It was a 4-year process that began back in 2017 when we bought this cute little house.
One of the first things we did after buying the house was to get rid of the old hot water tank. At that time, we weren’t thinking that far ahead – we just needed a new water tank in a hurry and on a budget we were already stretching to make the house into a more livable condition, so we got ourselves a gas powered “Fatboy” hot water tank. We eventually replaced it with an electric one in conjunction with the upgrade of our heating/cooling system a few years later. Our HVAC people re-homed the young-ish Fatboy.
The “kitchen” was originally located in what is now our living room. What is now our kitchen was originally an empty bedroom with wall-to-wall carpeting that had seen many years of frat parties. The process of building the kitchen from scratch is important because we started off with zero working appliances and took that opportunity to purchase all electric ones.
At that time, I don’t think we were planning on moving the entire house to electric, but it was cheaper and simpler to throw wires into that room than it would have been to extend the gas-line for all the appliances. I had a sketch, and our electrician hooked up the island and other appliances in accordance with my drawings.
We also updated our breaker boxes. This really needed to happen before dedicating spaces for our new heat pumps. Before and after photos below. You can see how previous owners tried to split this house up into 4 apartments with one main box for the landlord. In the “after” photo we now have two main boxes. One services the majority of our house things including the downstairs heat pump. The other box has our car charger and upstairs heat pump.
Shortly after the kitchen was completed, we installed electric washer/dryer. For the first year we had been taking our laundry to the laundromat (we didn’t bother trying the old gas units as they looked in a bad way).
New HVAC system was installed without needing to open up any of the walls. Our 2 story house has a full basement and full attic. By throwing the ductwork into those unfinished spaces, we were able to save our walls (though, there isn’t anything special about our walls, it would have been super messy and more expensive). The rough sketch below details how we did it, and the only demo required was to make a closet larger to accommodate the 2nd floor handler. I initially wanted all the ductwork to also be installed within the conditioned “envelope” of the second floor and have it all run along the ceiling. However, my much taller husband disapproved of that idea, so we went with the plan below.
After the new HVAC systems were installed and functional, it was time to demo the old boiler, radiators and radiator pipes. Initially, I had planned to call the plumber and throw some money at them to disconnect all of the radiators so the junk haulers can move them out. As I was pondering the logistics and timing of this task, I noticed the HVAC people had already disconnected a couple of the radiators, and I thought to myself, ‘how hard could this possibly be?’ I purchased a 24″ heavy steel wrench and a slightly smaller hand plier for quick removal of loose bolts. Total cost was about $100 + a couple hours of work disconnecting all 15 radiators.
The haulers arrived the next day and were able to remove the 1’st floor radiators without issue. The 2nd floor radiators were an entirely different story as they would have had a nearly impossible time getting them safely down a flight of turning stairs. Luckily, back when I had been toying with the idea of doing all the heavy lifting myself, I watched a YouTube video on how to dismantle a radiator. I grabbed my 3-foot wrecking bar and went right to work, first unscrewing the long bolts that held each radiator slot together like a long sandwich, then splitting the sections into more manageable pieces with the wrecking bar. It wasn’t actually too hard to divide 7 radiators on the 2nd floor. The haulers were super thankful and happy to wait around while I split them up. The only challenge was containing the black sludge left at the bottom of the radiators. We went through all of our towels and a bunch of drop-cloths.
During the process of radiator removal, we also needed to have our gas line cut. When we bought the house, we had 3 gas meters and 3 accounts. I didn’t get any good photos of the unused 2 meters, but you can see where they had been in the photo below. Apparently, this setup held 5 meters at some point in the house’s history.
A little backstory on those meters: the process of removing the 2 unused meters was a nightmare experience. The gas company has 3 departments that you can reach by phone (sales, raising, and customer advocate). I know they have 3 departments because they kept transferring me to the next one where I had to explain the entire story all over again to a new person. It took weeks to get someone to come out and take the meters. A tech finally showed up, looked at the meters and said “wait a minute, this isn’t what I expected, I can’t do anything with this” then told me he might need to file for a new application and send someone else. He said he was expecting to remove 5 meters. There are only 3 meters and I told him we want to keep one of them. He said he or someone would come back that day, but nobody came back, and I received a phone call the next day telling me I needed to reschedule.
After more weeks and lots of hours on hold with multiple agents, we finally got those two extra meters removed. We were down to the one meter which we used for several years until we finally went all electric.
When it was time to remove that final meter and cut the gas to the house, I was a little nervous about working with them because of my previous experience.
Gas removal (for this area, at least) is called “abandonment”. I needed to reach out to their abandonment department which doesn’t have a phone number, so I had to do it all via email. Since they so rarely get jobs that require removal without a complete demo, they kept asking me when we’ll be “abandoning” the building, and when the demo will occur. If you do this to your house, be prepared to explain to everyone that you will not be abandoning and demoing your home. Apparently, this is something that is so rarely done, it causes great confusion at the gas company.
The steps involved for abandonment included:
- Scheduling a tech to take the final meter
- Cutting the gas at the street (and cutting the “riser pipe” to the house)
- Getting the gas company and their contractors to take the remainder of the pipe
We are still on step 3 because the contractors were confused about what to do when they came to get the remainder of pipe. But luckily, having them come out and take the meter, then cap the line at the street was a relatively easy process. I even learned something new when a contractor showed up to mark the line. He told me we were smart for doing this because he’d seen all kinds of horrors with the condition and botched installations of residential/commercial gas lines. Go us!
For the final step, I was instructed to call a 3rd party contractor that works with Washington Gas, and they would come out to remove the extra “parts” left behind. I called the number and spoke with someone who requested pictures of the parts to be removed. I sent pictures in email and a removal date was scheduled. When the Contractor showed up, he said he was expecting to take a meter but couldn’t do anything with the long pipe on the wall or the exterior regulator. He said they would just scrap it anyway, so I asked him if I could dismantle the thing myself instead of having to wait for someone (yet again) to come out. He said that would be fine if I was comfortable doing that work. I grabbed my sawzall, and went to work. The entire demo took me only about 30 minutes.
… And this concludes the story of how we converted our house from gas to electric.
Well, this is amazing! I don’t even know where to begin! A healthy combination of determination, grit, ingenuity and creativity is written all over this. Definitely not a combo many of us have. Can’t wait to see what you do next! Thanks for sharing, Ellen!
Thank you for the thorough write up Ellen!
It was a good read and good to learn about your experience especially as this is a journey I may seek to take on day.
Quite a process, glad you got it done, and done right. I’d want to do the same thing if I were in your shoes. Looks great now.