Identifying options to reduce the energy consumption of our households is both important - and neglected
Households account for between 27-32% of final energy use in the EU/US and for around 27% of carbon emissions. Reducing this figure should be relatively simple from a technical perspective, but is enormously challenging behaviourally.
Adding insulation to older homes, installing smart metres to help people manage their energy use and switching to lower / zero carbon fuel systems / sources can all make a big difference to household energy usage.
Although in some communities uptake of these options is quite high, we have not really begun to tackle household energy efficiency at scale. The main reasons for this are that home retrofits are expensive, in the short term, and often very disruptive. It is also surprisingly hard to identify the right people to do the work. This is one reason why government financing schemes in various countries have had limited success in incentivising change.
Principal household energy efficiency measures
|Better building standards for new homes||Governments need to move swiftly to make building regulations more stringent.|
|Better insulation of older homes||This includes wall and attic insulation as well as replacing / air sealing windows and doors.|
|Installation of solar / geothermal / air source heat pumps||Not all existing houses can accommodate these measures given space and aspect issues.|
|Smart meters to regulate energy use||Smart meters allow households to track their energy use in real time, often a first step to reducing it. They also facilitate dynamic pricing for power which can even out demand. Limiting peak demand can reduce reliance on highly-emitting backup power sources (diesel, for example) and encourage usage when renewable energy is plentiful and cheap.|
|More energy efficiency appliances and lighting||LED lights use about 75% less energy than incandescent lights. Other appliances also have a wide range of power use. Overall in the US air conditioners use around 6% of electricity produced. More efficient systems can use up to 50% less energy.|
|Switch to renewable electricity||Switching to renewable energy is a key first step in reducing him emissions.|
|District heating systems||Local heating systems may be more efficient / renewable. District heating with combined heat and power (electricity) generation show particular promise in reducing emissions.|
|Installation of hydrogen-ready boilers||To reach net zero there will need to be widespread deployment|
|Landscaping for passive cooling||Shade from trees can play an important role in cooling houses, especially in hotter climates.|