As summer fades into autumn, many Minnesotan families start to head indoors. The heat kicks on for the season and garages fill with exhaust fumes from warming cars. Enclosed spaces like these come with increased exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollutants. Air quality inside of our homes and buildings dramatically declines when the combustion of fossil fuels for space and water heating as well as cooking lead to the release of harmful toxins.
Decreased air quality both indoors and outdoors has a direct, negative impact on our health. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reports that even low levels of air pollutants can contribute to major illnesses and premature deaths. In 2008, poor air quality contributed to 2,000 premature deaths, 400 hospitalizations and 600 emergency room visits in the Twin Cities. Simply put, an alarming number of us—our neighbors, children, and senior citizens—are suffering the effects of air pollution. What’s more, these risks affect communities of color and those living in under-resourced neighborhoods disparately. Minnesota can do better. By driving electric while also electrifying our homes and businesses, we can improve public health in Minnesota and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the state.
Stop breathing fumes: go electric
The inhalation of exhaust fumes from car, truck, and bus tailpipes has devastating effects on our health. Across the United States, road transportation emissions cause 58,000 premature deaths each year. One of the most impactful steps you can take is switching your transportation from gas to electric. Fresh Energy has made clear the positive changes that electric vehicles bring. Driving and riding electric produce low to no emissions, dramatically reducing carbon monoxide and particulate matter in our air. And it doesn’t have to be terribly expensive! Visit our steps on buying a used electric vehicle and bookmark this useful chart for plug-in vehicles in the Midwest. Finally, encourage your legislator to push for implementation of electric buses into your city’s fleet.
Getting healthy at home with electric
Fossil fuel-powered appliances in our homes are similarly toxic to our health. Children who live in homes with gas stoves used for cooking are at a higher risk for asthma complications, pneumonia, and respiratory illnesses. However, there are straightforward and long-term cost-effective measures you can take to better the indoor air quality of your home.
For home-based solutions, research the replacement of your water and/or space heater with an efficient cold climate air source heat pump. Similar to a refrigerator or an air conditioner that works in reverse, an electric powered air source heat pump captures and transfers heat from ambient air to heat water or spaces within a building – even during cold winter nights! Air source heat pumps also work to cool buildings in the summer by capturing the ambient heat in indoor air and exhausting it to the outdoors. This makes air source heat pumps the preferred efficient choice for both heating and cooling your home. Best of all, if you’re signed up for a renewable wind or solar option with your utility company, your water or home could be heated and cooled using 100 percent clean energy. While air source heat pumps do typically require a larger up-front investment, you may be eligible for rebates, special financing opportunities, and lower off-peak electricity rates that will save you money over the pump’s lifetime. Consider connecting with a utility program provider, like the Center for Energy and Environment, who can discuss the financial feasibility of making these changes to your home.
Finally, switching from gas-powered cooking appliances to electric alternatives will have a substantial impact on your home’s indoor air quality. Consider replacing your gas-powered stove with an electric convection oven. Convection ovens utilize a fan to force hot air throughout the oven, meaning shorter cook times at lower temperatures. You could save 20 percent of your oven related energy costs each month by making the change. Equally, replacing your gas range with an electromagnetic induction range or cooktop can also improve indoor air quality. If electric is not an option, make sure you have an efficient gas oven that has a strong ventilation system to reduce excessive health contaminants released from cooking.
Additionally, when purchasing other appliances, don’t forget about electric alternatives. Outdoor electric grills have significantly improved in recent years and do a great job at backyard cooking. Electric lawn care equipment like mowers, trimmers, leaf and snow blowers all boast the added bonus of being lighter, quieter, and easy on maintenance.
Take action with electrification
While the use of fossil fuels in our vehicles and homes has serious effects on our personal health, there are actionable steps you can take. Fresh Energy is committed to driving realistic energy policies that transition Minnesota to a clean energy future and you can help us realize that mission. Choosing electric in your own life supports your health and encourages positive progress towards a bright, clean future. For more tips, check out our take action page.