excess electricity we now have in the middle of the day to good use. Dirt could store energy by circulating hot water in pipes buried in the ground in the summer and then reversing it in the winter. Hydrogen is a source of stored energy. Kaneda does say that the first thing is to build as efficiently as possible. He described a retrofit of a concrete building in Sunnyvale that used the concrete in the walls and floors as insulation to maintain the inside temperature. On a day when it hit 90 degrees, the air conditioner wasn’t even needed!

He had a few thoughts about electric cars as well. Since 1/3 of our energy use goes to transportation, we should switch to electricity and building codes and incentives can help with that switch. He also wondered about the transition to autonomous vehicles. He thinks it will happen, but he doesn’t think it will reduce traffic or energy use. He sees these cars becoming an office or just a place to ‘hang out.’ It will allow the commute time to be put to a reasonably good use.

It was an entertaining and thought-provoking presentation.

~ Gary Hedden

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