Reducing energy usage at home is an easy way to reduce carbon emissions and is especially vital as U.S. homes used more energy and emitted more carbon emissions in 2013 compared to 2012. According to a recent EIA report, both electricity-related emissions and emissions associated with the direct use of fuel increased at the household level. Residential emissions increased more than any other sector, contributing significantly to the 2.5% overall increase of emissions in 2013. The increase was partly due to the polar vortex that dominated the East Coast in 2013. However, forecasts show that the polar vortex is coming back, and it’s coming soon. The blast of cold air is scheduled to hit Central and Eastern States November 9th, 2014 and stay for the remainder of the week. As temperatures drop, energy use goes up, and so do emissions. An energy audit can unveil potential investments to increase the energy efficiency of your home and the purchase of energy efficient products can also reduce your footprint. Energy Star is a comprehensive resource to learn and explore options. However, reducing carbon emissions at home does not always require an investment; reductions in energy usage can be achieved even if you rent or are not in the position to spend money right now. Here are 4 simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint this winter without spending any money:
1. Put on an extra sweater & add that extra blanket. Instead of cranking up the heater, consider wrapping up in an extra sweater and cozy blanket when you are at home escaping the cold weather. Energy use from heaters varies depending on a variety of factors including type and effectiveness of the system being used, but it does contribute to energy usage in the winter. Heating and cooling is the largest energy expense, contributing 48% of energy usage in a typical U.S. home.
2. Unplug appliances. If you use products such as coffee makers, space heaters, blowdryers, or crockpots this winter, make sure you unplug them when you aren’t using them. Electricity is still pulled from the grid even though the appliances are not turned on. According to research by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL), a coffee maker uses 1.14 watts of energy when turned off, a central heating furnace uses 4.21 watts, and a microwave oven uses 3.08 watts with the door closed.
3. Skip the bubble bath. Although relaxing baths can be tempting to warm up, heating hot water contributes an average of 18% of household energy costs. A bath uses around 13-15 gallons of hot water and yes- it takes energy to heat that water. The amount of energy used by an electric water heater depends on factors such as the size of the tank, amount of water used, and whether the tank is insulated. But there is an option to reduce energy used per bath: turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F).
4. Cook efficiently. When cooking on the stove, covering your pots and pans uses less energy and heats food faster. After using your oven, the door can also be opened to let the heat out. Although it is never recommended to turn the oven on to heat your house, once it’s off, it can offer a little warmth. In general, making extra food to have leftovers is also a great way to use your stove and oven less. Although these acts only reduce energy use minimally, they can have a cumulative reduction that is substantial.
5. Window treatment. Opening the curtains of any south-facing windows during the day and closing them at night will make the temperature in your home more comfortable. Incoming sunshine will contribute to the warmth and closing the curtains at night reduces the chill. If you have any other drafty windows that you can cover with an old blanket or plastic that is great too. Using natural warmth and reducing chill can cut down need to use the heater. Reducing energy usage reduces carbon emissions and can save you money.
We encourage our readers to share other ways to reduce household level carbon footprint this winter. As the focus on energy usage for climate change mitigation continues to amplify, we as responsible citizens can do our part to reduce at home.