Sunday, August 7, 2022

How moving electricity can help homeowners slow climate change

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that to avoid massive harm and damage from global warming, nations must act quickly to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The good news is that experts believe it is possible to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 through steps such as using energy more efficiently, slowing deforestation, and accelerating the adoption of renewable energy. .

Many of those strategies require new laws, regulations or funding to move forward at the required speed and scale. But one strategy that is increasingly feasible for many consumers is to power their homes and appliances with electricity from clean sources. These four articles from our archives explain why electrifying homes is an important climate strategy and how consumers can get started.

1. Why Go Electric?

As of 2020, household energy use accounted for about one-sixth of total US energy consumption. About half (47%) of this energy comes from electricity, followed by natural gas (42%), oil (8%) and renewable energy (7%). By far the largest household energy use is for heating and air conditioning, followed by lighting, refrigerators and other appliances.

Read more: How can electric vehicles and other transportation innovations slow global warming, according to the IPCC?

The most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from household energy consumption is to substitute electricity generated from low- and zero-carbon sources for oil and natural gas. And the power sector is increasingly moving like this: According to a 2021 report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, power producers are reducing their carbon emissions by as much as 50%, which energy experts predicted in 2005.

“This decline occurred thanks to policy, market and technology drivers,” concluded a team of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory analysts. Wind and solar power have raised and lowered their costs, so utilities are using more of them. Cheap natural gas has replaced generation with dirty coal. And public policies have encouraged the use of energy-efficient technologies such as LED light bulbs. These convergent trends make electric power an increasingly climate-friendly energy option.

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Today the US is using far less carbon and carbon-free electricity than was estimated in 2005. Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, CC BY-ND

2. Heat Pump for Cold and Hot Days

Since heating and cooling use a lot of energy, switching from an oil or gas-fired furnace to a heat pump can significantly reduce a home’s carbon footprint. As University of Dayton sustainability expert Robert Brecha explains, heat pumps work by moving heat in and out of buildings, not by burning fossil fuels.

“Extremely cold fluid circulates through a coil of tubing in the external unit of the heat pump,” writes Brecha. “That fluid absorbs energy in the form of heat from the surrounding air, which is heated by the fluid. The fluid vaporizes and then circulates in a compressor. Pressing any gas causes it to heat up.” So the process generates heat. The steam then moves through a coil of tubing to the heat pump’s indoor unit, heating up the building.”

In summer, the process is reversed: heat pumps take energy from inside the house and move that heat outside, just as a refrigerator removes heat from the chamber where it stores food and expels it into the air in that room. where he sits.

Another option is a geothermal heat pump, which collects heat from the earth and uses the same process as air source heat pumps to transfer it to buildings. These systems cost more, because installing them involves excavation to bury the tubing below ground, but they also reduce electricity use.

3. Cooking – or heating – without gas

For those who love to cook, the possibility of using an electric stove is the biggest sticking point of going electric. Many home cooks consider gas flames to be more responsive and precise than electric burners.

But magnetic induction, which cooks food by generating a magnetic field on the bottom of the pot, eliminates the need to ignite a burner altogether.

“Instead of traditional burners, the cooking spots on induction cooktops are called hobs, and have wire coils embedded in the surface of the cooktop,” writes Binghamton University electrical engineering professor Kenneth MacLeod.

Moving an electric charge through those wires creates a magnetic field, which in turn creates an electric field in the bottom of the vessel. “Due to the resistance, the pan will heat up, even if the hob doesn’t,” explains McLeod.

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Induction cooktops heat and cool very quickly and provide highly precise temperature control. They are also easier to clean, because they are made of glass, and are safer than electric stoves because the hobs do not stay hot when the pan is removed. Many utilities are offering discounts to cover the high cost of induction cooktops.

4. Electric Cars as Backup Power Sources

Electrified systems such as home heating and cooking made residents even more vulnerable to power outages. Soon, though, a new backup system may be available: powering your home with your electric vehicle.

With increased interest in electric cars and light trucks in the US, auto manufacturers are introducing a number of new EV models and designs. Some of these new rides will offer bidirectional charging – the ability to charge a car battery at home, then take that power back into the home, and eventually, into the grid.

Now only a few models offer this capability, and it requires specialized equipment that can add several thousand dollars to the price of an EV. But Penn State energy expert Seth Blumsack sees value in this emerging technology.

“Enabling homeowners to use their vehicles as a backup when power is low will reduce the social impact of a massive blackout. It will give utilities more time to restore service – especially when there is no electricity. There is considerable damage to poles and wires,” explains Blumsack. “Bidirectional charging is an integral part of a comprehensive approach to the next generation electric grid in which millions of EVs are continuously taking power from the grid and giving it back – a key element of the electrified future.”

Editor’s Note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation Archives.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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