How To Heat Our Homes Without Hurting The Climate
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic is seemingly drawing to a close, living, working and learning at home is set to continue. Under this new normal, home electricity use is expected to double by 2050. Simultaneously, as climate change devastates communities around the world, we are faced with a moral and economic obligation to cut CO2 emissions from houses. Our goal is to build Net Zero houses and we can't get there fast enough.
Fossil fuels use in heating systems
Many countries continue to rely on coal, oil, or gas to power their heating systems. Continuing to rely on these fossil fuels, to keep us warm through harshening winters and cool throughout intensifying summers, simply adds to CO2 emissions.
In fact, households account for 72% of global greenhouse gas emissions and energy-intensive HVAC systems are a core contributor to this. Whether you live in a hot or cold country, the result is the same - unsustainable carbon emissions. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning is the inception point for homes to become sustainable.
Sustainable standards in the home
Regulation is already driving change in countries like the United Kingdom and the Netherlands
It’s crucial that efforts to cut emissions don’t also cut living standards. Turning the heating off and suffering through the cold just isn’t an acceptable solution. The priority should be to cut emissions, not necessarily power consumption. Therefore, the use of clean energy for heating and cooling, as well as heating with ambient heat and heat pumps, could be an effective solution.
Regulation is already driving change in countries like the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. In these countries, fossil fuels are being banned where more sustainable, renewable alternatives are available, chiefly for powering homes. Some countries use other mitigation strategies: in California, for example, all new homes must be fitted with solar panels by law.
Heat pumps popular in Europe
As another way to sustainably power homes, heat pumps have already proven extremely popular in Europe, especially in Scandinavian nations. Electricity in these countries is already generated mainly by climate-friendly wind and hydropower.
According to calculations by Fraunhofer ISE, heat pump systems in Sweden generate 90% fewer carbon emissions, in comparison to heating systems that rely on natural gas.
Electrical vehicle (EV) charging
However, renewable generation alone won’t be enough. When the wind isn’t blowing or the sun shining, renewable energy sources can suffer intermittency issues.
Sadly, we’re not yet at the point, when all our domestic power needs can depend on renewable energy
Electrical vehicle (EV) charging, which is becoming more popular, is a heavy load and expensive to charge at peak times. This can force us to switch back to traditional carbon-based sources when our power needs outstrip supply.
Sadly, we’re not yet at the point, when all our domestic power needs can depend on renewable energy. At least, not without assistance from digital technology.
Sustainable smart home technology
To decisively cut emissions in the home, clean energy must be paired with the use of sustainable smart home technology. IoT-connected sensors and intelligent systems can provide the deep insight that we need to make impactful and responsible energy decisions.
Effective energy management is central to efforts to decarbonize our dwellings. A lot of the energy consumed by HVAC is inevitably wasted, either through forgetting to turn it off, when it’s no longer needed, or heating rooms that aren’t occupied for most of the day. Preventing this becomes much easier, once you have visibility and control through smart energy management systems.
Smart systems enable efficient renewable energy use
Any home can be digitally retrofitted to become more efficient. Once energy is made visible through digital and IoT (Internet of Things), only then it can be measured and analyzed. Consumers are then empowered to make small changes to their consumption habits, to reduce wasted energy and its resulting emissions.
Smart systems can also facilitate more efficient use of renewable energy sources. When all smart systems are interconnected under one platform, AI algorithms can automatically adjust what source the house draws energy from.
Combining digital retrofits, energy storage, and management
When a home has access to energy storage technology, it can store up excess power generated by renewable sources
When a home has access to energy storage technology, it can store up excess power generated by renewable sources, which can be used later, when the power demand is high. This ensures that non-renewable energy sources are only tapped, when absolutely necessary.
By combining digital retrofits, energy storage, and robust AI-powered energy management solutions, we can decarbonize our HVAC systems and our homes. A smart, connected approach to consumption can keep us warm in winter and cool in summer, without impacting the biodiversity around us.
Smart homes: Powering change
As our homes become fitted with more advanced IoT-connected devices, the ability to effectively manage our homes’ energy needs is indisputable. To keep costs and emissions down, a secure interoperable power management system is crucial, to becoming more sustainable and enhancing our quality of life.
Businesses and governments need to ensure that people have the freedom to make sustainable living choices within the home, which don’t undermine living standards.