Landscape Management magazine on the Shift to Battery-Powered Equipment

From Landscape Management magazine.

From Landscape Management magazine.

In a new supplement to the industry magazine Landscape ManagementLauren Dowdle has an article called "BATTERY BOON: How battery-powered equipment is helping operators save energy, win bids and go green."

It includes stories of landscaping companies that have switched away from hyper-polluting gas-powered leaf blowers and other equipment to battery-powered alternatives. Sample:

With 90 percent of his equipment being electric, Ron Rose—owner of EQ Grounds in Auburn Hills, Mich.—says it has helped set the company apart....

He decided to rely heavily on electric mainly because of the gas and maintenance savings.

“After you pay off the equipment, there are pretty significant savings, considering you have to pay about $30 a day for one gas mower. You can run for less than $5 a day with an electric mower,” Rose says.

Electric equipment also has helped differentiate the company from its competition.

“It gives you a little bit of an advantage,” he says. “People are receptive to eco-friendly and low noise.”

All along, the argument for Council member Mary Cheh's bill in Washington D.C., and its counterparts around the country, is that they are "accelerating the inevitable," in forcing a change away from an outdated, inefficient, and hyper-polluting technology, to a fast-developing clean alternative. This feature in a major industry publication is another sign that the industry itself is ready for the change.

Five ANCs Endorse Washington DC's Anti-Leaf Blower Bill

Council member Mary Cheh, of the Washington D.C. City Council, has introduced bill B22-0234, to phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in the nation's capital. Four other council members -- Charles Allen, David Grosso, Kenyan McDuffie, and Anita Bonds -- have signed on as co-sponsors.

The bill has been referred to the council's Committee of the Whole; the next step is for the council's chair, Phil Mendelson, to schedule hearings -- and a petition urging Mendelson to do just that has gained nearly 800 signatures. (Feel free to add yours!). 

The recent political history of this bill begins back in the fall of 2015, when one of the District's Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs), the level of government just below the council, voted 8-1 in favor of such a provision. That was ANC 3D. 

Since then, four more ANCs have endorsed the measure. They are ANCs 4C, 2D, 6D, and 5B, with presentations and votes by others ahead. Getting approval meeting by meeting, in different parts of the town, is no small achievement in local-level political engagement.

Why are the local commissions doing so? The text of the resolution approved by ANC 4C, chaired by Zach Teutsch, illustrates the reasoning the others have applied:


Congratulations and thanks to the ANC members who have considered and voted on these measures, and to the QCDC representatives who have carefully and successfully explained the reasons behind this step. Now the action moves back to the council as a whole. Council Chair Mendelson: it's time for hearings!

More on the Effects of Low-Frequency Noise

Last month we noted a new paper in the Journal of Environmental and Toxicological Studies, on why the noise from leaf blowers, in particular, was so powerful and penetrating.

The Quiet Communities web site has an update on this same paper, highlighting its implications -- including what it means for human beings (or animals) that are both very close to the equipment, and very far away.

For those in very close range, leafblowers can produce sound-at-ear-level of 100 decibels or more, well into the damaging range. And for those many hundreds of yards away, the low-frequency noise typical of leafblowers can penetrate walls, windows, and other barriers that would stop different kinds of sound. The Quiet Communities post quotes Erica Walker, author with Jamie Banks of the journal article:

Sound from leaf blowers and a hose vacuum—equipment commonly used in landscape maintenance—was over 100 dbA at the source and decreased over distance. However, the low frequency component persisted at high levels. “From a community perspective, the sound ratings supplied by manufacturers do not take frequency into consideration,” said Walker.  “Our findings suggest that reporting more information on a sound’s character may be a step in the right direction,” she adds. 

Worth reading in full.

On the Significance of Noise, and of Silence

From The Sun magazine, in 2010.

From The Sun magazine, in 2010.

Most of the discussion and data on this site concern the less-publicized and often under-appreciated problems arising from use of primitive two-stroke gas-powered leaf blowers and other lawn equipment. These include their grossly polluting nature; the long-term hearing damage and other health risks they impose on the workers who use them; the fine-particulate pollution they create for surrounding neighborhoods; and their simple obsolescence in the face of better alternatives. 

But the most obvious drawback of leaf blowers in particular is their exceptional noisiness. Last month a paper in a public-health journal explained why some of the acoustic qualities of leaf blower noise make it spread over so great a distance, and allow it to penetrate walls and windows that block out most other sounds.  

And an article from 2010 in The Sun magazine offers a fascinating perspective on the larger questions of noise and quiet in modern life. The article, which is an interview by Leslee Goodman with the "acoustic ecologist" Gordon Hempton, whose speciality is the environmental, physiological, and social effect of increasing ambient noise.

The whole article is very much worth reading. Two sample passages:

Goodman: Before we were urbanized, we needed to be able to hear the snap of a twig in the woods, because it might mean a predator was approaching. Now our hearing brings us mostly unwanted noise, so we walk around with iPods in our ears or with the radio blasting in our cars. We don’t want to hear our environment.

Hempton: Yes, many people use their iPods to avoid hearing the noise pollution all around them. Our ancestors took quiet for granted; they never imagined that we’d lose it. Now we must recognize that we’ve largely lost quiet, even in our most pristine, natural places. But we can still choose to value quiet more as a culture.

Goodman: What would you say to someone who, rather than visiting silence in nature, simply puts on noise-canceling headphones in his or her loft apartment and listens to a recording of a natural soundscape?

Hempton: I would say that real listening is about being where you are. We escape our surroundings by putting on sounds that help us feel as if we were someplace else, but studies have shown that masking stressful noise is not a remedy. If you’re in an unhealthy place, you shouldn’t forget it.


Goodman: What are the health benefits of quiet?

Hempton: Virtually all of the research that’s been done — about five thousand articles — has been on the damaging effects of noise. There’s very little research on the effects of quiet, partly because there’s so little quiet available.

What has been done suggests that quiet helps people relax, makes them more willing to help others, and enables them to do better on tests and to get a good night’s sleep. Research with children who have attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder shows that experiencing quiet in nature is as effective for them as medication.

Goodman: What are some steps the average person can take to create less noise and to find silence?

Hempton: First of all, listen. Become more aware. Second, protect your hearing. The most readily available hearing protection is your fingers, but people like to have their hands free, so I recommend earplugs. Foam earplugs are inexpensive and can be used several times....

Third, speak out for your right to quiet. Too often people believe there’s nothing they can do about noise — it’s part of the community they live in — but it’s important to let people who are creating loud noise know how it’s affecting you. Tell your noisy neighbors the ways in which their noise is decreasing your quality of life, and let them know what you are doing to reduce your own noise making.

Goodman: I think people try to tune out offending noise because they want to avoid conflict with others.

Hempton: We’re living in a world where we’re sharing resources, and one of the most shared is the acoustic environment — even more so than the visual environment. And yet there are few codes that affect the acoustic characteristics of a community. Noise-abatement walls along interstates reduce noise very little. The issue of noise pollution could unify communities.

Key Biscayne Makes a Move Toward Quieter Equipment -- and Wastes No Time About It

According to a story in the Islander News, the Village Council in Key Biscayne, Florida, voted for a switch from noisy, dirty gas-powered leaf blowers to electric models -- and it gave residents and contractors exactly 180 days to make the change. For comparison: the bill the D.C. City Council is considering toward the same end would allow a transition period of as much as five years. (For contractors, the usable life span of gas blowers is much shorter than that, so they'd be replacing the equipment during that period in any case.)

The Islander News headline:

From the Islander News.

From the Islander News.

The story says:

Earlier this year the Village Council passed an ordinance banning gas-powered blowers, noting they’re a major source of noise complaints and also cause significant air pollution. In passing the measure, the Council set a 180-day grace period that expires February 25, 2018....

At a December 12 Council meeting, Development Services Director Sergio Ascunce described the options landscapers have to comply with the new rule.

He noted there are battery-powered leaf blowers that can be used, explaining, “This is going to be the most beneficial type of equipment for the professional. It’s the most powerful, and it’s the longest-lasting in terms of battery life.”

He added the Village’s landscaping contractor, Gorgeous Lawns, agreed in November to make the switch.

The company has found the equipment is beneficial in terms of lowering pollution and noise – “There is no engine idling, and while in operation they’re at a lower decibel level,” Ascunce said – but its concerns included finding a place to charge batteries, the cost of replacement batteries and trouble moving wet clippings because the battery blowers aren’t as powerful.

These practical transition concerns are of course real -- and more likely to be addressed, the faster the market for electric equipment grows.

From Australia to California to Virginia, Leaf Blower Updates


Photo above is a screenshot from Australia's ABC, of "blow-dryers" being called into service on a cricket field in Perth.

Virginia, USA: A letter to the editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, from Alan Lott.

Gas-powered leaf blowers in Richmond and surrounding counties should be banned. The fumes and noise from them pose a health risk not only to operators, but to the community as a whole. In Washington, there is a group called “QuietClean D.C.” that has spearheaded legislation to phase out gas-powered leaf blowers and shift to quieter electric models.

This noise is harmful not only to humans, but to pets as well. Research has attributed instances of hypertension, risk of heart attack, and central nervous system disorders to the high decibels that leaf blowers put out. Leaf blowers, chainsaws, and rock concerts all have decibels ranging from 105 db to 115 db. According to the Centers for Disease Control, ear damage from this level of noise can be caused in 7.5 minutes. Your pet’s hearing is even more sensitive.

Two-stroke engines are unlike cleaner car engines. They aren’t regulated and they put out high levels of ozone-forming chemicals and fine particulate matter that are known to cause or contribute to cardiovascular disease, asthma, lung cancer, and others conditions. Even landscapers who operate the blowers are at risk from breathing in the fumes.

It’s past time for Richmonders and residents of neighboring counties to wake up to problems caused by gas-powered blowers and two-stroke engines. We need to form a QuietClean group here to push for legislation that will phase out gas-powered leaf blowers and create quite communities.


California, USA:


Via Twitter

'No place in civilized society'

The editorial board of the Star-Ledger in New Jersey, writing at NJ.Com, is not fooling around. The headline gets right to the point:


The editorial goes into the pros and cons, including a recent summertime ban on gas-powered leafblowers in on New Jersey town: 

We are not unsympathetic to the lawn care industry. There are thousands of New Jerseyans employed in the mow-blow-and-go business, and everyone who straps on a Stihl 600 backpack will tell you that it's a crucial tool for their work.

But contractors should be grateful the gas models are only banned for five months....

And, on the sense of power and freedom equipment like this can bring:

No doubt, some of us must express ourselves by wielding earsplitting power tools, and surrender to the manly impulse to wage battle with a dense and leafy pile, as the smoke billows above the tree line - signaling to friend and foe alike that we are alive and blowing.

And the truth is, this is how many of us would choose to clean indoors as well, because it involves blasting things from one place to another place to another without actually having to pick them up, and has been proven to work with both empty pizza boxes and stray Doritos.

The whole thing is very much worth reading. New Jersey's reputation for directness shows off to great advantage here.

'Leaf Blower Man: A Love Story'

Bill O'Neil, a film director and musician in Chicago, has produced a video about leaf blower adventures in his neighborhood. Dig right in!

O'Neil even gets into the modern-tech alternatives to old-tech hyper-polluting gas-powered leafblowers, as you will see in this later part of the video, cued to start around time 2:55:

O'Neil ends with a crowd-sourcing appeal, which has a jokey purpose involving lawn equipment and a larger public-health and world-environmental purpose. The donation page is here. I was persuaded to give.

Well done by Bill O'Neil. 

Why Do Leaf Blowers Sound the Way They Do?

Studies collected on this site describe the overlapping reasons for communities to move beyond two-stroke gas-powered outdoor equipment:

  • These inefficient engines are hyper-polluting, putting out more hydrocarbon emissions of certain sorts than do cars that can weigh 100 times as much.
  • The small-particulate emissions they produce, and the haze of particulates that their high-speed winds blow up from the ground, are hazardous to the community in general and especially to the workers who spend hours each day within breathing range of the equipment.
  • Radically cleaner, safer, quieter less-polluting options are available, with the rapidly improving technology of battery powered equipment. In almost every other realm in which two-stroke engines once prevailed, from scooters to watercraft, they have largely been banned or simply overtaken by modern alternatives.

Beyond all this, the most obvious trait of leaf blowers in particular is their noise. In a new paper for the Journal of Environmental and Toxicological Studies, published at the scientific site Sci Forschen, Erica Walker and Jamie Banks argue that there is something distinctive about the auditory qualities of leafblowers that makes their sound-footprint so dominant and potentially dangerous.

A major theme of their paper is that the most disruptive component of leafblower noise is its low-frequency sound waves--rather than the high-frequency sounds that come from, for example, a dental drill. A high-frequency whine can obviously be annoying. But low-frequency sound waves travel a much greater distance, and pose a greater health risk. As Walker and Banks put it, (emphasis added):

According to manufacturer reports, the sound pressure levels of these machines exceed 95 A-weighted decibels (dB[A]) at the ear of the operator [a level at which regular exposure can cause permanent hearing loss] and typically 65-80 dB(A) at 50 feet. Comparing these levels to daytime sound standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO)- these levels are upwards of 15 dB(A) higher than the recommended 55 dB(A)....

Adverse health effects from sound include auditory effects such as hearing loss and tinnitus, and non auditory effects such as reduced cognitive performance and mental health, sleep disruption, ischemic heart disease, myocardial infarction, and hypertension. Low frequency sound components are considered to have more severe adverse health effects compared with higher frequency components. Adverse effects from sources of sound with low frequency components may occur at levels below 30 dB(A). Lower decibel standards are recommended for sources with low frequency components compared with other sources.

Read the full study for more details. At face value one implication is that the unmuffled two-stroke engines that proliferate in many neighborhoods are dangerous most of all to the workers using them. But another that the long-term damage to the surrounding community may be even greater than standard measures indicate, because the low-frequency waves travel farther than other kinds of sound, and can do more harm to those in their path.

WSJ on the Obsolete and Hyper-Polluting Technology of Two-Stroke Engines

The Wall Street Journal has a new item in its "The Numbers" series, meant to present surprising data findings. This one, by Jo Craven McGinty, It begins:

Once autumn leaves are down, landscapers with leaf blowers strapped to their backs pour into America’s neighborhoods like hornets from a hive.

Which raises an interesting question: How much pollution does a leaf blower emit?

The short answer is more than a car, a truck or any other modern passenger vehicle.

The story goes into the technological, economic, environmental, and political ramifications of the ongoing effort to phase out two-stroke engines used in lawn equipment. They are already banned, overtaken by new technology, or otherwise out of use in most other applications in the United States, including watercraft and scooters. Well worth reading.

D.C. City Council Testimony on 'Noise and Quality of Life'

An online petition from Change.Org has gathered well over 500 signatures, asking Phil Mendelson, Chair of the District of Columbia City Council, to schedule hearings on a bill by councilmember Mary Cheh that would phase out hyper-polluting, noisy two-stroke gas-powered lawn equipment in the nation's capital. You can read the petition, or add your signature, here.

Meanwhile, the Council's Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization, chaired by council member Anita Bonds, held a roundtable today on “Quality of Life and Noise in Your Neighborhood.” Ruth Caplan, an environmentalist and civic leader who is part of the of the QCDC organization, submitted testimony about the effects of noise on individual and community health, especially noting the environmental-justice aspects. For instance:

Please also think about the workers who are operating those machines.  They’re not 50 or 70 feet away from the source of the noise, as the ratings-based numbers contemplate.  Their ears are no more than three or four feet away....

And think some more about those workers.  They’re typically first-generation Americans who occupy a fragile foothold in our economy and society, far from the top.  They’re ambitious, hard-working, and reliable, but they frequently lack language skills; they may not fully comprehend the risks associated with the equipment that they’re using; they commonly fail to have access to, or use, hearing protection which would help mitigate the damage if used properly; and, in any event, they normally lack sufficient job security to enable them to assert their rights to work under safer conditions.



Statement by Ruth Caplan for Quiet Clean DC, Submitted to the D.C. City Council’s Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization’s Community Roundtable:“Quality of Life and Noise in Your Neighborhood”

December 11, 2017

            Thank you, Chairwoman Bonds and Members of the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization.  We’re grateful to you for convening this Community Roundtable to consider the under-appreciated issue of noise and its effects on our health, our environment, and our enjoyment of living and working in this great city.

            Thank you for this opportunity to present testimony on behalf of Quiet Clean DC --QCDC for short.

            My name is Ruth Caplan.  I’m a former Executive Director of Environmental Action and of the Environmental Action Foundation, created by the organizers of Earth Day 1970.  I’ve lived in Washington for 35 years, and I’ve worked with my neighbors over many years to improve the quality of life in our city.  I’m currently President of the Cleveland Park Citizens Association, and have been on the Board of the Association for the past eight years.  I care deeply about our city and its citizens . . . your neighbors and mine.  I know you do, too; which is why you’ve convened this Community Roundtable to talk about noise.  It’s an opportunity that we at QCDC welcome.

I’m a member of the QCDC leadership group.  QCDC was formed over two years ago by D.C. residents who are concerned about the proliferation of fossil-fuel-burning leaf blowers.  Specifically, QCDC is disturbed by the impact of gas blowers on our public health.  We want to protect everyone’s right to live, work, and play in an environment that’s free from invasive and damaging noise.  We want to improve the quality of the air we breathe.  And we want to provide social, economic, and environmental justice for those of our neighbors whose job it is to operate machinery that’s causing documented harms to their health.

QCDC is led by a number of prominent members of our community.  James Fallows, the well-known writer for The Atlantic, whose commentaries are frequently heard and seen on radio and television, is one of our founders.  Counted among our leadership group are current and former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, a former official of the Environmental Protection Agency, lawyers, educators, writers, and other professionals.

            We at QCDC initially were motivated to address the leaf blower problem because of the aggressive noise that over the past several years has become widespread and nearly year-round.  As we began to investigate the problems associated with gas-fueled blowers, we discovered how harmful their operation is to our hearing and our health.  One of the first lessons we learned is that the damage that gas blowers cause isn’t nearly understood or appreciated to the full extent it should be.

Today’s Community Roundtable is focused on noise.  For that reason, this Statement will likewise concentrate on the auditory component of the gas blower problem.  But for a more complete understanding of the other components of the problem – they include the health impacts of the dispersal of toxic materials into our breathable airspace; spillage of petroleum products and waste into our streets, lawns, and public spaces; and spewing of dangerous hydrocarbons and other pollutants into the environment -- let me refer you to QCDC’s web site

            For those who share our concern about this problem, rest assured that steps are being taken to address it.  As you know Chairman Bonds, a bill, B22-0234, has been introduced in the Council of the Whole by Council Member Cheh, with sponsorship from yourself and from Council Members Grosso, McDuffie, and Allen.  The bill would ban the sale and use of gas-burning leaf blowers in our city by January 1, 2022.  The bill is awaiting a hearing before the Committee of the Whole in order to move forward and public pressure is building for the hearing to be held.

            QCDC wants to take this occasion to thank you, Chairwoman Bonds, for your support of the bill.  We also thank all of the other sponsors of the bill, and the several other Council Members who’ve assured us of their support for the bill.

            So, what about the noise problem?  How serious is it, and what role do gas-powered leaf blowers play?

            Our research into the issue discloses the following salient facts:

  • ·      Gas-powered leaf blowers, especially the ones used by commercial lawn-service contractors -- most of them located in suburban Virginia or Maryland -- typically operate at decibel levels in the 80s, 90s, and above.  Those ratings are measured at a substantial distance from the leaf blower when it’s in operation.  The noise levels at the ears of the operator, just a few feet from the blower itself, are substantially higher.
  • ·      Federal workplace safety authorities have declared that 85 decibels, measured on what’s called the “A” scale, is the upper limit of safe human exposure to on-the-job noise.   However, that standard doesn’t take into account the length of exposure, nor does it consider exposure on the part of workers when they’re not in the workplace.
  • ·      A study published by Harvard University’s T. C. Chan School of Public Health states that for children, whose sensory and neural systems are still developing, the limit of safe noise exposure in an outdoor setting is 55 decibels . . . substantially below the workplace limit of 85 decibels.
  • ·      Because decibels are measured logarithmically, a sound recorded at 85 decibels has over 30 times the energy of a sound measuring 70 decibels.  So, what may appear to be relatively small incremental increases in decibel levels are in fact substantial increases in the impact upon the human organism.
  • ·      That same Harvard University study pointed out that the gas-burning leaf blower uniquely generates lower-frequency noise that travels farther than the blower’s middle-frequency and higher-frequency products.  The report concludes that these lower-frequency products aren’t adequately measured by the “A” scale that’s commonly used in noise research.

Further evidence comes from the Federal Centers for Disease Control which has recently published findings that hearing loss is the third most chronic health condition in the United States today.

  • ·       According to the CDC, almost twice as many people report suffering from hearing loss as report suffering from diabetes or cancer.  Significantly, the CDC reports that noise exposure away from one’s job can be as damaging as working in a noisy workplace.
  • ·      In fact, to quote from the CDC report: “Being around too much loud noise—like using a leaf blower or going to loud concerts—can cause permanent hearing loss.  And once it’s gone, you can’t get it back!”  [Emphasis added] In addition, according to the CDC, about 20% of adults who suffer from hearing loss have no job-related exposure to loud sounds; they’re getting it from the environment around them, other than where they work.  Leaf blowers are a major contributor to that environment.
  • ·      As it relates to health, the CDC reports that continued exposure to loud noise can cause hearing loss, high blood pressure, heart disease, stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • ·      How does this all relate to the gas-powered leaf blower?  That same CDC report concludes that as little as two hours of exposure to a leaf blower operating at 90 decibels can cause hearing damage.  Remember what I said at the outset: many gas-burning leaf blowers operate above the 85-decibel level . . . that’s measured at a substantial distance.  And without regard to the length of the exposure.

So, please think again about yourself or your neighbor:  you’re walking past a group of workers operating two, three, or four gas blowers in your immediate vicinity.  When multiple blowers are operating simultaneously, each one of them at or above the 85-decibel level, possibly substantially above that level, can you be certain that even a brief exposure won’t cause you some harm?  Are you far enough away from them to avoid damage?  How long are you exposed to that level of ear-shattering noise?  How many blowers are operating, at what decibel level, individually and collectively? Most especially, collectively?

Most important, this hearing is especially concerned about seniors, persons with disabilities, and others with illness and life threatening medical conditions regarding the effects that neighborhood noise can have on the quality of the life of those residents living in an urban environment. For seniors aging in place or in a long-term care facility, they cannot just walk away from this noise.  Persons with disabilities are hampered in moving quickly away from the noise.  And those already suffering from medical conditions will be doubly impacted by the health hazards arising from the micro particles emitted by gas-powered leaf blowers.  

Please also think about the workers who are operating those machines.  They’re not 50 or 70 feet away from the source of the noise, as the ratings-based numbers contemplate.  Their ears are no more than three or four feet away.  So, a gas blower whose decibel rating is 85 – measured from a significant distance – will actually be producing substantially higher levels of energy at the ear of the operators; substantially in excess of 85 decibels.  And for hours and hours on end, every work day.  Remember what the CDC said about that.  These unfortunate people are causing themselves enormous harm, simply from the noise component.  (Again, today we’re not addressing the other, non-auditory harms from the operation of gas-burning leaf blowers.)

And think some more about those workers.  They’re typically first-generation Americans who occupy a fragile foothold in our economy and society, far from the top.  They’re ambitious, hard-working, and reliable, but they frequently lack language skills; they may not fully comprehend the risks associated with the equipment that they’re using; they commonly fail to have access to, or use, hearing protection which would help mitigate the damage if used properly; and, in any event, they normally lack sufficient job security to enable them to assert their rights to work under safer conditions.

Thank you, again, Chairwoman Bonds and Members of this Committee, for this opportunity to present our concerns.  We look forward to continuing a dialogue with you and your staff as we move toward a safer, healthier, quieter, greener, and more equitable community to live, work, and enjoy.

Homeowner Survey: More Than Half Say They Would Switch to Electric Equipment

An ongoing theme in encouraging the shift from noisy, hyper-polluting, inefficient gas-powered yard equipment to modern battery-powered models is that this amounts to "accelerating the inevitable."

The change is inevitable, because these phenomenally dirty small two-stroke engines have been outlawed or abandoned in most other uses. And it can be accelerated, as with other clean technologies, through public standards that increase the market for battery-powered equipment and thus hasten the  improvements in cost and power that are already underway.

An industry consulting organization called The Farnsworth Group conducted a study recently on this shift. A summary of the findings is here; the graph below shows one important point, which is that most householders would already be willing to consider the change. 


The caveat, of course, is that the price and performance of electric equipment has to match that of the current dirty technology. This is a familiar story in other realms, for instance early resistance to cars with catalytic converters or that would use only unleaded gas. Public standards helped build in some of the environmental costs of those dirty technologies -- and also hastened research, production, and market size for cleaner alternatives, which in turn made them more affordable.