All-Electric Houses On the Rise — Colorado Homebuilders Embrace Alternatives to Natural Gas
All-electric houses in Pueblo generally cost more upfront, but the investment can be recouped in six or seven years.
Pure Zero Construction has begun building houses in Pueblo with components that, although still rare in Colorado, may become commonplace during the next few years. Mainly, all-electric houses.
Natural gas is absent from these houses. Electric-powered air-source heat pumps manufactured by Mitsubishi extract warmth from outdoor air even in rare below-zero temperatures. In searing summer afternoons, they do the reverse, milking coolness from the outdoor air, eliminating the need for air conditioners. They also warm water.
All-electric houses comport with Colorado’s goals for dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Brian Miller, one of three principals in the company formed in early 2022, also is quick to point to the health benefits. A growing body of evidence finds deleterious effects from natural gas combustion inside buildings to their occupants.
Miller, an electrician by craft, admits to being skeptical of the new technology when he built his own house near Pueblo. The house has natural gas. “I wouldn’t build it that way today,” he says. “If I were to build that house today I would do exactly like we’re doing at North Vista Highland. It’s not the cheapest way to build, but it is easily the best value.”
The new heating and cooling technology elevates the front-end cost, but Miller estimates a payback on investment of six to seven years because of lower utility costs.
The new company as of October had permits to build 58 single-family and 51 townhomes in North Vista Highlands, a subdivision with entitlements for 4,000 lots.
Developers of other mostly smaller housing projects in Colorado have also embraced heat pumps and other evolving technologies. But at least one big project planned in Fort Collins, Montava, will yield 4,000 to 5,000 housing units on land currently used for agriculture near the Anheuser-Busch plant. Developer Max Moss has no plans for natural gas. One of his primary builders, Gene Meyers, a principal of Thrive Home Builders, which has been green-building in metro Denver since 1992, says he has concluded that health considerations make all-electric the way to go. The chief challenge, he says, is to persuade cooks they can do just fine without gas stoves.
In Pueblo, the first all-electric house has 3,200 square feet and a price tag of $700,000 — high by Pueblo standards. Miller says houses in that price range have moved briskly despite the housing slowdown.