Home heating accounts for the biggest use of domestic energy on the planet. Temperature regulation accounts for over 40% of electricity consumed in the average North American home, and with rising costs, it’s quickly starting to feel like a little energy elf is stealing money out of your pockets every month. Not to mention the carbon footprint that gets left on every step of the journey. The general consensus: something has to change.
If you didn’t know already, the vast majority of electricity produced in North America comes from non-renewable resources – generating plants that burn fossil fuels. While there’s a significant amount of renewable energy infrastructure already in place (mostly hydroelectric dams), even those can have a negative impact on carbon levels. Luckily there’s a movement towards low carbon, low emission energy generation; since 2016, new energy added to the grid is overwhelmingly produced by solar energy more than any other type! Other green energy types, like wind, are also steadily growing.
Most homes in North America rely on furnaces to deliver their heat. Furnaces require a fuel source that is then broken down (usually through combustion) and the released energy is then safely transmitted throughout the house. While they vary in efficiency and their level of emissions, the rising cost of fossil fuels and the lack of a ready alternative means that there’s room for innovation. Home heating rebates and incentives can only go so far – it’s time to use technology to make us a whole lot greener.
So what’s on the horizon for home heating? What eco-friendly innovations are out there?
While the technology has been around for years, modern advancements in efficiency and battery technology (for energy storage) means that it’s becoming more affordable for the average house to install solar panels. For some energy-conscious folks, this can mean that most of – if not all – your energy demands can be taken care of “off the grid”. As more and more people begin utilizing the technology, it means efficiency will rise and prices will fall.
For those concerned with a building a “zero carbon” home, using the electricity generated by photovoltaic panels for home heating will make sure that you’re doing your part to help the environment.
Insulation has been notoriously fraught with trouble. From the days of asbestos, and up through fibreglass, it represented a very real health hazard that hid behind your walls. Attempts throughout the years to improve this have often been failures – innovations are often toxic or inefficient. The market has evolved, but there’s only been a slow evolution – never a revolution.
Fortunately, there are finally some leaps forward taking place in insulation technology which are helping to make it green without sacrificing efficiency. These include synthetic materials manufactured from plant-based plastics, sheep’s wool, and even (get this!) recycled denim jeans.
Yes, even your windows are getting smarter. We’re not just talking about energy efficiency – although that’s also improving at a rapid pace. There’s a ton of research currently being done on how we can integrate things like solar panel circuits into the actual structure of our windows. There’s also neat features like automatically change the opacity of the windows to maximize natural light and heat during the day and minimize losing it at night. The windows of the future will work with the rest of your smart home to help ensure comfort.
In general, smart thermostats give you more control over the efficiency of your heating system, setting your home to a regular schedule, shutting things off at night, and, in general, just being more responsive than traditional thermostats. Small changes can lead to big savings over time in both money spent and carbon emissions. Smart thermostats come in two categories, each with their own level of environmental impact.
Low Voltage heating systems have had smart options for years. Nest, Ecobee, and Honeywell Lyric have dominated the market, giving people control over their furnaces, radiators and central air systems. This makes sure that consumers can be as efficient as possible with their fuel consumption. Low Voltage delivery systems supply the vast majority of homes in North America with heat.
Line Voltage heating systems are common in the northern US and throughout Canada. These systems rely on electric heat, usually in the form of baseboard heaters. Heaters themselves are 100% efficient – it’s just the source of electricity often isn’t. Traditional energy generation lets out a lot of by-products into the atmosphere: CO2 and Methane. It’s also generally viewed as more expensive than fuel based options. However, trends are changing. A lot of new houses are running line-voltage systems as renewable energy sources become more and more prominent. Beginning in 2016, solar power took over as the leader in new energy production. Energy production is trending green, with fewer emissions made during the generation process, and less inefficient fuel on the consumer side. Combined with devices like the Mysa Smart Thermostat, electric heat is becoming a much greener and affordable option than ever before.
Are We Ready?
It’s clear that home heating is about to change drastically. Right now, it’s possible to build a home that’s thoroughly energy efficient, carbon-neutral, and even self-sustainable. Retrofitting existing homes with these advancements is also getting cheaper. The points listed here are only just some of the more obvious ways that home heating is changing. Innovation is happening every day and in ways you wouldn’t expect. The future of technology is green.