Clean energy for the home – El Sol de México

The latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show that to avoid massive loss and damage from global warming, nations must act quickly to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The good news is that experts believe it is still possible to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, through measures such as using energy more efficiently, slowing deforestation and the acceleration of global warming through the adoption of renewable energies.

Many of these strategies require new laws, regulations or funding to advance at the speed and scale needed. But one strategy that is becoming increasingly feasible for many consumers is to power their homes and appliances with electricity from clean sources.

These four recommendations explain why home electrification is an important climate strategy and how we as consumers can start putting them into practice.

Why electric?

In the United States alone, in 2020, household energy consumption accounted for about one-sixth of total energy consumption. Nearly half (47%) of this energy came from electricity, followed by natural gas (42%), oil (8%) and renewables (7%). By far the largest household energy use is heating and air conditioning, followed by lighting, refrigerators and other appliances.

The most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from household energy use is to replace oil and natural gas with electricity generated from low or zero carbon sources. And the energy sector of several countries is rapidly moving in this direction. As a 2021 report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory showed, energy producers have reduced their carbon emissions by 50% compared to forecasts by energy experts in 2005.

“This decline has occurred through policy, market and technology drivers,” concluded a team of analysts from the said lab. Wind and solar power have grown and their costs have come down, so they are increasingly being used by utilities.

Cheap natural gas has replaced production from more polluting coal. And public policies have encouraged the use of energy-efficient technologies such as LED lamps. These converging trends make electricity an increasingly environmentally friendly energy option.

Heat pumps for hot and cold days

Since heating and air conditioning use a lot of energy, switching from an oil or gas heating system to a heat pump can significantly reduce a home’s carbon footprint.

As University of Dayton sustainability expert Robert Brecha explains, heat pumps work by moving heat in and out of buildings, not by burning fossil fuels.

“An extremely cold fluid circulates through coils of tubing in the outdoor unit of the heat pump,” writes Brecha.

“This fluid absorbs energy in the form of heat from the surrounding air, which is warmer than the fluid. The fluid vaporizes and then circulates to a compressor. Compressing any gas warms it up, so this process generates heat. The steam then travels through coils of tubing into the heat pump’s indoor unit, heating the building.”

In summer, the process is reversed: heat pumps take energy from the inside and move it outside, much like a refrigerator extracts heat from the room where food is stored and expels it into the air. air of the room where they are.

Another option is a geothermal heat pump, which harvests heat from the ground and uses the same process as air-source heat pumps to move it through buildings. These systems cost more, since their installation requires digging to bury the pipes underground, but they also reduce electricity consumption.

Cooking without gas or fire

For people who cook, the biggest obstacle to going electric is the prospect of using an electric stove. Many home chefs find gas flames to be more responsive and precise than electric burners.

But magnetic induction, which cooks food by generating a magnetic field under the pan, completely eliminates the need to light a burner.

“Instead of conventional burners, the cooking points of induction cooktops are called hotplates and consist of coils of wire embedded in the surface of the cooktop,” writes Kenneth McLeod, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Binghamton.

Moving an electric charge through these wires creates a magnetic field, which in turn creates an electric field in the bottom of the cookware. “Because of the resistance, the pan will get hot, but the counter won’t,” says McLeod.

Induction hobs heat up and cool down very quickly and offer very precise temperature control. They’re also easy to clean because they’re made of glass, and they’re safer than electric stoves because the plates don’t stay hot when pans are removed. Many utility companies offer rebates to cover the higher cost of induction cooktops.

Electric cars as backup sources

Electrical systems such as home heating and cooking made residents even more vulnerable to power outages. Soon, however, a new backup system may be available: powering your home from your electric vehicle.

With the increased interest in electric cars and light trucks in the United States, automakers are introducing many new models and designs of electric vehicles. Some of these new rides will offer two-way charging: the ability to charge a car battery at home, then transfer that energy home and finally to the grid.

Only a few models offer this capability now, and it requires special equipment that can add several thousand dollars to the price of an EV. But Penn State energy expert Seth Blumsack sees value in this emerging technology.

“Allowing owners to use their vehicle as an emergency vehicle in the event of a power outage would reduce the social impacts of large-scale blackouts. It would also give utilities more time to restore service, especially in the event of significant damage to power lines and poles,” says Blumsack.

“Two-way charging is also an integral part of a broader vision of a next-generation electricity grid in which millions of electric vehicles are constantly drawing power from the grid and feeding it back, a key part of an electrified future. .”

* Environment and energy editor of The Conversation.

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