Last year, Tom* signed the final papers to purchase a two-unit home in the heart of San Francisco. He had a clear objective: bring the old Victorian into the 21st century aesthetically and technologically — starting with home electrification.
San Francisco seems at first like the perfect place to jump head-first into electrification. In 2020, the city passed regulations that require all new construction to be fully electric and prevent retrofitting gas piping systems into already electric buildings. And if those regulations aren’t enough of a push, there are seemingly countless incentive programs to go electric, from local utility programs to state and federal incentives.
But even with all of these tailwinds, home electrification can hit a grinding halt, with the traffic jam stemming from an unlikely bottleneck: the electrical panel.
For every building that’s attached to the grid, there’s an electrical panel. This humble unit safely draws power from the electrical grid, and distributes it through people’s homes, charging our phones and powering our appliances. The average home has an electrical panel that can handle somewhere between 100-200 amps (a measure of electrical current).
Here’s the catch: a fully-electrified home may quickly begin to exceed the limits of an old electrical panel. As reported by Canary Media, an electrical panel with a limit of 100 amps will almost definitely not be able to support a fully-electrified home, while a 200 amp panel most likely will. Anything between 100 and 200 amps is a toss-up, which means that most people electrifying their homes will likely need to upgrade their panel.
The good news is, we know how to upgrade electrical panels, and it isn’t technically hard to do. The bad news is that upgrading a panel means looping in an electrician and the local energy utility.
That all brings us back to Tom. When he began his home electrification process, he quickly realized that he’d almost definitely need to update his electrical panel. Among the most power-hungry appliances driving this upgrade were new induction stoves to replace gas-burning models.
He began the process almost immediately, looping in an electrician and reaching out to San Francisco’s utility: PG&E. And that was when the delays started. For months now, Tom has been navigating the complicated, long process of getting PG&E to upgrade his panel. The delays could potentially push back his construction and rental timeline by 18 months, and have cost him tens of thousands of dollars.
It turns out that Tom isn’t alone; delays in electrical panel upgrades are a norm in San Francisco, rather than a fluke. Over the last couple of years, this issue has affected everyone from environmentally-conscious homeowners to major affordable housing developments, often causing delays that last longer than a year.
There’s a lot of speculation and discussion swirling around the panel upgrade delays. PG&E cites their need to allocate more resources towards safety and wildfire prevention, while some believe that it comes down to pure bureaucratic processes. While we don’t know all the reasons for these delays, we can offer a solution.
One of the things that makes Impulse products unique is our integrated battery. This battery doesn’t just make our cooktop powerful; it also enables us to achieve that performance using just a typical 120V outlet (the type you plug your phone or computer charger into).
All of this means that the Impulse stove doesn’t require a higher current connection than your existing gas stove. (That’s right, gas stoves also need to be plugged in.) By reducing the amount of current you need, the Impulse stove may just help you avoid an electrical panel upgrade, and the delays and cost that come with it.
"A key thing the battery enables is that stoves are very high peak power, but very low average power – we can use the battery to smooth that out and the result is an appliance that requires far less than a typical stove does in terms of installation." - Sam D'Amico (Founder, Impulse)
San Francisco — and the country — are clearly headed towards full home electrification. But there are a lot of speed bumps along the way halting our progress. By enabling our homes’ existing electrical panels to handle home electrification, the Impulse cooktop takes a small but important step towards our electrification goals, while saving homeowners thousands of dollars and months of hassle.
We know that Tom's challenges with going electric are not unique. We'd love to hear from you - feel free to share your electrification experience with us here.
*Name anonymized for privacy.