Get Ready to Electrify Your Home with QuitCarbon


David Tuft

February 22, 2024

Harvest sat down with Founder and CEO Cooper Marcus of QuitCarbon to discuss all things home electrification. Both our companies are guided by the mission of ensuring homeowners have the best experience when replacing gas equipment with all-electric appliances. That includes saving money, slashing carbon emissions, and being more comfortable in their homes. In Part 1, we discuss Cooper’s personal journey that led him to found QuitCarbon, what QuitCarbon does for homeowners, and what the most impactful thing homeowners can do to quit carbon in their homes.   

David Tuft: You didn't start off as a building science person or a climate person. How did wind up founding QuitCarbon?

Cooper Marcus: After college, I was lucky enough to be able to buy and remodel some homes in Santa Cruz and Oakland. I became, in effect, a general contractor working with subcontractors swinging a hammer, learning about the built environment by building it. I just love homes. I love buildings and I love the business and the people that work around them.

In the last few years, I was lucky enough to lead a team of data scientists at PG&E in building a wildfire risk model. We were applying advanced machine learning techniques to deal with the outcomes of climate change and the impacts of worse wildfires. It really brought me around to thinking I should be working on avoiding the worst of it rather than assuming it's gonna happen. 

Around that time. I was planning a remodel of my Victorian home here in San Francisco. I love Victorians. I love old homes and making them new again, but keeping their charm. I came to learn around that time that natural gas is not so natural – and that it's possible to have a home free of fossil fuels. So I asked my architect at the time, “How do we do this?” And he said, “I don't know how. You're going to need to hire a consultant.”

Cooper Marcus: So I found one and they were great. I paid them $9,000 for a detailed analysis of how to get my home off of fossil fuels. 

David Tuft: Holy cow.

Cooper Marcus: And that was the light bulb moment. I looked at all these homes along the street and I thought to myself, if the route to avoiding the worst of climate change is getting all of our homes off of fossil fuels runs through a $9,000 plan for each home, we’re screwed. There's got to be a better way.

That got me started on a multi-year journey of research and experimentation, spending a lot of time with contractors, with manufacturers, and with homeowners – trying to figure out what's keeping us from electrifying our homes. That led to QuitCarbon, where we provide the guidance and analysis to get your home off of fossil fuels – for free.

David Tuft: That's incredible. What turned out to be the biggest things that you could do to have an impact on emissions?

Cooper Marcus: One of the surprising things is that for many homes, their single largest source of climate impact is their water heater or their furnace. 

It's not their stove for many homes. It's not their car because folks just don't drive much anymore. And many people are already switching to hybrid or electric. For people who travel a lot, it's their air travel, but many folks don't. A lot of people are already switching to less meat in their diets. 

It's that machine in your closet that you just never think about. Giving you hot water, making you comfortable. But also, giving you bad service in terms of damaging your future prospects. Making your local air quality worse, the climate worse, increasing the risk of climate change. I had no idea how much fossil fuel is really being burned by these machines, especially maybe most insidiously in older homes. 

My mother's in Berkeley where some of her appliances have pilot lights. So even when she's not using her heaters, they're still sitting there burning a little bit of gas all the time. Causing pollution. Impacting her bill. This is one of the biggest surprises to me. The climate impacts of just those two machines: your water heater and your furnace. 

Another surprise was how relatively little climate impact there is from your stove and your dryer. Those are gas appliances that people touch and use every day. And the perception is they’re burning a lot of gas. Well, it's really a small amount. But that stove, holy cow! The research is now crystal clear. It's terrible for your health. So rather than the climate outside your home, it's radically and dangerously impacting the climate inside your home. There was another surprise for me.

David Tuft: Walk me through what happens when somebody comes to you and says,  “I want to electrify my home.” 

Cooper Marcus: People come to us with all sorts of things – “I want to electrify my home,” “my furnace failed,” “it's getting hot these days, I think I need air conditioning,” “what about my big bills?” Or “I don't know what you do, but my friend said you're great, so can you help me?”

We teach and educate folks on our website. We have a growing library of content. Like, what is an electrified home? Why is it a good idea? Folks then click the pink button and sign up. We ask a few questions about your home, your furnace, and your utility bills.

All through this process we offer easy ability to get in touch with us. We can even come to your house and give you a home energy score, along with answering the questions about your home. Our platform produces a unique and personalized roadmap for getting your home upgraded from dirty fossil fuel to clean, safe electric appliances – with maximized rebates and minimized project costs. 

It's really easy to make electrification more expensive and more complicated than it needs to be. Part of why we came into existence was that we kept hearing stories about folks who had called contractors. They were able to get a bid, maybe even able to get a project done for a heat pump or something else. But then when we looked at what the contractor had done, we discovered it was too big. It used up too much of the home’s electrical budget, or the system was oversized. There are lots of different reasons for this but we needed something that thought about the whole home. So QuitCarbon is going to give you a whole home road map. We can then talk with you about it. Answer your questions. We keep updating the roadmap automatically as things change. And things are changing all the time. Rebates are coming and going. Prices are changing. New equipment’s arriving. New financing opportunities are arriving.

When you're feeling comfortable and confident about the costs and why you want to do this, then you can ask us for a connection to a contractor. They'll come by your house and they'll give you a bid. We will then benchmark the bid for you. We are not a contractor. We don't sell projects. But we'll provide an analysis about it. Is this price fair according to local standards? Is the scope of work correct according to what we've recommended for your house? And we'll say, “Hey, this looks good. We think you should proceed.” And if it doesn't, we'll get back to the contractor.

The contractor does the work. We help make sure that it's wrapped up correctly, that the rebates are handled smoothly. The equipment is configured for optimal operation and minimal bills. And clients finish feeling happy. We want them to tell their stories to their neighbors and colleagues: “I did it, it was great.”

David Tuft: What are some of the common misconceptions that people come to QuitCarbon with?

Cooper Marcus: On Facebook, we see lots of comments that fall into three major categories. The first is: electricity is expensive. There is a perception that electric solutions are expensive and electricity itself is expensive. That might have been the case in the past, heating your home with an old-fashioned resistance heater the kind that glows red hot. 

But that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about heat pumps. They use a quarter of the electricity to produce the same heat. They are not expensive when you do the math correctly, which is what we do on behalf of our clients. 

When you buy a heat pump, you're buying it for the long term. When you compare that to the cost of replacing your gas furnace and fueling it with gas for the next 20 years, you discover that electricity is not expensive. Not at all. It's a lot cheaper.

The second misconception is that electricity isn't clean. People believe that electricity comes from dirty power plants, and when you switch from burning fossil fuel in your home to using electricity, you're making more pollution. That could not be farther from the truth. Our electricity supply, especially here in California, and increasingly everywhere in the United States, is getting cleaner all the time. There's no way to make burning fossil fuel cleaner. It produces NOx. There's nothing you could do about that.

But electricity is increasingly made with zero-carbon production sources, like solar power, hydropower, and even nuclear power. No matter what you think about nuclear, it does not impact the climate. Our homes in California are a much larger source of climate pollution than electricity generation, but virtually nobody knows that. They think that electricity is dirty. So that's the second misperception.

The third misconception is that electricity is unreliable. People think that there are many more power outages than there actually are. And they imagine electric appliances are the only ones that are affected by power outages when they do occur. Many gas appliances depend on electricity. If you have a gas furnace, a forced air furnace, it will not heat your home if it has no electricity. It needs electricity and gas. The electricity runs a fan. Many other home appliances are like this. Some gas water heaters require electricity, some gas stoves require electricity. It's just not the case that electricity is unreliable and that gas appliances are inherently more reliable.

And an important point: Utilities are moving away from gas. They are putting all of their future investments into the electricity system. That means electricity is getting more reliable. And also if you really care, and you really believe that your electricity is unreliable, you've got an option. You can get a home battery. You can get solar. You can add a directional charger and use the electricity that's in your electric vehicle in your home. You cannot drill your own oil well. You cannot make your own gas, but you can produce your own electrons. 

David Tuft: How do you advise clients with really drafty homes?

Cooper Marcus: Leaky, drafty homes take the heat or the cool and they let it get out. You're taking your money and sending it outside. That's a shame. It makes your home uncomfortable. It also has a real economic impact.

Generally, we're advising clients that they take on a small investment in insulation and air sealing before they proceed with electrifying their home heating and cooling. 

Luckily, that's surprisingly inexpensive. It generally results in a lower overall cost of moving your home off of fossil fuels. Because when you upgrade the insulation and air sealing, and switch to an electric heat pump, that heat pump can be smaller. The equipment cost is less. The install cost is less. Potentially, the related electrical work is less. And your operating costs are less. More of that heat and cool that your heat pump makes will stay inside your home rather than leaking out.

David Tuft: And you're more comfortable at the end of the day. 

Cooper Marcus: That's right. The comfort part is so important. We try to pretend we're all rational economic actors, and we're just doing stuff on dollars and cents, but it feels so good to be in a well-insulated home that's heated with clean and safe electricity. And I think it's important for folks to not pretend that this is all about dollars and cents. Did you think about dollars and cents when you chose a granite countertop in your kitchen? Or when you upgraded to that fancy color of your latest electric vehicle? I mean, there are plenty of things we do because we care. And it's really important that we consider that too when we think about how we heat and cool our homes and provide safety and security for our families.

David Tuft: The equipment costs of heat pump water heaters, are not insubstantial. Yet there are opportunities to save some money. Can you talk about the incentives at different levels of government? Every region is a little bit different.

Cooper Marcus: Yeah, incentives. There is just a veritable fire hose of money being pointed toward homeowners encouraging them to make these changes. In many circumstances, what appears like a an expensive upgrade at first glance, is in fact, really cheap - and in some cases you get paid. 

When you total up all the incentives, plus the utility bill savings, and you realize that you're getting paid to switch off of fossil fuels, it’s amazing. 

Now, it's also the worst of times because they are so complicated and there are so many incentives. They’re changing so frequently, it’s impossible for contractors to keep up. We need them out there turning wrenches and switching gas to electric. We don't need them trying to keep track of all of the latest incentive shenanigans. That's our job. We track them carefully. We're constantly updating them. We have over 300 that we're tracking across California. 

I saw a study that suggested a typical home in the San Francisco Bay Area going from all gas to all-electric might interface with 20 different incentive applications and programs. I do not suggest that any individual homeowner or contractor try to understand that whole thing. We've had plenty of clients come to us say, “I looked into this and my head started exploding. Can you help?” Yes, we can help.

At the federal level, incentives exist mostly in the form of tax credits. At the state level they’re rebates, possibly more tax credits, or discounted financing. Discounted loans are a form of incentive. They exist at the regional level in some places - from the county level, utility level and even down to the individual city level. 

They also differ by your income level, potentially, if you live in a disadvantaged or Energy Justice community. Incentives differ by what contractor you work with, what equipment is being installed in your home, and what equipment it's replacing. Super complicated. But thank goodness, there's a lot of free money out there. You just need a hand to help you take advantage of it.

David Tuft: I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between auto dealerships and their relationship to the manufacturer, and the very disaggregated world of the HVAC industry. Could you just help us understand what the world of the HVAC contractor looks like?

Cooper Marcus: When it comes to moving your home off of fossil fuels, you end up interacting with a few different contactor types. Typically an electrician, and a plumber for your water heater. An HVAC contractor for heating and cooling. Often, an insulation and air sealing contractor. For the most part, they’re small local businesses. They are your neighbors. They employ your neighbors. It may seem like their services are incredibly expensive, and thus they are very rich, but it's just not true.

Running a small business with vehicles and employees and all of the regulations that exist in California and many other places is not cheap. Contractors are not getting rich off the clean energy transition. They are doing fine. Just like you and I are doing fine. They are in a competitive industry. If you don't like one contractor, it’s really easy to call another one. And they know that, and they can't charge crazy premium prices. 

If you do ever find a contractor charging an outrageous price, what's probably happening is that they don't really want your business. They're busy, or your project is not a good fit, and they're basically saying “If I gotta do this work, I'm gonna make it really worth my while –but I don't really want to do it.”

I hope folks think of contractors as our allies in this clean energy transition rather than our adversaries. I think there generally can be a mistrusting relationship between homeowners and contractors. We hear that a lot, and it’s part of why we exist. We are not a contractor. We exist to help bridge whatever mistrust might be happening there by providing expertise and guidance.

If we're going to move forward on to the bright, shiny all-electric future, we're gonna have a lot of contractors doing a lot of work for a lot of homeowners. So let's be with them.

Sharing is Caring:

Related Posts: 
Harvest at Home

Harvesty Headlines
April 28, 2023

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Id volutpat lacus laoreet non curabitur gravida arcu. Quisque sagittis purus sit amet. Dolor morbi non arcu risus quis varius.

Read the Article
Harvesty Headlines
April 28, 2023

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Id volutpat lacus laoreet non curabitur gravida arcu. Quisque sagittis purus sit amet. Dolor morbi non arcu risus quis varius.

Read the Article
Harvesty Headlines
April 28, 2023

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Id volutpat lacus laoreet non curabitur gravida arcu. Quisque sagittis purus sit amet. Dolor morbi non arcu risus quis varius.

Read the Article
Harvesty Headlines
April 28, 2023

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Id volutpat lacus laoreet non curabitur gravida arcu. Quisque sagittis purus sit amet. Dolor morbi non arcu risus quis varius.

Read the Article
Harvesty Headlines
April 28, 2023

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Id volutpat lacus laoreet non curabitur gravida arcu. Quisque sagittis purus sit amet. Dolor morbi non arcu risus quis varius.

Read the Article
April 23, 2024

In Part 3 of our interview with QuitCarbon’s Cooper Marcus, we talk dollars and cents.

Read the Article
April 17, 2024

The recent spike in your electric bills doesn't mean you have to abandon your electrification dreams. Harvest is designed from the ground up to cut monthly energy bills – more than any other heat pump solution. We do this by shifting the time you consume energy to the cheapest time of the day - that’s why we call it the smartest heating on Earth.

Read the Article
April 4, 2024

In Part 2 of our interview with Cooper Marcus we explore common misconceptions of home electrification and talk why electrification is not only inevitable, but cleaner, healthier and less expensive.

Read the Article
March 26, 2024

QuitCarbon helps everyone electrify their homes. An Interview with Founder and CEO Cooper Marcus, Part 1

Read the Article
Harvest is cheaper when compared to a similar high-efficiency heat pump ... and way more cheaper than when you add a whole house battery!
February 9, 2024

Harvest is now the cheapest and most effective way to decarbonize your home -- both cheaper to install and cheaper on your monthly bills. 

Read the Article
Passive House highlights Harvest as a great solution
June 26, 2021

From Passive House to Your House

Read the Article
PCE customers aim to electrify their homes and reduce carbon emissions
June 22, 2021

Peninsula Clean Energy Customers are queuing up for Low Carbon Heating and Hot Water

Read the Article
East Bay Green Home Tour Program
May 27, 2021

Find Harvest Thermal at Stop #7 on the East Bay Green Home Tour

Read the Article
Get Harvest