With carbon emissions reaching an all-time high, the decarbonization of residential buildings has become increasingly essential in the fight against climate change. Decarbonization involves transitioning buildings to all-electric power in combination with renewable or carbon-free energy sources. Residential energy use accounts for approximately 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., the most common of which is carbon dioxide (CO2). Fortunately, integrating effective building decarbonization solutions can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of both existing residences and new builds. What is Decarbonization?
Taking steps to decarbonize residential buildings or building new low-carbon homes are two ways to reduce carbon emissions. Decarbonization is the process of removing operational carbon and embodied carbon from the environment. Operational carbon refers to emissions released through everyday activities like lighting and heating your home and cooking. Embodied carbon refers to emissions related to building materials and the construction process.
HOW CAN HOMEOWNERS INTEGRATE BUILDING DECARBONIZATION SOLUTIONS?
There are three primary building decarbonization solutions for homeowners to reduce their carbon footprint:
TRANSITIONING FROM FOSSIL FUELS TO RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES
The average American household produces approximately 7.5 tons of CO2 a year. Switching from fossil fuels (like natural gas) to renewable sources of energy, like solar, wind, and geothermal, can reduce your carbon footprint and energy bills, and in some cases even reduce air and water pollution.
All-electric systems, such as heat pump water heaters, electric heat pump HVAC systems, and induction stoves are much more effective and efficient than their gas counterparts and they significantly reduce your CO2 output.
A lot of homes lose energy due to poor insulation and air leaks. Making sure your home is well-insulated and airtight with things like high-performance doors and windows reduces your overall heating and cooling needs–and your carbon emissions. Upgrading to smart technologies and energy-efficient appliances are also very effective ways to reduce your overall carbon footprint.
Although these strategies are effective ways for homeowners to reduce the emissions output of their residences, they can also be employed by developers and builders when planning new construction.
REDUCING EMBODIED CARBON
The above building decarbonization solutions target operational carbon, but there are also ways for homeowners and developers to reduce embodied carbon as well. For example, when building a new home or having an existing home renovated, you can choose materials that are manufactured and transported in a low-carbon manner. The production of cement accounts for approximately 8% of the world’s emissions. Swapping cement out for a more carbon-friendly alternative is one way to lower a home’s carbon footprint. Sustainable materials aren’t only good for the environment; in many cases, they’ll also save your energy and money.
Renovating an existing building is almost always more carbon-efficient than demolishing and rebuilding it. If you need to remove an existing structure, it’s best to try to find ways to reuse or donate the building materials, rather than sending them to the landfill. You should also consider using materials that sequester carbon (pulls carbon out of the air and safely stores it), such as cross-laminated timber.
COMPREHENSIVE CONSULTING FOR DECARBONIZATION IN RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS
Gilleran Energy Management offers comprehensive consulting for decarbonization in residential buildings. We work with homeowners, developers, and construction teams to find the best solutions for your project. Whether you’re interested in ENERGY STAR certification, energy-efficient upgrades, or all-electric building energy analysis for transitioning from natural gas to all-electric building design, our experienced team will help you every step of the way. For more information, schedule a consultation with us at (707) 528-7318 or email us at email@example.com.