According to NASA, 2016 has been the warmest year on record. That’s an incredible claim, only to be dwarfed by the understanding that the top-10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998. The significance of that information should not go unnoticed.
The world is changing, and its likely because of us. We don’t really know what the outcomes of climate change will be; but we can follow current trends in climate change to help predict what will happen if we don’t work together for change. Weather will be more and more unpredictable; arable land, and where it is, may change; industries and entire countries will look drastically different due to rising sea levels coupled with intense droughts.
It’s disheartening, but it shouldn’t be- it ought to be motivating.
Don’t Be Discouraged! Solutions Are NOT Out Of Reach
There’s one area in our lives that we can directly impact our carbon footprint and influence on the environment: where we live.
Our homes are, historically, one of the biggest areas where the common person uses the most energy and resources. If you live in Canada, for example, you’ll spend quite a lot of the year using either natural gas or electricity (which is likely derived from either coal or natural gas) to heat your home during the winter months. If you live in Mexico, instead of heat you may be using electricity to power your air conditioner. Optimizing the energy consumption of our homes is a great first step in lowering man’s carbon footprint.
Three Energy-Efficient Technologies For Your Home
Investing into home energy efficiency pays off for you, as well as for the environment. If you find yourself looking to move or are in the process of building a new home, investing into home efficiency will not only reduce your resource usage (and thus lower your contribution to climate change), but also reduce your heating and cooling costs.
1. Better Insulation Around Your Home’s Foundation & Building Envelope.
There are several ways to reduce energy usage, and one of the best is having good insulation. A highly-insulated home will stay warmer in the winter or cooler in the summer than a home that lacks proper insulation. The result of this could save you hundreds, or even thousands of dollars in energy costs.
Two popular ways to improve your insulation are:
Using insulating concrete forms (ICF) for the foundation and exterior walls – Not only are ICF systems more durable than traditional construction methods, but they are much more energy efficient. ICF systems use insulation on either side of the wall and act as the form for the concrete.
Walls built using ICF systems have R-values of R-22 or higher. Compared to a typical wall, which has an average R-value of R-13 (or lower), ICF walls are nearly twice as insulating.
A recent study from the Portland Cement Association found than homes with ICF exterior walls required 44% less energy to heat and 32% less energy to cool. Additionally, the concrete acts as a giant heatsink that helps regulate temperatures. This quality provides an estimated 6% of the energy needed to heat/cool your home, and it does so for free.
Double-stud wood framed walls. Double-stud wooden walls are a cost-effective option that are significantly more efficient than traditional wooden walls. Built properly, a double-stud wall can have an R-value of R-30 or more.
2. Using Solar to Generate & Store Power
The Tesla Powerwall is a prime example of solar being used on the small scale to benefit homeowners. While its initial cost may currently be high for some, its price will come down as it gains maturity in the market.
Tesla’s latest iteration – the Powerwall 2 – stores 13.5 kWh of energy and is designed to natively incorporate solar generation from SolarCity’s solar panels (and others).
The benefits that the Powerwall offers are obvious: by generating power via solar, and storing it for when needed, you can greatly reduce the energy demands your home places on your local power company. Given that most electricity generated in North America comes from either natural gas or coal, this translates directly into reduced fossil fuel consumption.
Tesla’s Powerwall is certainly the face of the industry, but it is not the only solution available. More affordable options from other companies, such as LG, exist at varying levels of storage and capability.
If you like the idea of reducing your environmental footprint without making major sacrifices to your lifestyler, a solution like the Powerwall presents a strong value proposition.
3. Convert to Net-Zero: Save Money & Carbon
Not an inexpensive proposition, making the switch to a net zero home is a serious undertaking that comes with a higher upfront cost than a traditional home. On the flip side, a net-zero home also comes with a host of benefits.
What is a “Net Zero” Energy Home?
According to Effect Home Builders, a Net Zero energy home is a home that produces as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis.
Benefits of a net zero home are not insignificant: Reduced power consumption dramatically lowers energy requirements; improvements in rooftop solar and other at-home power generation technologies greatly reduce, if not completely eliminate, the amount of electricity that the home purchases from the grid. The incorporation of modern insulation and energy efficiency techniques means that the home costs almost nothing to keep comfortable, dramatically reducing annual heating and cooling costs.
Currently, there’s a bit of a premium to get into a net zero home. However, increased demand will continue to drive down costs. Costs for these homes are already low enough that they’re worth investigating, especially if you’re in the market for a new home.
More is Always on the Horizon
One thing is for sure: the global effort to reduce our impacts on climate change is accelerating. The Paris agreement is one example, and the ambitious and expeditious climate initiatives being undertaken by countries all over the world are other examples. This is a problem that people are finally starting to take seriously.
Remember: you always have the ability to influence your energy use, even if it means simply throwing a bit more insulation around. The world – and your pocketbook – will be better for it.