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Guest opinion: Examining myths about switching from gas to electric

Original post made on Oct 4, 2021

In a guest opinion, Josie Gaillard, a Menlo Park resident and Environmental Quality Commission member, writes about answers to frequently asked questions about switching from gas to electric.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, October 3, 2021, 8:23 AM

Comments (30)

Posted by Dave Boyce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 4, 2021 at 11:11 am

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

Apart from the decision about gas versus electric being out of my hands as a renter, I fault this opinion for skipping merrily past a principle reason people use gas: for cooking.

Maybe electric stoves today have somehow dispensed with the annoying on-again-off-again vibe, but until proven otherwise, electric stove tops are a poor and unwelcome substitute for cooking with gas. And cooking with gas outranks every other good reason for switching to electric.

That this opinion is silent on this point speaks volumes.


Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 4, 2021 at 11:48 am

Dagwood is a registered user.

It sounds like a good first step for the city would be to provide an assessment guide or service for people to understand their particular situation.


Posted by BscottB
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 4, 2021 at 12:41 pm

BscottB is a registered user.

Regarding gas vs. electric stove-top cooking, we currently have gas, and it's a much better cooking experience than traditional electric. However, induction cook-tops are available, are electric and, in my opinion, provide a superior experience to gas. Yes, one must use pots and pans which are compatible with induction, but those are widely available as well. If we had 240V line to where our stove is, I'd be happy switch to induction when our gas stove dies. We probably should get that line run before too long, in advance of the need arising.

My biggest concern about the new rule is cost: Not every homeowner has the means to spend thousands of dollars on the cost of modifying their house. I'm thinking about folks on fixed incomes such as retirees. I haven't researched what the details of the plans are, so maybe some financial assistance would be available for those situations?


Posted by Tom
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 4, 2021 at 4:33 pm

Tom is a registered user.

We really like our new Induction electric cook top. It's much faster, more controllable, safer and cleaner than our old gas cooktop. You can see a few different models including portable ones on pages 62-63 of this free guide. Web Link
They work great with any pot or pan that a magnet sticks to. We don't miss the smell of gas in the kitchen. We also really enjoy our electric heat pump space heat and cooling. It's a two way air conditioner that pumps heat into our house in the winter and out of our house in the summer. It's basically a reversible air conditioner.
I agree with cost conscious folks who notice that climate change unaddressed will be extremely costly for our children and that now is the time to pivot toward climate safe ways of meeting our needs. Also, there are a lot of co-benefits like improved lung health and better safety. Before calling fossil dependence cheap, we should try to understand it just pushes massive costs onto future generations. We should ask ourselves.... How might we do our part to start the transition away from fossil energy?


Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 4, 2021 at 5:38 pm

Westbrook is a registered user.

you make like electric stoves because you now own one, but I have a hard time believing anybody that cooks on a regular basis "prefers" electric over gas.

If you cook often enough there is no way adjusting the heat on an electric stove isn't more difficult to use than gas, I've tried both,


Posted by Kristin Hansen
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 4, 2021 at 6:43 pm

Kristin Hansen is a registered user.

We recently completed a remodel and opted to fully electrify as part of that process. We also added 28 solar panels and a Tesla Powerwall. For cooking (a "hot" topic on this thread, hah hah) we installed an all-induction range. We have an electric car and car charger on the house as well. We worked with emeraldECO (emeraldeco.com), who helped us navigate the whole process. Not all residents of Menlo Park can afford the upfront costs, but MANY high-end homeowners and remodelers in our neighborhood certainly can. I've suggested the city insert a step into the permitting process that advises permit filers on the costs and benefits of going electric, since I think many people just aren't educated about the process and would love to "do the right thing" if advised in a timely way. Just call emeraldECO if you want to contact me for advice / ideas - they can put you in touch with me directly!


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 4, 2021 at 7:12 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

I've cooked on electric and I've cooked on gas. Gas is far superior to traditional electric. I have not tried induction.

The primary problem that no one seems to want to talk about in gas vs electric is it costs significantly more to use electricity for all purposes. My PG&E is significantly less during the winter because we aren't using AC, which uses, you guessed it, electricity. My gas furnaces run about the same amount of time during the winter as the AC does during the summer, but my bill averages about HALF during the winter what it is in the summer. I can extrapolate what it would cost me to be cooking with electricity, heating water with electricity and heating the house with electricity. I cannot afford that kind of a utility bill.


Posted by Karen Grove
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 5, 2021 at 8:01 am

Karen Grove is a registered user.

Great point about this being a timed test. I have converted all my gas appliances to electric, and the last one I swapped out was my gas cooking stove, which I loved. I expected - and found - that there are more advantages to cooking on my new induction stove than there were to cooking on my beloved old gas stove. That said, the differences are small and forgettable now that I've adapted to the new stove. But back to that timed test. This test is not a matter of preference, but of survival. Thanks to Jose and the Environmental Quality Commission, Peninsula Clean Energy, climate scientist and activists for their action on this issue.


Posted by Angela
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 5, 2021 at 8:44 am

Angela is a registered user.

I'm a MP Environmental Quality Commissioner. I have a new, electric induction stove, and I absolutely love it. It's not like the electric stoves of prior decades; induction is different: it's faster, more efficient than gas, and cooks evenly and beautifully. This weekend I made tea, coffee, my kids' favorite Mac n Cheese, and homemade chicken soup. All of it was delicious and easy. Best of all, none of it released any methane (the main component of natural gas) into the atmosphere. Not to mention the total absence of toxic chemicals that are released when you burn methane on your stove. It's a win-win for my family.


Posted by Anneke
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2021 at 9:44 am

Anneke is a registered user.

Going from gas to electric is more than just buying new electric appliances.

I am still amazed as to how old-fashioned and outdated our above-the-ground power lines are. They are dangerous for fires, especially in the summer, and not reliable.

Two years ago in February we suffered through ten days of not having electricity in our home, because a windy weekend caused the sagging power lines in front of our home to hit each other and started a fire of the power lines, which then set of several small explosions in our home and in other homes. We lost the use of our furnace, the McCroskey electric bed, and our Kitchen Aid home appliance. The Utility Department denied all charges, even though some of the Utility crew members who worked for more then two weeks on tightening the power lines and cutting away branches that touched the power lines admitted that the sagging power lines and the lack of preventive efforts for not tightening those power lines were responsible for the electric power outage.

Many of the horrible fires in California were caused by power lines.

A good and solid electric infrastructure is key to the success of changing from gas to electric.


Posted by bandit
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 5, 2021 at 9:58 am

bandit is a registered user.

re: moving to all electric
I hope some organization is doing a survey of housing stock by year of construction or by building code. The core of my house was built in 1955 and still has "knob and tube" wiring, i.e., ceramic insulators, wires are soldered at a junction, wire insulation is a tar-like substance covered with a cloth sheath. An expensive upgrade will force owners to repair inefficient appliances instead of installing STAR-type new appliances. I am in favor of NEW homes going electric, but we need to understand the entire City full of old buildings.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 5, 2021 at 10:41 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Angela:

I'm happy for you. It was YOUR choice. You still don't address the added cost for power vs gas when going all electric. No one that's in favor of the change seems to want to acknowledge it is more expensive to run on all electric.


Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2021 at 1:39 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

As with most microwave ovens, I’ve noticed some induction “burners” cycle power delivery on and off every few seconds when set to their lower power levels (e.g. for simmering at, say, 20% power, the burner is continuously cycled between on for 1 second, and off for 4 seconds instead of running at a constant 20% power level like one can do with a gas burner).

Anyone know which induction range burners deliver constant power vs. cycling?


Posted by Rvengosh
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 5, 2021 at 3:34 pm

Rvengosh is a registered user.

We remodeled our house 2 years ago and moved to an induction range. Let me tell you this: it's awesome!

The absolute fastest way to boil water. Instantaneous one / off. Precise temperature control. AND, importantly, so much easier to clean than the high end gas range we had before. Changing to induction has been a great decision, and we're never going back.

More broadly, climate change is a global emergency. We can't sit around and wait for others to figure this out. The lives of future generations and the habitability of our planet is at stake. We need decisive climate action now, and I for one 100% support the push to full electrification. I will use my vote on election day to support those that understand the urgent need and act accordingly.

Electrify everything!


Posted by Angela
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 5, 2021 at 3:41 pm

Angela is a registered user.

Thank you. Just responding to a question received about the cost of running electric stoves. It's worth noting that, while there is always an upfront cost of purchasing a new appliance, I think the math should also include these two points: 1) induction is far more efficient than gas cooking, therefore using less total power, and this will also impact your utility bill for the better; 2) the cost of natural gas is expected to increase considerably in the future, making the natural gas status quo even more expensive relative to electric alternatives. There are also hidden costs of gas usage not priced into the system that should be included in any meaningful cost/benefit analysis, especially for families with children or immunocompromised individuals. Children who grow up with gas stoves are 42% more likely to develop asthma than children who do not do so; the average costs for asthma medications are thousands per year (not including co-pays or trips to urgent care for possible asthma-related emergencies). The impact of asthma (and the other respiratory and cardiac diseases associated with methane fumes) also pose qualitative, quality-of-life costs. At present, my induction stove is a multi-burner plug-in version that cost me about $200. There were less expensive versions of this unit available, but I chose this one because it came recommended on a review site I frequent. My plan is to offset that $200 cost by no longer using gas on my stove and cooking everything faster, with less total power. Stay tuned for how long that takes, but I suspect I'll hit break even before too long. In the meantime, every time I turn it on, I feel happy that I'm no longer filling our kitchen with toxic fumes. All of that said, you are right that this was definitely my personal choice. Ordinances being proposed by the MP Commission focused on water heaters and HVAC systems only (not stoves).


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 5, 2021 at 7:51 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Thank you Angela:

but heating water and the house with electricity is much more expensive than doing it with gas. Perhaps it's cheaper to cook with induction vs gas, The other two are not.


Posted by Slc
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 5, 2021 at 7:57 pm

Slc is a registered user.

What an excellent article. Informative and accurate. We recently electrified our entire house and find all our electric appliances to be far superior to the gas appliances that we were previously using. In particular, we especially appreciate our electric ductless mini-split heat pump HVAC system, our induction cooktop, and our electric water heater. If anyone is considering electrification, I highly recommend it! And we have knob and tube wiring throughout most of our house and have had zero issues. Plus we are saving so much money compared to heating and cooking with gas - the electric appliances are far more efficient so we are saving money in addition to having excellent indoor air quality! And not supporting fracking feels wonderful.


Posted by Angela
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 5, 2021 at 8:16 pm

Angela is a registered user.

Thank you for bringing up cost. It's a big deal and definitely worth vetting. Glad you brought it up because you're hitting on something very important for so many of us.

Actually, electric heat pump water heaters and heat pump HVAC are substantially more efficient than their gas alternatives. Therefore, operating those appliances should save people money on their utility bills every month.

The upfront costs of acquiring new appliances, though, are real but can be managed as follows: Peninsula Clean Energy and BayREN are offering rebates on new electric appliance upfront costs to make those roughly the same cost as their gas alternatives. Note that there are a range of model choices and options at different price points so it's important to choose efficient models that are appropriate for the space being covered. The policy proposed by the Commission would essentially target these appliances at burn out (at time of permit), when the homeowner has to get a new appliance anyways. Also note that homes 3,000 sq feet or less can be fully electrified without upgrading electrical panels (another cost concern I'm hoping we can put to rest for most people in MP).


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 6, 2021 at 9:22 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Angela:

a heat pump heater is just an air conditioner working in reverse. The cost of operation is the same whether it is producing heat or cooling. It's still 220 volts at between 30 and 50 amps. That is a substantial amount of power.


Posted by Angela
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 7, 2021 at 11:31 am

Angela is a registered user.

Menlo Voter: A heat pump is actually not just an air conditioner working in reverse, but it is *both* a heater and an air conditioner. A small valve inside the heat pump enables refrigerant to run one way (for heating) and the opposite way (for cooling). It's a great two-in-one piece of equipment and from that perspective, so much more cost effective than a gas furnace plus a separate air conditioner. Your statement about the range of amps for heat pumps is not accurate, but I understand your confusion. Your information is just outdated. Many people in Menlo Park are installing variable speed heat pumps like this 3-ton unit that hooks right into your existing ductwork and uses just 17 amps of current on a 240-volt circuit: Web Link You can still certainly *find* equipment that is much worse in term of power efficiency, using the very high 50 amps you stated in your range, but it's best to avoid such equipment, especially if you are trying to make the most of your existing electrical panel. And so, to restate your comment with corrected fact, the true range in amperage for a good-sized heat pump for most homes in Menlo Park is 15 to 50 amps.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 7, 2021 at 1:24 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Angela:

I am a builder. I know perfectly well what a heat pump is and I know they work in both directions which is why I know they cost the same to run whether they are providing cooling or heating. And that cost is significantly MORE than gas heat. I currently have two 3 ton units for cooling. It costs me significantly more to cool my house during the summer than it does to heat it using the same air handlers. The difference being what is providing the heat and what is providing cooling. Heat is by gas and cooling by electricity. My bill is significantly higher (almost double) during the summer when I'm using electricity for cooling instead of gas for heat.

Your contention that a heat pump system is more "cost effective" than a gas furnace and electrical AC is correct as far as it goes. As far as it goes is for the purchase of the equipment. Both systems use an air handler and an AC(heat pump) compressor. The difference being that the heat pump system's air handler doesn't have a gas furnace built into it. That is where the savings lie. Of course that savings is quickly eaten up by the added electrical cost of running a heat pump system for heating.

You can try to dress it up as nice as you want, but you continue to ignore the fact that heating with electricity costs MORE than heating with gas. Until the cost of heating with gas catches up with the cost of electricity, I will have no interest in spending the money to change to a heat pump system. Unless someone wants to give me a solar system for free.


Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 7, 2021 at 2:41 pm

Westbrook is a registered user.

Angela, Where did you get those numbers, I find 42% to be ridiculous, Please quote your study,

"Children who grow up with gas stoves are 42% more likely to develop asthma than children who do not do so; the average costs for asthma medications are thousands per year (not including co-pays or trips to urgent care for possible asthma-related emergencies). The impact of asthma (and the other respiratory and cardiac diseases associated with methane fumes) also pose qualitative, quality-of-life costs."

Also where and what induction stove did you buy for $200? cmon man!


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 7, 2021 at 7:39 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Angela:

I have to piggy back on Westbrooks' question. Exposure to methane and CO from a gas stove may have been true long ago. Now we have hoods above our ranges that pull in a significant amount of air. Anywhere from 600 cfm (cubic feet per minute) to 1200 cfm. In some cases, 1500 cfm. Along with that goes any unburned methane (not much), CO, C02 and any other products of combustion like water. It is then ejected outside the home where it mixes in with millions of cubic feet of fresh air. Just where does this exposure to methane, CO, etc. occur? It's not inside the house, it's being drawn out of the house before it can move around inside the house. If the exposure is occurring outside, far more of those gasses are being produced by automobiles and trucks than the small amount produced by a stove. Your "statistic" sounds like the kind of made up stuff companies selling electric cooktops or ranges would put out to convince you to buy their product.


Posted by Angela
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 7, 2021 at 8:19 pm

Angela is a registered user.

Westbrook:

You asked for the source for the asthma stats I quoted:

Weiwei Lin, Bert Brunekreef, and Ulrike Gehring, “Meta-analysis of the effects of indoor nitrogen dioxide and gas cooking on asthma and wheeze in children,” International Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 42, Issue 6, (December 2013): 1724–1737, Web Link

-and-

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. “Asthma Facts and Figures.” Accessed July 23, 2020. www.aafa.org/asthma- facts/.

You also asked about the cooktop I purchased for $200:

Duxtop Induction Burner (2 burner). It's a plug in. I'm using it for my family of four, though obviously a larger version would cost more. There are also 3-burner plug-in options (by other brands), and/or you could purchase two Duxtop plug ins for a total of $400. Not everyone wants a portable one like I do, but this one works uniquely well in our space, looks attractive (I think), and cleans up in a snap. It has a built in fan, an emergency shut-off feature, and a lock feature to protect children. I haven't had to turn the gas stove back on once since it arrived, and I've been cooking on it 2-3x/day almost every day. Others may prefer fancier, higher-end options, but we're content with this.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 7, 2021 at 8:31 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Angela:

your link doesn't work.


Posted by Angela
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 7, 2021 at 8:37 pm

Angela is a registered user.

Menlo Voter: It's good to know that you are a builder.

In may be that we don't come to the same conclusion on these matters in the end, but I'm OK with that. I think the dialogue is helpful and productive.

Since you have raised the issue of operating cost, below is the way I'm approaching the math. I know that you know much of this already so please forgive any material you already know (as was also the case in my above comments). Please know that I'm including that for others who may not have the benefit of your building background.

We know that typical gas furnaces run at an efficiency of roughly 80%, meaning for every 100 BTUs of energy in, we get 80 BTUs out. However, most modern heat pump HVAC systems have a co-efficient of performance (COP) of greater than 3.0, meaning for every 100 BTUs of energy in, we get 300+ BTUS out. Now I compare the operating costs for those two pieces of equipment: a gas furnace and a heat pump. The gas furnace might use 360 therms of gas in a year, which costs roughly $540 and translates into 36,000,000 BTUs. To produce equivalent heat and comfort, the Mitsubishi unit I mentioned in my last post, with an HSPF of 11.7 or COP of 3.4, would use just 8,470,588 BTUs. That's less than one quarter the amount of energy to heat the same house with electrify versus gas. The annual bill: $570, basically a wash. And so, yes, while gas is cheaper than electricity on a $ per BTU basis, the significantly lower number of BTUs needed to heat the house cancel out the higher cost of electricity on a unit basis. Thus: using a heat pump to heat your house costs about the same as heating it with a gas furnace.

I'm all about dialogue as long as we all continue to keep it friendly (as you and I have both have done, thank you). I've seen it get out of hand with others on other sites. I'm also willing to agree to disagree on this topic; I'm sharing what I've learned from the electrification folks on my end.


Posted by Angela
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 7, 2021 at 8:43 pm

Angela is a registered user.

MenloVoter: Thanks for letting me know that the link didn't work. Trying again here below. If that doesn't work, you can also copy and paste the entire citation (below) into the Internet Explorer browser, and the relevant National Institute of Health page will come up as the first search result.

Web Link

Weiwei Lin, Bert Brunekreef, and Ulrike Gehring, “Meta-analysis of the effects of indoor nitrogen dioxide and gas cooking on asthma and wheeze in children,” International Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 42, Issue 6, (December 2013): 1724–1737

Thanks for engaging on these topics and helping us clarify. I'm going to have to sign off for the evening, but please know that I appreciate your engagement on this topic.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 8, 2021 at 8:28 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Angela:

Typical gas furnaces may be or have been in the past 80% efficiency, but there are furnaces available now which are much higher efficiency. As high as 98%. Using those furnaces is significantly cheaper than using electricity to heat. High efficiency water heaters as high as 98% are also available. They work much better than any electric water heaters, including heat pump water heaters, at least in terms of recovery rates. Electric water heaters have abysmal recovery rates. It's a safe bet they will heat water less expensively than electric water heaters. When using gas heaters that are nearly 100% efficient makes your math not work.

Also, based on my experience, it's not "a wash". As I've said, I spend significantly more money cooling my house than heating. If I was heating with a heat pump my bill would be the same winter and summer. Higher.

Many homes will need a service upgrade for the added power needs of going all electric, especially if you add electric vehicles to that load. Yes, there are various work arounds, but that is not really a good thing to do. In my opinion it's not doing things the "right way" and that's the way I build. Service upgrades are not cheap, especially if they involve upgrades to the PG&E feed. If all you have to do is up size over head conductors it can run $5,000 or more. If it's underground, you can plan on it being at least $25,000 as it will require trenching, installation of larger conduits, backfilling and street patching. And that's for shorter distances. The further the meter panel is from the pole the more it costs. It averages around $35,000.

Of course, if a home has solar, then all electric appliances is a no brainer, but many people don't have solar. Many people can't afford to add it and many people live in condos or townhouses that can't put their solar on the common roof so are precluded from solar, thus having to pay the ridiculously high electrical prices for heating and cooking.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 8, 2021 at 8:48 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Angela:

your link worked and I read the abstract. The problem is that as far as I can tell it is simply an analysis of simple data, i.e. asthma and gas cooking in the home. If that's all it is then it is not conclusive as it doesn't take into account what kind of gas cooking was being used, how old the homes were, what kind of ventilation the homes had and what kind of range hoods the homes had. These are all very important to an analysis of the actual effects. If most of the people were living in old homes with poor ventilation and poor hood fume evacuation I would expect a higher exposure to products of combustion. Modern homes are not built that way. They have adequate ventilation and they have good evacuation of cooking products of combustion. Therefor, I would posit, there is very little exposure to the products of combustion in these homes. I wouldn't hang my hat on this study until having the information above. I would be very surprised to see higher rates of asthma in children living in more modern homes. It's similar to lead exposure from paint. That is almost exclusively occurring in much older, poorly maintained homes with peeling lead based paint that gets consumed by children. Doesn't happen in homes built post 1978.


Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 8, 2021 at 8:58 am

new guy is a registered user.

we are no longer a "serious" people.

all the time, effort, money, "funded" research: into what is basically a LAST MILE problem on the global pollution scale.

think about all the real things we could actually do to lessen the effect of population on Menlo Park that would have a larger bang for buck than electrifying homes...

here is my short list:

1. stop running empty multi ton diesel locomotives EMPTY through our town until people start commuting to SF again (use the savings to run a few shuttle vans for those that need to go somewhere Caltrain actually takes them).

2. install intelligent traffic lights - weird how I can scale my apps instantly for traffic, but for actual physical traffic, this is somehow considered "difficult" --- I know this is different, but it is an interesting topic, given that the state demands us add more housing/people, without adding capacity. there are actually limits to what roads can handle, intersections can sustain before gridlock.

3. instead of putting electric appliances first, how about we do solar first? (HINT: maybe the funding for that nice glossy report was paid for by the electric company trade) if we did solar first, overtime people would easily choose "on their own" electric appliances b/c they would already be generating the power for them.


not allowed to list: what the top thing MP could do to lessen pollution/effect/harm to planet would be to have less people... but we are not allowed to say that. no amount of optimizing gas/elec/water can compete with the effect of more people.


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