Getting Off Gas – Why & How?
Reducing your reliance on gas is an excellent way to slash your energy bills and household emissions. With gas prices as high as ever in 2023 and only predicted to increase further, there has never been a better time to get off gas, for good.
Why should we get off gas?
Gas is a fossil fuel. Burning it releases CO2 which directly contributes to the climate crisis, not to mention the terrible effect of extracting, processing, and exporting it (known as ‘fugitive emissions’).
The climate impact of gas is far higher than claimed by the industry, as every stage of its extraction and production releases vast quantities of emissions (both methane and CO2). The reality is that gas is likely no better for the climate than coal.
Well over 5 million homes in Australia are connected to a mains gas supply and it makes up 27% of our primary energy mix.
All those connections don’t come cheap either. The gas appliances in your home are inefficient and expensive to run when compared to modern, electric alternatives. Ditching gas and electrifying your home can generate annual savings of up to $1,250 (this is not even including further savings generated from a rooftop solar system). Homes connected to gas are also charged a daily ‘connection fee’ of up to $350 a year which can be closed after achieving an all-electric home.
How do you get off gas?
So, how do you actually get off gas?
There are three main appliances in our homes that are commonly run on gas:
- Hot water
Below we summarise the practical and achievable steps every household can take for a cheaper, cleaner, and healthier home.
Your homes’ space conditioning (heating and cooling) can make up to 40% of your entire energy bill. Particularly in Victoria and Tasmania, where home heating is dominated by ducted gas heaters which are inefficient, expensive, and polluting.
Replacing this with an electric reverse-cycle air conditioner (RCAC) is the most efficient, affordable, and environmentally friendly option to heat and cool your home. They use heat pump technology (similar to what is found in your fridge) to harness the energy in the ambient air and can be up to 600% efficient!
This means they use far less energy than other systems, making them cheaper to run and far better for the environment. A reverse-cycle air conditioner can reduce your heating and cooling costs by up to 80%.
There are multiple options to suit your exact needs:
- Single split systems (cheapest and most efficient method)
- Multi split systems (for when outdoor space is an issue)
- Ducted split systems (discrete, but expensive and slightly less efficient)
It’s important to consider the placement of both the indoor and outdoor unit. The shorter the distance between the two, the better – making back-to-back installations the best option for both efficiency and affordability.
Another aspect to consider when purchasing a reverse-cycle air conditioner is its energy star rating. You really want to be installing at least a 5-star rated unit, and the more stars the unit has, the more money you will save in the long run.
It’s also extremely important to size your systems appropriately. Installing a unit that is too big for the room will make your your system repeatedly turn on and off. This is known as short cycling, which leads to poor circulation and airflow and negatively affects the lifespan of the unit. A RCAC system that is too small will have to run constantly at full throttle to heat or cool your room, which will increase your energy usage and heavily impact the lifespan of the system.
Typically, you should aim for around 1kW per 10 square meters.
- A small room of 20 sqm and less: 2 to 2.5kw
- A medium-sized room of about 20-40sqm: 2.5-5kw
- A large room of 40-60sqm: 4-6kw
The prices for RCAC units can be anywhere from $600 to $5,000 depending on size capacity, brand and model. The more you spend on a premium and efficient system, the more money you will save on usage – every star on the energy rating label represents a reduction in running costs of ~20%.
The installation of reverse cycle aircons is often the cause of some confusion. For the back-to-back installation of smaller units (2kW, 2.5kW, 3.5kW, 4kW) you can expect to pay around $700-$900 and for larger units (5kw-9kW) it may be $800-$1000.
This means that a 3.5kW system may cost you around $2,000 to be supplied and installed in your home (available rebates can bring this total down).
For more in-depth information about reverse cycle air conditioners and their installation, head to the Choice buying guide.
Everybody loves a warm shower or bath, but did you know that heating your homes hot water can make up around 30% of your energy bill?
The vast majority of water heating in Australia is run off gas, as this was deemed the most efficient and cost effective system for a long time. But no more!
Hot water heat pumps are a relatively new technology, but they are incredibly efficient – again, up to 600% and can reduce your hot water bill by up to 80%… Whoa, déjà vu.
They work in a similar way to the reverse-cycle air cons, by using the ambient temperature to heat up water and store it in a tank. This allows you to use it as a type of thermal battery, storing your hot water for later use. You can operate the system during cheaper off-peak electricity tariffs or only when the sun is shining, if you have a rooftop solar system, which will essentially provide you with free hot water.
If you want to learn more about how heat pump hot water systems work and their household benefits, read Renew’s online buyer’s guide.
Again, it is important to consider the location of both the tank and compressor unit as a shorter pipe run will maximise the efficiency of the entire hot water system.
Sizing your system correctly is also very important for hot water – nobody enjoys an arctic blast halfway through their shower. Generally, you should allow for ~70L per person. If you are planning on more people moving in, whether it’s housemates or children, take that into consideration when purchasing your hot water heat pump.
Installing hot water heat pump systems costs anywhere from ~$1,500-$5,500, depending on the brand, size and which rebates you are eligible for. Again, the more expensive and premium pumps are usually far more efficient, which will save you more money over its lifetime.
The last gas appliance in your home to address is your cooktop.
Out of the three, a gas stove uses the least amount of energy but is still incredibly inefficient and bad for your health. New research has found that most gas cooktops continue to leak toxic gas into your home even when not in use.
In a report released by the Climate Council last year, it was stated that residential gas consumption was attributed to approximately 12% of childhood asthma cases.
For years, there has been a myth that induction cooktops are inferior to gas. This simply is not true, and induction stoves are actually safer, faster, and more efficient to cook with – plus they’re super easy to clean, who doesn’t love a quick wipe down instead of endlessly scrubbing burnt, incrusted grease off your hob.
Induction cooktops use a magnetic field to directly heat the pan; very little energy is wasted heating the surrounding air like with gas cookers. This does mean that only magnetic pots and pans will work on induction such as stainless steel and cast iron – if in doubt, text your pot with a fridge magnet!
Much like a gas stove, the price of an induction cooktop can be anywhere from $500 to $10,000 with installation prices ranging from ~$600 to $2,500. The price of installation will depend heavily on your kitchens existing electrical work.
It is common for induction cooktop installations to require an upgrade to your homes electrical wiring to handle the additional load. Your electrician will be able to advise on what upgrades may be required.
These are the three main appliances that must be installed to kick your homes gas habit. They are all incredibly efficient and will reduce your energy bills and household emissions.
If you are one of the 3 million Aussie homes that have already installed a solar system on your roof, you will be able to take full advantage of this free energy. These efficient electric appliances can be run entirely from renewable energy, increasing your savings even further.
Once you’ve replaced your dirty, expensive gas heating, hot water and cooktop you can then cut your homes gas connection for good and stop paying for a daily ‘connection charge’ that can add up to $350 a year. Even if you are not using any gas in your home, you will still be charged on your bill until you close your account and disconnect entirely from the gas network.
Unfortunately, utility companies may quote high prices or complicate the process since allowing residents to disconnect from the gas network goes against their business plan. However, the savings to be made in the long haul are certainly worth it.
Also, the more that homes that complete this final step, the more pressure it puts on utility companies and the government to scrap these ridiculous gas connection laws and processes.
Planning your transition
The upfront costs of ditching gas and electrifying your home are quite high as the technology itself is relatively new and expensive. Also, older homes may need an upgrade to their switchboard, but this is a one-off expense and 100% necessary for your electric future.
Fortunately, both the federal and state governments offer lucrative subsidies to upgrade these systems, in recognition of their environmental and economic benefits. You can speak with your chosen suppliers and installers about which rebates you are eligible for.
It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to do all this in one go. Replacing your appliances gradually when you have the budget or as they approach their end of life is an affordable method to electrify your home.
Whether it takes you 6 years or 6 months, carefully planning your transition is an excellent way to achieve an all-electric home.
Remember, every appliance you switch will save you money which can help fund the next upgrade!
1. Prioritise your appliances
Firstly, you should identify which of your appliances are running on gas and which uses the most. This will likely be your space heating or hot water, depending on which state you live in.
You also must consider the age and condition of these appliances, the cost of replacing it, as well as any existing household issues that may prevent you from upgrading.
Here’s an example of a priority list:
- Highest gas use: Gas heater in main living room
- Next-highest gas use: Second gas heater in family room
- Next-highest gas use: Hot water system
- Lowest gas use: Cooktop
2. Select your alternative appliances
Selecting the brand, model and size of the electric replacement is crucial. While the upfront costs of the best quality products are higher, they are usually far more efficient and will actually save you more money in the long run as they have a greater lifetime value.
Some important questions to consider when selecting a replacement appliance:
- How big are the rooms you need to heat?
- How many people use hot water at peak times?
- How many pots do you usually cook with at a time?
- How much space do you have for outdoor and indoor components?
- What is your budget?
- What other criteria are important for your family?
3. Set yourself a timeline
Your timeline for cutting off gas will be largely determined by your budget. Some people opt to rip their gas band-aid off in one go, but this is quite expensive. Others will do so gradually, using the savings from each appliance replacement to fund the next.
When you eventually replace your last gas device, it’s important to cap your gas supply and close your account.
Here’s a basic timeline example over a period of five years:
- First year: Replace gas heating which uses the most gas each year.
- Third year: Replace gas water heater which is the second most consuming appliance.
- Fifth year: Replace cooktop which has the least usage, and close gas account.
City of Yarra have recently published an excellent planning document to electrify your home. Head to their All Electric Home page and download their ‘Go Electric Action Plan’ PDF.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of why it is important to stop using gas in our homes and the steps you can take to do so.
If you are interested in the topic of getting off gas and want to learn more, there is an abundance of online resources for you to look through.