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Plan to Zero – Nega-watts!

Doug Houseman's picture
Visionary and innovator in the utility industry and grid modernization, Burns & McDonnell

I have a broad background in utilities and energy. I worked for Capgemini in the Energy Practice for more than 15 years. During that time I rose to the position of CTO of the 12,000 person...

  • Member since 2017
  • 255 items added with 91,803 views
  • Dec 8, 2022

Follow up to the ongoing 'Plan to Zero' articles:

Best way to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) is to permanently stop using energy.

OBTW - I am not talking about gearing down the economy or de-industrializing.


Building lose energy, mostly from heating and cooling efforts. The lack of insulation, air leaks, and poor window design are all parts of this loss.

Insulation has come a long way in the last decade, and with changing energy prices, it makes more sense now than it did 20 years ago.

Low volatile organic compounds (VOC) foams are now used for building insulation with an insulating value of as much 2.5 times that of fiberglass. Installers can make small holes in walls and fill the interior of the existing walls with foam at a fraction of the cost of tearing out the interior walls to install older types of insulation. This makes retroactive requirements for existing buildings reasonable.

Updating building efficiency codes to require R-20 insulation in the walls and R-40 or more in the attic. With those changes, and changes to window and door requirements, the savings for heating and cooling for most homes should be between 20 and 70% (70% for homes that have no insulation).


Next is to move to high efficiency heat pumps that are designed for the climate zone they operate within. Heat pumps have a “most efficient” temperature, the further the temperature is (up or down) from that temperature, the less efficient the heat pump is. So match them carefully


Third on a list of many other items is to move to heat pump based hot water, which (depending on temperature of the air) can be 5 times as efficient as a regular hot water heater. Heat pump air conditioners can even produce hot water in warm climates for a large part of the year, with very little additional energy. 


There are lots of other smart choices we can make to use less energy including lighting, water usage, the amount of perishables that we buy at a time, square footage of premises, offices, and other built environment spaces [without having to resort to tiny homes].

We can repair rather than replace appliances and equipment [for instance we are refurbishing several machine tools at home there were headed to the junk yard].

In floor heating for new buildings make huge sense in the winter time (but so do mini-splits), and room by room zoning of heating systems makes sense too.

We have options to create nega-watts, let's use them.

Julian Silk's picture
Julian Silk on Dec 8, 2022

Folks may find this a reasonable discussion of comfort for heat pumps vs. natural gas - 



Doug Houseman's picture
Thank Doug for the Post!
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