Greener Home Heating and Cooling

Green Tips | January 29, 2018

Heating accounts for 56% of domestic energy use and plays an understated role in climate change and energy efficiency. It’s time to reassess our heating and cooling technologies—both for frigid cold and sweltering heat waves.  Here are four options to consider when you look at your utilities bill, which can help green your home or building and increase energy efficiency:

1) Energy audit your home or apartment. An energy audit done by a professional will give you an assessment of your energy expenditure as well as any inefficiencies that can be remedied. If you prefer, you can do it yourself: inspect your ventilation, air leaks, insulation, heating and cooling equipment, monitor your light usage, and unplug appliances and electronics when not in-use. If you’re looking for an alternative to your itchy fiberglass insulation, try Quiet Duct Wrap: recycled denim fabric from landfills. It’s the same insulation and environmentally sustainable, minus the itch.

2)  Investigate large-scale options for community and building energy efficiency. If you live in an apartment building, ask about interest in solar collectors. Solar collectors, crafted by Chromasun, heat water up to 400 degrees, allowing for the heating of the building, or the fueling of air conditioners to cool it. Solar energy systems allow for large-scale heating efficiency, and may be of particular interest to universities and large organizations. UC Santa Monica, for instance, has already invested in this technology. This technology can heat entire buildings, and—with tax rebates—makes investing in solar energy efficient on a large scale, which isn’t always the case for an individual-unit or home.

Ice energy can help improve the efficiency of air conditioning systems as a whole. By generating 450 gallons of ice, and leaving it to cool in six-hour intervals, the Ice Bear system allows air conditioners to cool your home without using an air conditioning compressor. Ice energy saves money on electricity and greens your building.

3) Investigate the possibility of integrating active or passive green heating systems into your home—passive meaning the efficiency systems are inbuilt in your home; active meaning the introduction of other technologies to facilitate efficiency (solar panels, geothermal energy, and others). While oil prices continue to fluctuate, bioheat might be a good alternative. Bioheat uses biofuels originating from sustainable crops such as wheat, corn, sugarcane, and soybeans to generate energy. By pairing a lesser percentage of biofuel (e.g. 20%) with natural gas, bioheat users can save money and green their home.

4) Evaluate the efficiency of your heating system. Heat pumps have higher start-up costs than conventional heating systems, but pay for themselves over time. Geothermal heat pumps use the constant temperature of water beneath the earth’s surface, between 42 and 80 degrees, to heat or cool a house as needed. When it’s cold, the pump imports water that is hot compared to the outside temperatures. When warm, the pump brings in the water, which is cool, in contrast to the outside world. Some pumps are purely geothermal, and others use electricity to heat your home when it’s over 35-degrees. In either case, these pumps provide alternatives to on-grid electricity and reduce your environmental impact.

Whatever you find in your own research about your home or apartment, consider the source of your energy. If we are using electricity produced from coal-burning repositories, our energy still is not sustainable. Choose a clean energy provider, if you don’t already have one. In this vein of thought, methods such as clean coal, wherein scientists use carbon from coal to remove oxygen from water. This process generates energy that fuels turbines, creating electricity.

To really get a sense of the environmental impact of your home, get some metrics to assess the sustainability of your residence. After you do your research, you will have a better sense of which of the above-mentioned, non-comprehensive list of options is best for you.

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