100-Year-Old House Goes 100% Electric, and Gets a Basement Makeover Too

The story of one Pocket Changemaking family who focused their retrofit on creating more space for their kids and lowering their home’s carbon footprint. Now they’re 100% electric, enjoying air conditioning in summer and greater comfort in winter, and loving their much lower utility costs.
We were inspired when we met the people involved in the Pocket Change Project, who had so much experience with environmentally-responsible renovations and were so generous with their time. We were also blessed with a 100-year-old house that had never been renovated and was basically a blank slate. So we spent five years living in our drafty old brick house, plotting our next moves. With a pair of young children, we knew we were going to focus on two things: more space for the kids, and a lower carbon footprint for their futures.

Initially, we explored the idea of external insulation, but after receiving four quotes that varied by more than $100,000 – and even the cheapest one would have eaten up our entire renovation budget – we instead opted for insulating the areas of the house that we renovated and leaving the rest.

The scary unfinished basement was the easiest space to upgrade, and we had enough headroom that we didn’t need to underpin. So that was where we focused our energy. We broke up the thin poured-concrete floor, laid out new drains, put down a layer of gravel and a waterproofing membrane, then two layers of insulation. On top of all this we added tubing for hydronic in-floor heating and poured 3” of concrete over it all.

The result is a beautifully-finished basement with warm radiant heat from the floors – and we run it off our water heater! 

Thanks to the ingenuity of Mike Holm at Switch Heat Pumps, we can heat up the floor overnight, when electricity is cheapest and no one is using the hot water. In the morning, the floor is warm and we can walk barefoot across it to take a hot shower.

We ripped out the old 1990s-era furnace and replaced it with a Moovair heat pump to heat the rest of the house. It was plug-and-play into the existing ducts and was a dramatic improvement from day one. Instead of hot, dry air blasting for a few minutes, then turning off entirely, the heat pump runs all the time, pushing warm air so gently it’s virtually imperceptible. 

With new windows and doors, our pile of bricks has had a serious facelift and from a comfort point of view it’s incomparable with what we had before. We also got an induction stove. So we’re entirely off gas, and heating our air and water and cooking our food with electricity. And we have air conditioning now (from the heat pump)!

Did I mention our bills went down? No more $400 gas bills in the winter. The electricity bill has gone up, but by nowhere near as much as our gas bill used to be.


Our kids are too small to understand why we got off gas and went 100% electric. But I feel great knowing that I’ve cut my personal carbon footprint by an enormous amount (I think of those thousands of cubic meters of natural gas I’m no longer burning). 

And the kids are surprised they can run around in the winter downstairs barefoot! 

A big thank you to the Pocket Change Project for giving us their time, thoughts and advice and helping us take the plunge to electrify our house!

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