Sustainability Seconds: Review: “The Smart Way to Stay Warm this Winter”

Posted on January 03, 2022

Jan Sustainability Seconds Fb And Li

Here’s a quick recap from last month’s Sustainability Seconds: Our internet usage impacts the environment more than we probably realize, and we can implement several daily habits to reduce the impact that our online activities have on the environment. So, now that we know how to make better decisions when it comes to our internet usage, let’s take a look at other sustainable habits we can adopt!

Our second Sustainability Seconds blog dives into the article “The smart way to stay warm this winter” by Laura Cole. We are in the middle of winter in the US and staying warm is a challenge for many. Heating usually requires energy - a lot of it. In the United States, nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions come from heating and cooling residential housing. Another 15% comes from heating water. So, heating is by far one of the most carbon intensive daily needs that we have.

Why do our heating needs have such a high carbon footprint?

The answer is two-fold: (1) oil and gas burners are still primary sources of heating and are the most intensive of heating sources, and (2) many homes are inefficient at trapping heat which requires the heating source to work harder and longer to maintain the desired temperature. To fix these problems, we must each first look at how well our homes are trapping heat. There are a few signs you can look for to tell if your home could be losing heat to the external environment: (1) Feeling a draft of cold air around your windows or doors means that you are losing warm air to the outside and allowing cool air inside, (2) If you see visual gaps around outlets and fixtures, you are providing entryways for outside air to enter your home, and (3) If you look at your neighbor's house and see frost on their roof but do not see frost on your own roof, heat is likely escaping to your roof. Another way to determine where heat is exiting your home is by using a heat-sensitive camera to reveal where the most energy is being wasted.

How do you address heat loss in your home?

Nearly 15% of homes in the US were built before 1940 which means that many homes are not using modern, energy-efficient insulation materials. If you don’t want to retrofit your housing with these newer materials, easier fixes can still make a huge difference in energy savings. Making sure there are no gaps around windows and doors is a huge first step. If you are looking to replace your windows, make sure to use double-pane windows that provide a higher level of insulation than single-pane windows. Another simple fix is to add a reflector around your radiator. This will reflect about 95% of the heat being lost around the radiator.

One of the biggest differences we can each make is to turn down our thermostats by one degree. This small change will likely not have a huge impact on our every day lives, but if each of us were to make this change, the total energy savings could be massive! Using smart heating is also an option for those who spend much of the day away from home or where some rooms in the home are not used very often. Valves that lead to different rooms can be installed and opened/closed based on their use. If you’re going to be away from home and can either control your heating remotely or set a timer for it to come back on before you return, you can set your temperature lower while you’re gone to reduce the amount of energy being used during those times.

Whether you’re building a new home, renovating your current home, or just want to make a few minor changes to positively impact the environment or save money on your energy bill, there are several ways you can do so!

Other ways to reduce our carbon footprint related to heating.

Once the method of heat loss has been determined, it can be addressed. And once energy waste has been addressed, it’s time to think about heating your home with a more energy-efficient heating source. Changing your heating source is a larger commitment than improving your homes energy efficiency, but many countries are starting to phase out gas burners as a residential heating source. If you want to investigate other ways of heating your home, a few alternatives to natural gas or oil are solar thermal heating, ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps, biomass boilers, or direct electric heating (ordered from most environmentally friendly to least).

If you’re interested in other ideas for saving money on your energy bill or positively contributing to reducing your carbon footprint, click HERE.

When we all work together and make minor changes in our every day lives, we can come together and make a major impact on our planet! Tune in next month to discover more habits you can adopt to reduce your carbon footprint!