Catastrophic Climate Change: We Caused It; We're Going to Have to Fix It.
Housing is a climate issue. -- Colin Miller
For most of us, this is the second largest component of our personal GHG emissions - heating, cooling,
otherwise maintain the comfort level in our homes, be they houses, apartments or whatever. Various forms
of energy may be used for these functions: electricity, heating oil, natural gas, propane, wood or other
biomass, sunlight, geothermal, etc. Each of these brings its own efficiency and GHG-emissions story.
One way to improve household comfort doesn't require a continuous input of energy. That's improving
the tightness of the building envelope and upgrading insulation. These measures will reduce your
explicit energy use for both heating and cooling. In my opinion, this is where we should all start -
reducing our actual energy consumption by reducing the amount of energy escaping from our homes. Energy
you are probably paying for with after-tax dollars. If your marginal income tax rate is 33%, then
saving $67 on your energy bill is worth about $100 of earned income. For most of us, such savings
are available, and at a lower cost than the available annual savings. Start with behavioural changes
(no out of pocket costs) like remembering to turn off lights and close doors and windows properly.
Get some inexpensive draft-stopper materials and reduce the drafts in your house. A draft is
where energy is leaving your house. When you choose to change window coverings, get some with
insulating properties which touch the interior window frame. If it's a sun-facing window and summer
heating is an issue for you, find a window covering with a reflective or light coloured lining to
reduce the heat gain when the coverings are drawn on hot, sunny days. So many other possibilities.
In general, reducing your energy use will reduce your costs and your GHG emissions.
Of the energy sources typically used to power houses, to my knowledge, only sunlight has the distinct
advantage of being free. All you need is a sun-facing window, and you can produce heat. More
sophisticated solar energy systems typically require some equipment installation cost, but after that,
the solar fuel is free. Not just free financially, but free of GHG emissions. Different energy
forms have different GHG emissions factors associated with them. Coal is high, heating oil is less, natural gas is still less,
electricity is usually even less, biomass is likely near zero and solar is zero. Look into the potential
for switching to a lower GHG-intensity energy source when appropriate (e.g. a furnace is approaching
end of life), or supplementing a fossil fuel with a solar energy heating system to reduce your
use of priced energy.