If you want to cut down on your personal carbon footprint, a good way to start is by looking at the place we spend most of our time: our homes. Housing accounts for a large share of energy consumption and thus CO2-emissions. Take Denmark for example, where around 40% of the energy consumption is from people’s homes!
Know your sources
An important first step is to figure out what your energy is spend on. You can estimate it yourself, for example by looking at your energy bill or considering your daily behavior and the climate of your city, or you can get an expert to precisely monitor your energy consumption. By getting a better insight in where your energy is spent, it allows you to make changes where it actually matters.
You don’t necessarily need to buy lots of new energy-saving devices. By changing your everyday use of energy, you can make a permanent cut to your everyday consumption. For example, switch off light and appliances when you don’t need them, cut down on your use of energy-intensive appliances such as machine dryers, move some of your energy use away from energy peak hours, take on slippers and a sweater to turn down your heating, and/or gather the family to play a board game instead of spending time on each individual’s own device. These simple changes in your daily behavior can actually make a difference to your energy use as well as your wallet!
Update your home with energy-savings
By combining changes to your consumption behavior and the energy intensity of your devices you reach the highest energy saving potential. These include low energy refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners, and also smart devices which automatically turn off your devices. Even small changes can make a difference to your energy use. Take for example energy saving light bulbs such as LED which use as much as 25-80% less electricity and last three to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs. However, by changing your devices you only save energy if your behavior doesn’t offset the savings. For example, it’s a common flaw that by using energy saving lights, people tend to keep them turned on longer than they normally would. This phenomenon is commonly known as ‘rebound effect’ which accounts for changes in your behavior which offset the energy savings or which can even increase the energy use compared to status quo. If you are aware of this paradox it allows you to actually reach the saving potential of the technology.
Retrofit your home
In most places, what account for the biggest share of energy is heating or cooling. For heating a large share is unfortunately due to unnecessary heat loss, for example windows are significant source of energy waste, which can amount to 10-25% of your total heating bill. The wisest way to change this is by insulating your home. Replace single-pane windows with double-pane ones and add insulation to your attic, walls, floors and/or basement. For the opposite case, cutting down on cooling can also save lot of energy. Currently air conditioning accounts for 10% of global electricity demand, even though only 8% of the world’s population actually has air conditioning. Consider if you really need to cool your home as much as you do know and use as much as possible natural cooling: opening windows, stay in the shadow or go for a swim. For more permanent heating, consider the building materials of your home which can have a big influence on the temperature of the house.
Remember, we all need to cut our carbon footprint in order to avoid the biggest catastrophes of climate change.