Green Living Stories: Home Electrification with Wei-Tai Kwok

Green Living Stories: Home Electrification with Wei-Tai Kwok

MCE’s Green Living Stories series highlights the power of individuals in shaping a clean energy future. The small choices we make can add up to a big change for everyone, shaping a system we can be proud of. In this blog, we’ll explore how local resident Wei-Tai Kwok is taking charge of his carbon footprint.

Kwok is a renewable energy executive in the solar and energy storage business. When he’s not at work, he spends his free time volunteering for local nonprofit organizations that focus on building a more sustainable world. In 2019 he retrofitted his home by eliminating fossil fuel appliances, and he now has a zero-emission home powered by 100% renewable energy. Kwok’s volunteer roles have included participating as a board member with Sustainable Lafayette, as a climate leader with the Climate Reality Project Bay Area Chapter, and even as a City of Lafayette council member.

 

Advocating for Climate Action

Kwok’s interest in electrification extends to his own home, where he recently made the transition to a fully electric environment in just 45 days. The process began by finding a contractor that could help make the necessary upgrades to go electric. An energy analysis got the ball rolling, helping Kwok understand the best way to move forward. After that, it was just a matter of following the steps.

Step 1: Look for energy efficiency upgrades before making replacements.
Small upgrades like installing weather stripping, LED light bulbs, or extra insulation make sure that your home is running as smoothly as possible before making major upgrades. The cleanest energy is that which you don’t use, so looking for ways to reduce consumption is always a great first step.

Step 2: Find a green contractor and do an energy analysis.
Kwok selected Eco Performance Builders to perform the energy analysis and make any necessary HVAC, plumbing, and energy efficiency upgrades. Based on the audit, he replaced his water heater and HVAC. He also made simple energy efficiency upgrades like adding more weather stripping and swapping old light bulbs. The Switch Is On is a great resource to find federal, state, and local rebates, as well as qualified contractors near you.

Step 3: Replace outdated and gas-powered appliances.
Water heaters can account for 20-25% of a home’s carbon footprint, making it a great idea to electrify your water heater before it fails. Water heaters usually have a life span of 10-15 years, after which they start rusting and can leak. Homeowners often panic and buy the same gas unit, often without considering new options. Checking your system today and planning for an electric replacement is a great way to get started.

Switching from a gas stovetop to an induction cooktop is also an easy and relatively low-cost switch that improves indoor air quality, and the safety of your home. Induction cooktops reduce indoor heat, have a much lower risk of accident than gas stovetops and are easier to clean.

“We’re Chinese American, so we do a lot of Asian stir-fry cooking,” said Kwok. “A lot of cooking is done on a wok using gas stoves in restaurants and in Asia, so I was worried if we could still stir-fry at home. We called a Chinese friend who had an induction electric stove before proceeding, and she reassured us. She was right – it took some practice, but our stir-fries are just as delicious as ever!”

Kwok also replaced his HVAC system with a heat pump mini-split, allowing each room in the home to have a separate temperature control, which improved comfort and reduced carbon emissions.

Step 4: Go 100% renewable.
Though Kwok’s solar panels account for 60% of his annual load, he still needs to purchase 40% of his energy from the grid. He decided to upgrade to 100% renewable energy with MCE Deep Green, ensuring that everything in his house runs on clean power.

“Residents of Lafayette and Moraga by virtue of having picked MCE now enjoy 90-100% carbon-free electricity. If we electrify our appliances and our cars, we can enjoy a zero-emission lifestyle powered by wind and solar energy.”

 

Being a Part of the Climate Solution

“Raising our voices and speaking up that we want change is my top suggestion,” says Kwok. “If we don’t talk about it, it won’t happen. And if we let our friends know we care, many will join in as well. The consequences of inaction are just too severe. We’re already seeing that, they’re coming much faster than we expected. But as I see more people taking action in their own homes and lives, more people speaking up politically and publicly, I see good reason for hope.”

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