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Home Energy Development & Remote Work: Future Trends

image credit: Photo by Jp-Valery on Wunderstock (https://wunderstock.com/photo/2-storey-house-in-front-of-river_k04EhaJzzK1t)

We’ve all heard about the challenges our world is facing due to climate change. We hear about it in the news, and nearly all of the world’s scientists will acknowledge these changes the world is seeing. We know about many of the big things in our society such as car emissions or our big, expensive lifestyles.

But what many of us don’t really think about all that often is how our individual lives and choices can make a small but significant difference in the climate. For instance, our homes are typically far more environmentally negative than many of us consider. The COVID-19 pandemic and the sheer number of people that are spending a greater amount of time in their homes and perhaps even working from home has increased these difficulties. 

Fortunately, there are changes to home development and energy use coming down the pipe that could make a real difference. These changes include a variety of things, but, many of them are becoming more and more reasonable for average homeowners to turn into reality with each passing year. 

Our Homes and the Climate

There are many ways that homes can be inefficient and increase environmental footprints. For instance, things like poor insulation and older windows can allow a lot of heat to escape your home. This means that not only are you using more energy and running the heat more frequently, but your heating and cooling bills are typically going to be higher than they could be

Another example that our communities face, especially in urban and suburban neighborhoods, is the heat island effect. This is the idea that our dark-colored roofs absorb more heat and radiate it into the surrounding area. Ultimately, this means that these communities are hotter and drier than they might otherwise be. 

There are ways that people are trying to combat these issues individually. Believe it or not, you can make a big difference in your home by doing things like:

  • Replacing older windows with energy-efficient ones

  • Upgrading the insulation in your home

  • Choosing lighter-colored roofing materials

  • Considering green roofing, landscaping, and plants

  • Installing energy-efficient appliances 

And much, much more

The Remote Work Conundrum

Those of us who have been working from home during the pandemic have almost certainly noticed the small upticks in energy usage associated with running the heat or air conditioning more throughout the day, increased home technology use, and constantly having to use the home bathroom. Indeed, some studies are indicating that having such a large portion of the population teleworking for the past 6 months and more has had an interesting impact on our home emissions

Beyond just an increase in general emissions in our homes, some studies have found that women are predominantly bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic workload, meaning they are most likely to be the ones working from home or even quitting their jobs to take care of children who are no longer in daycare. Such setbacks can make big impacts on women’s progress in breaking down gender stereotypes in the workplace

Clearly, there are some perceived benefits to staying home and not going into the office — such as not driving as much and reducing emissions in that regard — there are still some negative increases. Big-ticket energy use has obviously increased, but smaller things have also been impacted. For example, increased work from home has also kicked up our electronics use significantly. This can have some very real heightened cybersecurity risks.  

Increasing Renewables

Some of the minor changes that people can make in their homes to decrease their carbon footprint involve small or medium-sized home projects and a couple of weekends of work. Though these are huge steps in improving the efficiency of your home, there is always more that can be done. Perhaps one of the largest things is incorporating renewables. 

In many communities, it can be difficult to ensure you are getting renewable energy to power your home from the local electric company. For that reason, many crafty homeowners have turned to producing their own energy and selling their excess back onto the grid for a small net gain every month. Things such as home solar panels or small water turbine systems can help make this happen. 

***

Our homes can have a surprisingly large carbon footprint, especially if they have not been retrofitted with more sustainable and energy-saving equipment such as newer appliances and windows. Working from home likely hasn’t helped the situation all that much, even if we aren’t driving to work every day anymore. One of the biggest ways in which you can make a difference is to help ensure you are using renewable energy sources — you may even be able to sell back to the grid and never have to pay a power bill again!

Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 16, 2020

2020 has certainly acted as an accelerator for these types of trends that may have been on the long-term radar of the energy industry, but we're dealing with it now instead!

Indiana  Lee's picture

Thank Indiana for the Post!

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