Electrification itself is not a new concept; it has been around for many decades. In simpler times, electrification in our multifamily industry has been the solution for project-specific objectives:

  • Perhaps the demographics preferred electric cooking
  • Perhaps it was materially cheaper to build an all-electric property and eschew gas/plumbing infrastructure altogether.
  • Perhaps the local gas infrastructure was simply unable/unwilling to service a particular location.

What IS new, is that electrification has now become an objective on its-own, driven by legislation and consumer demand (sometimes), but also whether one believes climate change is an urgent matter (or-not). Leaving the political implications out of the conversation, if we simply gain some altitude and look at housing in-general: large-scale electrification of the home is not a new concept at all.

Electrification of the home was a major topic in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It just meant something slightly different. At the time, most homes were still heated and illuminated by combustible fuels: wood, gas, or oil. With the advent of controllable/deliverable electricity, the idea was spawned that every home should have electricity. Inevitably, challenges and objections were presented as reasons NOT to electrify homes:

  1. There is insufficient electric delivery infrastructure – retrofits are difficult/expensive.
  2. There is insufficient electric generation
  3. Electricity is too expensive for the average household
  4. Electricity is dangerous because it can kill living things!
  5. What’s wrong with tried-and-true oil lighting?

Sound Familiar? Would anyone TODAY repeat these antique objections to eschew electricity in their homes and use oil lights in their own homes? I think not… except maybe the Pennsylvania Amish… and yet these exact arguments are presented as objections against the modern incarnation of electrification: primarily electric vehicles and fully-electric homes.

  1. There is insufficient delivery infrastructure
  2. There is insufficient electric generation
  3. Full electrification is too expensive for the average household
  4. It’s dangerous because batteries can explode!
  5. What’s wrong with gas-powered cars/stoves/boilers – they work fine.

While these arguments are not-without merit, do they mean that we stop applying effort/engineering/dollars towards electrification? Luckily for us in 2023, some smart and persistent people in the early 1900’s took these objections as challenges to be resolved. they:

  1. Built up electric delivery infrastructure (“The Grid”)
  2. Increased electric generation
  3. Created economies of scale such that in-home electricity was not solely accessible by the wealthy
  4. Made home electric systems safer

It took some time, but today, we are the beneficiaries of these smart and persistent people, because we can flip a switch in our home and the lights always turn on (mostly). That’s progress. We sometimes forget that there was a time when bringing electricity into the home was a controversial endeavor, because it was deemed too expensive, too dangerous, unworthy of investment, and arguably unnecessary.

If some smart and persistent people didn’t drive electrification of homes, in the face of ever-present objections and challenges, it’s possible to imagine we would all still be using wood stoves oil lamps because the objections and challenges were allowed to halt Progress.

I like having electricity in my home. Let’s make some progress.


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