Climate Action Collaborative: Energy efficiency is key
Energy efficiency, is in short, using less energy in buildings. One means of doing this is by incorporating new technologies that use less energy such as LED lights or EnergyStar appliances. Incorporating energy efficiency in our homes is an important part of reducing Eagle County’s carbon emissions, which contribute to climate change. And energy efficiency helps move our community closer to the goals of Eagle County’s Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon emissions by 25% by 2025 and 80% by 2050.
Energy efficiency reduces the amount of electricity and natural gas needed to power our homes. When we heat and cool our homes or use electricity to power our appliances and gadgets, the power used to do so creates carbon pollution through the natural gas we burn or the electricity we use (which is still primarily powered by fossil fuels).
In order to meet our climate action goals, our community needs to use less of both fossil fuel electricity and natural gas currently powering most homes. This can be done through energy efficiency (using less energy) and through more renewable energy powering our electric grid. A large increase in electricity produced with renewable sources across the country, including solar and wind, has driven down the price of these energy sources, becoming competitive with fossil fuel electricity.
Solar is predicted to supply more of our electricity every year. Pairing this increase in solar production with energy efficiency means that we will be able to reach 100% renewable electricity faster because less electricity needs to be produced with the new solar resource. In addition, clean energy, like what is produced by solar and other renewable energy sources, releases no greenhouse gas emissions during production or consumption.
Addressing the use of natural gas is the other piece needed to get our homes to zero greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike electricity, natural gas cannot come from a cleaner, zero-emissions source. Energy efficiency can reduce our consumption of natural gas; and therefore, the emissions that come from it. For many homes, natural gas is their only fuel source for heat and can only be reduced to a certain point.
To stop relying on natural gas completely, we will need to convert our homes’ heating systems to electricity in a process called electrification. Electric heating systems have been around for many years, but until recently it was an expensive proposition because of the inefficiency of electric heat and the high price of electricity compared to natural gas. Luckily, technology is always improving in the energy efficiency space, and in the last few years, a new electric heating system called a cold climate air source heat pump has been released.
Cold climate air source heat pumps are designed for cold climates and are 50% more energy-efficient than electric heat, including electric furnaces and electric baseboard heaters. Therefore, we now have a cost-effective option to electrify our community while reducing our energy use by over half!
All of the pieces we need to tackle our climate goals are in place, including new energy efficiency technologies and cost-effective renewable energy options. We now need to continue to think critically about how each of our homes can play a part in reducing our community-wide energy use. Fortunately, there are lots of local opportunities for coaching and financial assistance to get us there.
How to make your home energy efficient
- Schedule a home energy assessment through Walking Mountains Science Center. You’ll receive a customized report that outlines energy efficiency improvements for your home.
- Consider energy efficiency upgrades that you can do yourself. Upgrade all of your lightbulbs to energy-efficient LEDs. Use your programmable thermostat to lower your heat when you aren’t home.
- Lower your hot water temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Use Walking Mountain’s rebate program to help you afford larger energy efficiency upgrades, including cold climate air source heat pumps and other projects recommended by your home energy assessment report.
Take action today — contact Walking Mountains to determine your next steps!
Lauren Dériaz is the energy programs coordinator at Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon. The Climate Action Collaborative is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Eagle County 25 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050.