The 5 Big Machines You Need to Get Off Fossil Fuels

by | April 11, 2023

Before we dive in, I want to quickly paint the bigger picture with a few important pieces of context:

  • A whopping 42% of energy-related emissions in the US are determined by the decisions each of us makes in our households.
  • We have the solutions to address this. We just need to implement them. In the US, we need to install 1 billion new machines to power our lives with clean energy instead of fossil fuels.
  • “At this point, basically, to hit any reasonable climate target, you need 100% adoption [of zero-emission technologies] at everyone’s next purchase.” – Saul Griffith

So today I want to bring your attention to the 5 big purchases (wise investments really) that will make your life better and help you and your family to get off fossil fuels. In other words, they’ll help you unhook from the fossil fuel systems that tie you to actions that harm you, your loved ones, and the planet.

To stop lighting fossil fuels on fire in your home, the 5 main things to take a look at are:

How you cook your food.

How you heat your home.

How you heat your water.

What kind of car you drive.

Where your electricity comes from.

There are electric options for each of these things that are better than their fossil fuel counterparts in nearly every way.

As Saul Griffith recently explained to us, electrifying these machines and powering them with renewables is actually anti-inflationary. Instead of buying fossil fuels every month, which have volatile and consistently rising prices, you can power everything with solar for a fixed, lower price.

And in the US, the Inflation Reduction Act is providing up to $14,000 in upfront discounts and potentially tens of thousands of dollars in total incentives to households that buy these electric technologies. The average household would receive $10,600 from the IRA to fully electrify and start saving $1,800 per year on energy.

Now, these are big investments so everything doesn’t need to happen all at once. These changes happen over the course of years so it’s important to make a plan. Here are some tips:

  1. Make a list of all the machines that burn fossil fuels in your home.
  2. Determine what incentives are available to you at the state, local, utility, and federal levels for their electric counterparts.
  3. Do a little research ahead of time so you’re ready to go electric if your fossil fuel machines fail unexpectedly (e.g. these machines break after 10-20 years so have a sense of what electric models you’d like to replace them with and make sure your electric panel can handle the additional load).
  4. Prioritize & plan. Which fossil fuel machines will you replace first? And when will you make the switch?

Bottom Line: Be ready to buy the electric version next time one of your fossil-fueled machines dies, if not earlier! Aka, “When it dies, electrify”.

Of all the actions you can take to reduce your personal footprint, these five big-ticket items have a disproportionate impact when it comes to addressing the climate crisis. They also improve your and your family’s health by cleaning up the air you breathe and can save you many thousands of dollars over time – a win-win-win!

We’re about to dive into the five most important machines to electrify, but if you want more detailed information on getting the right machines for your home (renters included), I’d highly recommend you join us for our upcoming “Ask Me Anything” event with Rewiring America’s electrification experts and check out one of their guides, “Electrify Everything in Your Home”, that has a lot of useful information and nifty tables like this one:

Okay, onto these electric machines – let’s start in the kitchen!

Electric Cooking

I’m starting here because cooking with gas is really bad for your health.

Gas stoves release nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde, and more into your home. They pollute the air when you cook. But even when you’re not cooking, they are leaking methane and polluting the air you breathe. Venting is not sufficient. There are loads of studies on how unhealthy gas stoves are going back over 40 years.

Perhaps most infuriating is that…

“The pollution released from these appliances would be illegal for outdoor appliances, but the air quality from indoor gas stoves isn’t regulated.” – Health Effects from Gas Stove Pollution Report

Kids are particularly susceptible to the poisoned air.

One study found that children in homes with gas stoves are 42% more likely to have asthma. A more recent one found that 12.7% of children in the US that have asthma have it because of gas stoves. That’s about 750,000 kids. In the EU it’s 700,000 kids.

Cooking with gas is also disproportionately bad for the elderly. And not good for your pets either.

“Few people are aware of the harmful risks posed by gas cooking appliances – cooking your dinner could expose you to as many pollutants as second-hand smoke.” – Christine Egan

Gas stoves ain’t it y’all.


When I say electric cooking I’m not talking about the old electric coils kind of stove I grew up with. I’m talking about the more precise, efficient, safer, and faster technology – induction cooking. Induction cooking…

  • Boils water 2x as fast as gas.
  • Uses half as much energy.
  • Lets you cook at more precise temperatures.
  • Is easier to clean and safer to use.

This is a superior technology all around.

Cost & Savings

Cost: You can buy a portable induction cooktop for $100. Fully replacing your existing oven and stovetop will probably cost $2,000 – $3000.

Discounts & Savings: Starting later this year, there will be federal discounts of up to $840 depending on your income bracket. You’ll also save money over time because they’re cheaper to operate.

♨️ Heat Pumps

Most homes in the United States burn fossil fuels with a furnace or boiler to heat their homes. This is typically one of the bigger parts of a household’s carbon footprint.

Heat pumps are the electric alternative (it’s not the inefficient and expensive electric resistance heating) that can be used to both heat and cool your home.

Health & Emissions

Since heat pumps are electric, they do not pollute the air in or around your home.

Burning fossil fuels to heat homes, on the other hand, leads to air pollution in your neighborhood and typically accounts for 25% of your energy-related emissions.

Gas is especially bad because even before it is burned, a small percentage of it leaks. Some of it leaks from the furnaces and boilers themselves. Some of it leaks from the gas lines that deliver it to your house. In Boston, Massachusetts, there are thousands of methane leaks pretty much all over the city. I live within 200 meters of three identified leaks myself – one of which I catch a whiff of on my walks sometimes.

These pipes are leaking methane which leads to 80x more warming compared to CO2 over a 20-year period. The amount of leakage happening makes natural gas about as bad as coal in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention the negative health implications.


Heat pumps are 3 to 5 times more efficient than fossil fuel heating systems and electric resistance heating systems because they simply move heat from one place to another rather than burning fuel to create it. To cool your house, they take heat from inside and move it out. To heat your house, they take heat from outside (even at freezing temps) and bring it in. Refrigerators, cars, and air conditioners use this same technology.

Heat pumps have advanced a lot in recent years and if you get a high-performing model, it can fully replace your existing system, even in freezing temperatures.

Cost & Savings

Cost: There are DIY options that are pretty cheap. But for most people, this is going to run you somewhere between $8,000 and $35,000 (usually in the $10k to $20k range) before discounts depending on how much space needs to be heated.

Discounts & Savings: Up to $2,000 in tax credits are available right now. Starting later this year, there will be federal discounts in the US of up to $8,000 depending on your income bracket.

Heat pumps’ significant efficiency advantage means they are cheaper to operate in most places so you’ll save money over time operationally.

Though this is one of the most impactful upgrades, it’s also the most complex so make sure you find a contractor who really knows their stuff and will do room-by-room load calculations!

A couple resources that can help you to find reputable contractors near you in the US:

Heat Pump Water Heater

Heat pump water heaters use the same technology as heat pumps for space heating, but it’s an easier and cheaper switch to make.

Health & Emissions

Fossil-fueled water heaters usually account for about 10% of your home’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

And as with all fossil-fuel machine replacements, switching to a heat pump water heater will both reduce emissions and air pollution in your neighborhood.


Heat pump water heaters are 2 to 3 times more efficient than most current hot water systems.

Cost & Savings

Cost: Up to $4,000 to $5,000 installed. $1,500 DIY.

Discounts & Savings: Up to $2,000 in tax credits are available now. Starting later this year, there will also be federal discounts in the US of up to $1,750 depending on your income bracket.

As always, check for state and utility incentives as well. If you live in Maine, for example, you may be able to get one for free!

Since they’re so much more efficient, heat pump water heaters might save you hundreds of dollars annually in lower utility bills.

Electric Vehicle

Instead of using gasoline/petrol to power an internal combustion engine, fully electric vehicles use a battery to power an electric motor.

Once you get used to an EV, you’ll never want to go back.

Health & Emissions

The average US household drives their car(s) 25,000 miles a year, emitting 12.76 tons of carbon into the atmosphere. That’s about 50% of your energy-related carbon footprint.

Given 355,000 people die prematurely in the US each year due to air pollution from burning fossil fuels, and light-duty vehicles are responsible for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, a back-of-the-napkin calculation comes out to about ~50,000 lives being saved by electrifying these light-duty vehicles.


Electric vehicles are simply better than gas cars. They:

  • Are far more efficient (e.g. there are dozens of EVs getting the equivalent of over 100 miles per gallon).
  • Have better handling because they have a lower center of gravity and are more responsive.
  • Have faster acceleration.
  • Are quieter (because they don’t require thousands of explosions per minute to move).
  • Are more fun to drive.
  • Bonus: EVs will increasingly be able to serve as a backup power source for your home.

When it comes to performance, the only things to be aware of before buying are the range and charging differences. Most EVs today have a range of over 200 miles which is plenty for most people’s daily needs. For homeowners, charging is fairly straightforward because you can just plug it in at night as needed. But for people in cities, charging can be more of a challenge right now so do think these things through before buying.

It’s also worth noting overall battery degradation is not turning out to be as big of a problem in the long run as some thought, with batteries losing just 2.3% of range per year. But on any given really cold or really hot day, you have to account for batteries losing some of their range – maybe 20% or so.

For most people, the pros far outweigh the cons, especially as more charging infrastructure is being built every day, increasingly leveling the playing field for EVs.

Cost & Savings

At the moment electric vehicles cost more upfront than their gas counterparts. But they are actually $6,000 to $10,000 cheaper when you consider the entire lifespan of the car according to a Consumer Reports Study.

This is because they are 3 to 6 times cheaper to drive than gas vehicles which saves you $800 to $1,000 per year on fuel. They also cost half as much to maintain because they have fewer moving parts and don’t require oil changes which saves about $4,600 over its lifetime.

Cost: Used cars can start around $10,000. New cars start in the mid 20s but are typically much higher.

Discounts & Savings: You can save up to $7,500 in tax credits for new cars and $4,000 for used ones via the Inflation Reduction Act on certain models. As with all of these, additional state incentives may apply.

There’s a lot more useful info for you in the electric vehicles section of this guide!

As fun as they are to drive and as impactful as they are in terms of emission reductions, I’d like to be clear: if you are able to get away without needing to have a car, that is the most environmentally friendly option with a lot of co-benefits for you and your community!

☀️ Power it all with clean electricity

The fifth machine is key because it’s the one that supplies power to the rest of them.

Electrifying the fossil fuel machines you use reduces carbon and saves money over time either way, but powering it all with clean electricity is really when everything comes together.

I’ve written at length about how to go solar (whether you rent or own) in a previous newsletter, “How to go solar ☀️” so definitely check that out for the deep dive! If you’re in the US and want to go solar, I highly recommend you use our partner EnergySage’s marketplace to find a reputable contractor and the best possible deal. For people in Australia, SolarQuotes is a great option, and Otovo serves a growing number of countries.

You can also call your utility company to help you get 100% clean electricity for your home.

Cost & Savings

Going solar can save you money. Buying panels is especially cost-effective, likely saving you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of their lifespan.

Cost: Upfront costs for buying a system are typically $15,000 to $30,000. There are also $0 down financing options or you can get community solar and start saving 5% to 10% immediately.

Discounts & Savings: You can get up to 30% off solar installments in tax credits.

Honorable mentions

  • Electric Dryer → an estimated 12% of homes have gas dryers. Those that have them should switch them out when they can! Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that drying racks both save energy and help your clothes last longer.
  • Lawnmowers & snowblowers → the electric versions are lighter, quieter, and don’t pollute the air you breathe as you operate them.

In addition to the 5 big machines mentioned above, the Inflation Reduction Act also has incentives for electric dryers, battery storage, geothermal heating, electric panels, electric wiring, electric vehicle chargers, weatherization, and efficiency rebates.

I know a lot of this information has focused on the United States, but the reality is that the lifestyles of people living in the US and other wealthy countries contribute the most to the climate crisis. This is where behavioral change can have the most positive impact. And right now in the US we have an opportunity to get a lot of financial support to make these necessary changes, so let’s take full advantage of it!

Final Thoughts

There is so much more to dive into for each one of these machines and electrification overall.

If you have any questions whatsoever about how to navigate this process of electrification, I highly recommend you join us for our “Ask Me Anything” on April 25th at 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM EDT with experts from Rewiring AmericaNoah Goldmann and Joel Rosenberg (who literally wrote the free e-book “Electrify Everything in Your Home”!) Please also put your questions in the comments below and I’ll do my best to get them answered.

Also, if you want to learn more about the equity implications and what you can do to help, join us for our [Equitable Electrification]( panel on April 20th at 1:30 PM – 2:45 PM EDT with four leading experts across the sector!

Overall, I think it’s important to make an electrification plan now, decide which machine you’ll upgrade first, and do your homework so you’re ready to implement the electric option you want when your current machine dies so you don’t get another fossil fuel one out of convenience and lock in another 10 to 20 years of pollution!

I’ll also mention that it’s really important to both do these things and talk about doing them with others so climate solutions are implemented even faster. We are such a social species so we each influence those around us more than we tend to realize!

If you remember nothing else, please understand that the great majority of the technologies that we need to start solving the climate crisis are…

Available now, waiting for people to buy them and implement them faster.

Cheaper overall. They will save you thousands of dollars over time in operating costs, and they’re essentially on sale given current incentives.

❤️ Healthier for you, your family, and your community because they reduce air pollution.

Onwards and upwards,


This post originally featured in the Crowdsourcing Sustainability newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter below!

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