The household energy consumption of the average household can contribute to as much as 12% of total household emissions! Luckily, there are steps you can take to drastically reduce the carbon intensity of your home.
- Get a free energy audit.
- Weatherization and efficient appliances.
- Eliminate standby power.
1. Energy Audit
Understanding where your energy is being used is the first step toward saving money and reducing the emissions associated with energy consumption.
Check out this Energy Upgrade California Home Energy Assessment page that connects you with your utility, to provide an analysis of your home energy bill. From there, your utility provider can make recommendations and offer rebates to improve the energy efficiency of your home or apartment. A free energy audit through your utility has numerous benefits, including access to additional free resources, rebates, and special income-qualified retrofit and efficiency programs.
2. Weatherization and Efficient Appliances
Weatherizing your home or apartment is a low-cost, effective method to lower energy bills and reduce your environmental footprint. Programs such as the Energy Savings Assistance Program (ESAP), Low-Income Weatherization Program (LIHEAP), and others may provide free energy efficiency retrofits for your home or rental unit - if you income qualify.
Weatherization generally consists of finding and sealing air leaks, and adding basic insulation where missing. Up to 30% of home energy use in California is used for heating and cooling. If your home isn’t properly sealed, that money is being thrown away! Use the resources at Energy Upgrade California to find programs available through your utility, and some basic recommendations.
To find out more, and take a hands-on approach, here are some resources from the U.S. Department of Energy:
Lighting: Light Emitting Diodes (or LEDs) are light bulbs or fixtures that produce light using significantly less energy than a traditional (incandescent) or halogen light bulb. Check with your electrical utility to see if there are rebates or special deals available for purchasing advanced lighting solutions. If you purchase electricity from an investor owned utility, you can use Energy Upgrade California to connect directly to offerings.
Replacing inefficient lighting with LEDs can reduce the carbon footprint of an average household by up to 400 pounds (.2 tons) of CO2e annually. Use the Household Carbon Footprint Calculator to find out what other actions can save money and lower your carbon footprint.
Heating and Cooling: Together, heating and cooling are probably one of the largest energy expenses in your whole house. Electrifying your heating and cooling, and choosing an efficient, ENERGY STAR model will make sure you get the most heat (or cooling) for your buck. Electrification is an important aspect of reducing the carbon footprint of a home – electricity can be offset by solar PV production, and will be further reduced by the 2045 100% renewable electricity standard for the State of California.
According to the U.S. EPA, "Combustion of natural gas and petroleum products for heating and cooking needs emits carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). Emissions from natural gas consumption represent 89.0 percent of the direct fossil fuel CO2 emissions from the residential and commercial sectors."
Minor changes like turning down the thermostat a few degrees in the winter and up a few degrees in the summer, can have a major impact on your bill, and carbon emissions, while being hardly noticeable for you and your family. Turning down the thermostat in the winter and turning it up in the summer can reduce the carbon footprint of an average household by up to 1600 pounds (.8 tons) of CO2e annually. Use the Household Carbon Footprint Calculator to find out what other actions can save money and lower your carbon footprint.
If you’re replacing heating and cooling equipment, be sure to check with your utility for rebates, incentives, and ENERGY STAR certification.
Water Heating: After heating and cooling, water heating is likely the largest electricity expense in homes today. Make sure you’re taking these basic steps to minimize energy waste with your existing pipes and water heater, and consider solar hot water heating or a tankless water heater.
Replacing your inefficient water heater with an electric tankless water heater can reduce the carbon footprint of an average household by up to 400 pounds (.2 tons) of CO2e annually. Use the Household Carbon Footprint Calculator to find out what other actions can save money and lower your carbon footprint.
3. Eliminate Standby Power
Standby power is the energy used by electronics when they are plugged in, but not turned on. That’s right – your electronics still draw power, even when you’re not using them! While each individual device may not draw much power, together, your electricity bill may be as much as 10% standby power.
Steps to reduce standby power:
- Unplug devices when not in use. Unplugging devices that aren’t currently being used is a sure way to cut out additional power consumption.
- Use a power strip. Using a power strip (or surge protector where applicable) makes it easier to cut the power to frequently used or hard-to-reach appliances, while reducing the chance that the plug will be damaged by frequent plugging and unplugging.
- Buy ENERGY STAR. ENERGY STAR products have lower standby power requirements.
- Connect it. Using smart devices such as smart switches, power strips, and smart outlets, can let you monitor energy usage, turn devices off remotely, control them with your voice, or even schedule them on and off.
Taking simple actions to eliminate standby power, such as turning off computers and monitors when not in use, can reduce the carbon footprint of an average household by up to 800 pounds (.4 tons) of CO2e annually. Use the Household Carbon Footprint Calculator to find out what other actions can save money and lower your carbon footprint.