We all try to minimize our day to day energy usage, but there is also the big Net Zero dream that refers to attaining a state of zero energy consumption. Unlike recycling, this entails offsetting the energy we spend, by saving it elsewhere.
We can make small strides towards this seemingly distant goal through not only lifestyle changes, but changes to housing appliances and arrangement as well. Three specific steps to take are to 1)Insulate, 2)Reduce and 3) Renew. Together, they work towards attaining the Net Zero goal.
Insulate your Household
Insulation is premised on the principle that resisting heat flows will cut down your heating and cooling costs. Heat flows are generated through conduction, convection and radiation of the heat in the household air. Effective household insulation can greatly reduce costs and energy usage.
Our walls and roof cavities already contain air pockets which carry out limited insulation. We can fill in these cavities with various materials such as recyclable shredded paper or fireproof glass fibres through a short installation that will save costs in the long run.
A cheaper alternative to installing external wall insulation and internal cavity filling is to use thermal wallpapers sold by websites such as wallpaperdirect.com. These trap the start up heat from conduction and can provide minimal heat saving effects.
These fillers significantly reduce heat loss from conduction and convection. But what about heat loss from radiation?
These involve installing radiant barriers and reflective surfaces. The radiant heat is reflected in a straight line toward air spaces, significantly reducing summer heat gain. This also helps in reducing the overall insulation temperature from other means.
As the video by AtticFoil notes,these are fairly cheap alternatives to cavity filling, as they often consist of aluminium foil wrapped around other fibrous materials. Insulation can be achieved through various means and ensures energy spent in temperature control goes unwasted.
Reduce Energy Drainage
Also known as energy vampires, Phantom loads can often lead up to forking out a couple more hundred dollar bills every month. Energy intensive appliances like guitar amplifiers and television sets silently drain your energy as they await usage, adding unnecessary energy costs. There a couple of creative ways to get around this.
Firstly, try starting on a small scale. It’s safe to say that most of you reading this own smartphones. You might be scrolling through this article on a mobile platform, while plugged into an energy vampire.
Cell Phone chargers are notorious energy vampires, and we keep many chargers readily plugged in all over households and workplaces. A quick fix would be to simply unplug the charger once we are done, as it is not something that requires to be on standby.
However, other appliances such as desktop computers, printers, cable boxes and entertainment devices are often required on standby mode. We should invest in getting a powerstrip that would allow all these appliances to be plugged into one source that we can turn off if we are not going on vacation.
One specialized powerstrip is the smartstrip pictured above. It links associated devices such as cable boxes and printers, to a control device such as television sets and computers. When the control device is turned off, all the other devices will be turned off as well, significantly reducing phantom load power drainage.
Renew Energy Sources
This last step consists of more costly changes, that pay off in the long term. If you are ready to make the investment, microgeneration technologies allow small scale generation of electrical power optimized to your household needs without added pollutants or wastage from hooking onto common utility grids.
Solar panels are increasingly being used on rooftops to supplement household energy usage. However, this is still an expensive option for many. One of the less costly ways is to install outdoor solar lighting, which will not pile on your maintenance bill. The solar energy absorbed during the day is stored in the batteries at night, and the lights can be used until the next recharge.
More attention is being paid to the field of microgeneration, where small scale electric power is produced from technologies such as micro wind turbines. There are even turbines that can be carried in your backpack for on the go charging of smartphones and laptops!
However, this is still a rather costly field for everyday users to get into. Until the day prices are significantly lowered, we can focus on the first two steps of insulation and reduction, to make small strides towards the Net Zero dream.