Insights

Cut Your Carbon Footprint at Home: 4 Ideas for Earth Day & Beyond

Cut Your Carbon Footprint at Home: 4 Ideas for Earth Day & Beyond

Cut Your Carbon Footprint at Home: 4 Ideas for Earth Day & Beyond

You can lower your carbon footprint in a big way from the comfort of your home. From mini split heat pumps, to smart plugs, to community solar—there are high impact ways for all of us to take individual action and collectively fight the climate crisis. Read on to learn four ways to get started on Earth Day or any day. 

1. Electrify! 

Homes and buildings account for about 29% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, roughly as much as the transportation sector. Electricity use sourced from power plants utilizing fossil fuel like gas and coal for generation drives about two thirds of these emissions, so until the grid is green, your best bet to lower this “indirect” pollution is to become more energy efficient. 

But even with a 100% green grid, over one third of building related emissions will remain—10% of the nationwide total! These emissions come from on-site combustion of fossil fuels to heat space and water or from gas stoves (which are also poisoning your indoor air).

To attack this 10% of total emissions, we have to rid our homes and buildings of fossil fuel-burning equipment and replace it with all-electric technology like heat pumps

Heat pumps are a technological wonder, operating 2-4X more efficiently than even the most efficient gas furnaces or boilers. So even with a dirty grid, heat pumps—by requiring way less energy—can reduce emissions. 

How do they work? Instead of literally burning fuel in order to generate heat energy, heat pumps draw existing heat from ambient air and move it from one space to another.  In the winter, even in cold climates, heat pumps can extract heat from outside air and move it inside to provide precise and comfortable indoor temperatures. In the summer (yes, they provide cooling too), they work just like an air conditioner, but with 2-3X the efficiency of a window unit.

Air source heat pumps, sometimes referred to as mini splits or split A/Cs, are already mainstream in much of the world and are forecast to grow annually by 8.4% in the U.S. between now and 2022. They’re so popular, that they recently earned a feature in the New York Times Wirecutter product reviews.  

In the below video, you can hear from a homeowner who replaced old and unreliable radiators with a mini split heat pump system. 

And they don’t just heat (and cool) spaces—they also work superbly for your hot water supply. Heat pump water heaters are an excellent option to replace your fossil fuel powered system and are the energy savings equivalent of 7 solar panels. This great guide from Carbon Switch demonstrates how they can help you save thousands of dollars over a ten year period. 

Finally there's that gas stove, which, contrary to popular belief, does not work better than induction. But let’s ignore that debate. The main reason to get rid of that gas stove is to protect the health of you and your family. Gas stoves, which often emit methane even when turned off, are a proven contributor to child asthma and other respiratory ailments. 

Decarbonizing and electrifying your home can seem intimidating. That’s where BlocPower comes in. We’re your trusted partner every step of the way—helping you design, install and maintain the ideal system for your needs. There’s no better day than today to take the first step, and see if your building is a good fit for heat pumps

2. Get smart to manage and reduce energy use

Let’s get this out of the way first: if you haven’t swapped out every bulb in your house for LED, go ahead and do that now. They pay for themselves, last a decade plus, and you can have any color or warmth your heart desires. That’s especially true if you choose a “smart” bulb with color and warmth adjustments a tap away on your phone. 

There are other cool smart devices you should be looking at too, that can help manage and reduce your energy use. 

Take smart plugs, which can help identify the energy hogs in your home, to limit use or upgrade to a more efficient model. They also make it easy to manage power use from your phone (even away from home)—either by flipping the virtual off switch on a plug or using a preset schedule. This can help you cut back on “vampire” or standby power use from idle devices, which accounts for up to 10% of energy use

Smart thermostats do a similar trick: they make it easy to only use your heating and cooling when you need it and to set the perfect temperature for every time of day. Increased comfort, reduced emissions, bill savings—the trifecta! You can often find rebates to save on smart thermostats too. 

Finally, consider exploring time of use rates (TOU) that reward you for shifting your energy consumption to off-peak hours. Potential economic benefit aside, by limiting energy use at peak times of day (like when A/Cs are cranking on a July afternoon), you’ll help your utility company keep highly pollutive “peaker plants” offline. This study shows how a smart, heat pump water heater can completely shift its energy use to ideal times of day—like when solar is plentiful—preheating and storing hot water for use in the evening when the grid becomes constrained. 

If you decide TOU rates are not right for you, you can still use smart devices to save money and strain on the grid during energy peaks with the help of companies like Ohm Connect that alert you when it’s time to unplug. 

3. Make electrification accessible to all

BlocPower’s mission is to make the benefits of building electrification accessible to all. But not everyone is in a position to take on an electrification project. If you fall into this category but are passionate about decarbonizing homes, consider registering for our crowdfunding opportunities. 

When you invest in our crowdfunding, you’re helping us upgrade an estimated 122 homes in low to moderate income communities. It is a great opportunity to earn a financial return while helping provide every family the opportunity to benefit from smarter, greener, healthier, all-electric buildings.

You can invest as little as $100, but larger investments are also welcome. Learn more about our crowdfunding opportunity here

4. Support your community (solar)

Subscribing to community solar is a great way to lower your energy bill and support the expansion of renewable energy. 

What is community solar? Well, it’s kind of what it sounds like: a local solar facility—often located on warehouse roofs or undeveloped land—whose power production is grid connected and “accessed” by community members. “Accessed” in quotes, because unlike a solar installation on your own roof, subscribers are often not directly using the energy produced by the solar array.

Rather, subscribers are paying for the rights to the benefits of the energy produced. The benefits vary by location and business model (utility v. developer owned for example) and other factors—but can include utility bill savings of 5-10%, renewable energy credits (RECs), and of course providing financial support for the growth of green energy. 

4.6 gigawatts of community solar capacity have been installed across 41 states, but not every household has access today. That's fast changing however, as the Biden administration intends to make community solar accessible to 5 million households by 2025. Check out community solar aggregators like PowerMarket or Common Energy to search and register for an open project in your area. 

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