In our Part 1 blog post, we talked about why adopting energy efficiency, shifting our energy demand, increasing our use of renewable energy, and increasing electrification are important. In this Part 2 blog post, we’ll show you how you can take each of these 4 actions.
Here’s how you can reduce carbon emissions associated with your home energy use:
1) Adopt Energy Efficiency in Your Home
Most households can reduce up to 30% of their energy use by adopting energy efficiency. Your home uses energy in a variety of different ways, some end uses of the home use more energy than others, some are easier/ or cheaper to address than others, some require an energy professional to install, and some provide quicker ROI than others. Here’s the breakdown:
Behaviors (impact all categories)
- Fact: It costs $0 to adopt energy efficient behaviors, but it can lead to up to 27% in energy savings! Simple behaviors like remembering to turn off lights, washing your clothes with cold water, and maintaining the thermostat setpoints of 68F during the winter and 78F during the summer, can yield significant utility bills savings.
- Fun fact: taking shorter showers not only conserves water, it also reduces energy use. This is because of something called the energy-water nexus. Water and energy are tied together because water is used in the production of nearly every major energy source. Likewise, energy is used in multiple ways and at multiple steps in water delivery and treatment systems, as well as wastewater collection and treatment. So when you take a long hot shower you are wasting both water and the energy (often natural gas).
- Action: Print this energy behavior change checklist, commit to at least one action, and post it to your Refrigerator as a reminder.
- Product: You can use MeterLeader to motivate your friends, families, co-workers by creating a group energy savings challenge.
Heating & Cooling (46% of total usage)
- Fact: Air sealing an old or especially drafty house can save more than 20% on heating and cooling bills. Many older homes, and some new ones, have numerous little cracks, holes, and spaces through which warm air escapes during the winter, and unwanted hot air enters in the summer. All these little drafts of air result in you setting your thermostat higher in the winter, and lower in the summer in order to compensate, which leads to higher utility bills year-round.
- Action: Doors and windows even when closed are a common source of air leakage. Luckily weatherstripping is an easy and cheap way to seal these air leaks. Weather stripping is a thin piece of metal, vinyl, rubber, felt or foam that seals the area between the fixed and movable sections of a window or door. Once you’ve identified where the air leaks are coming from, choose a type of weatherstripping that will suit your location, clean the area where you will be placing the weather stripping, and begin installing the weather stripping according to the manufacturer instructions.
- Product: Use this essential guide to weatherstripping to do some DIY weatherstripping at home.
In addition to sealing air leaks, you can also improve efficiency of heating and cooling in your home by adding more insulation and upgrading your HVAC equipment to an electric heat pump. While you might be willing to make these upgrades yourself, it is generally recommended to have an energy professional make these installations. The best way to get energy upgrades done to your home is to first get a holistic home energy audit done. Many utilities sponsor free or deeply discounted home energy audits. During a home energy audit an energy professional will be able to pinpoint the areas where there is an opportunity to save energy, and will also be able to identify any potential health and safety hazards.
Water Heating (13% of total usage)
- Fact: Cut your water heating energy use by up to 50% by proactively replacing your old water heater (over 10 years old) with a new Electric Heat Pump Water Heater. Many homeowners miss out on this opportunity because they fail to adequately plan for a new water heater in advance of their old water heater breaking.
- Action: Take note of how old your current water heater is, and begin planning in advance for your future new water heater. Complete this quiz to determine if your home is equipped to handle a Heat Pump Water Heater.
- Product: Check out this heat pump water heater buying guide.
Appliances (12% of total usage)
- Fact: Clothes Dryers, Refrigerators, and Clothes Washers are the three largest appliance energy end uses.
- Action: Take note of how old your current appliances are, and start planning for new energy efficient appliances (especially if any of them are over 10 years old). Even if your old appliances haven’t broken yet, it could be costing you more in utility bills.
- Product: ENERGY STAR Most Efficient certified appliances are in the top tier of energy efficiency. You can easily search through Most Efficient products here.
Lighting (12% of total usage)
- Fact: The average American home has up to 50 light bulb sockets and about 60% of them still contain an inefficient light bulb. LED light bulbs are 90% more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last 15 times as long.
- Action: Do an audit of all the light bulbs in your home and replace any halogen or incandescents with LED bulbs. Use this guide to help you figure out which type of light bulb shape and color is best for your application.
- Product: The Best LED Bulbs for every room in your house in 2020.
Electronics (12% of total usage)
- Fact: Electronic devices in standby mode still consume energy if they are plugged in – this is known as vampire energy or phantom energy. In a typical household phantom power accounts for about 10% of the entire electricity bill.
- Action: Plug your electronic devices into an advanced power strip. You’ll most likely need one advanced power strip for your home entertainment center and a second for your home office.
- Product: Check out Tricklestar Advanced Powerstrips
- Fact: Your pool pump could be your home’s second largest energy user, costing you as much as $560 in energy every year.
- Act: Check to see what kind of pool pump you currently have. If it is not an ENERGY STAR certified variable speed pool pump, consider purchasing a new ENERGY STAR certified pool pump.
- Product: A list of ENERGY STAR certified variable speed pool pumps can be found here.
If you are considering making any large upgrades, before purchasing any equipment make sure to first check your utility’s website. Many of the energy upgrades listed above have available rebates offered by your utility provider. You can find these on your utility company’s website. PG&E offers rebates here. In addition, make sure to check if there are any available state or federal tax credits as well.
Reducing Energy Use in Your Office Building
Reducing energy use in your office building is typically more difficult given that you are probably not the facility manager in charge of a building’s utility bills and that there are a variety of occupancy standards commercial buildings have to adhere to. Find out ways to implement energy efficiency in your office.
Reducing Energy Use if You Rent
Just because you don’t own your home doesn’t mean you can’t save energy. While it does make things a bit more difficult since you might not be paying for your utilities and there is no incentive to upgrade the equipment in a home that you don’t own. Find out ways to implement energy efficiency as a renter.
2) Consider Electrification
Fuel switching opportunities are most impactful for gas water heaters and furnaces. Take note of how old your current equipment is and find out if your home is suitable for an electric heat pump water heater or an electric air source heat pump. Also take into consideration how much renewable energy is on your electric grid. If your energy grid is largely powered by coal, then having a natural water heater or furnace may be a cleaner option. Here’s a 7 step guide to helping you electrify your home.
3) Shift your Energy Demand
Since more renewable energy is generally on the grid when the sun is out between the hours of 9AM – 4PM, try to do high energy intensive activities during this time. Avoid using your washing machine, clothes dryer, or air conditioning during on-peak hours from 4-9PM. Not only will this help you reduce carbon emissions but it will likely help you save money if you are on a Time of Use rate plan.
4) Procure more energy from renewable sources
Even if you aren’t able to invest in rooftop solar, there are other ways to ensure that a greater portion of your energy is coming from renewable sources. One of the easiest ways is to go to your utility’s website and see if they have a green energy rate. This rate may be slightly higher than the standard rate, but it will ensure that more of your energy use is coming from renewable energy sources. PG&E has 2 community renewable programs to choose from: PG&E’s Solar Choice or Regional Renewable Choice. These programs allow you to purchase up to 100% of your electricity from a community renewable program generating renewable power within California, without needing to install private rooftop solar panels. You can compare the pros and cons of both programs here.
Another option to look into is Community Choice Aggregator Programs (CCAs). CCAs are programs that allow local governments to procure power on behalf of their residents, businesses, and municipal accounts from an alternative supplier while still receiving transmission and distribution service from their existing utility provider. CCAs are an attractive option for communities that want more local control over their electricity sources, more green power than is offered by the default utility, and/or lower electricity prices. Within PG&E territory there are a total of 12 different CCA programs. If you don’t live in a state that gives you options to purchase renewable energy, there are multiple companies who help you switch to renewables like Arcadia Power and Green Mountain Energy. For example, Arcadia gives you the choice between 50% renewable energy for free or paying a bit extra to get 100%.