A Homeowner’s Guide to Carbon Emissions

Carbon emissions, also known as greenhouse gases, are one of the biggest problems faced by the world today and the primary source of global warming. However, this situation isn’t impossible to fix. By remaining vigilant in your day-to-day routine, you can help reduce your carbon footprint and provide a better tomorrow for future generations. Here’s a simple guide to help you understand and reduce carbon emissions in your Houston, Texas, home.

What Are Carbon Emissions?

To reduce your home’s carbon emissions, it’s important to understand what they are and how they’re produced. Very simply, carbon emissions are the release of carbon into the atmosphere through natural or unnatural means. Most carbon emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels. A majority of these emissions come from power plants, vehicles, and industry, although residential housing emits about 10 percent of the country’s carbon as well.

Although many westernized nations have set forth initiatives to curb carbon emissions, many still use fossil fuels as the primary source of power, and only Canada and France have dramatically reduced the use of petroleum products as their fuel source. In the United States, nearly 68 percent of electricity is fossil fuel-based, meaning the need for action is something that should happen sooner than later.

What’s the Problem With Carbon Emissions?

From a biological standpoint, carbon emissions are a natural part of the carbon cycle. Respiration and decomposition are both natural processes that emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, this carbon dioxide isn’t problematic, as it’s offset by photosynthesis in plants. The problem lies in fossil fuel consumption, which produces more carbon dioxide than the planet can handle.

The real problem with this extra carbon is that it stays in the atmosphere and traps heat, causing an unnatural increase in global temperatures. This sudden rise in temperature poses numerous problems such as a spike in sea levels, potential animal extinction, and unsafe temperatures for humans. If left untreated, the impact on the Earth is catastrophic. Even with increased government regulation, the U.S. still had a 9 percent increase in carbon emissions over the past 25 years, due to an increase in motorized transportation and the need for more electricity to support a growing population.

How Does This Relate to Me?

As an individual, you can employ several habits to help reduce your carbon footprint. However, without everyone doing their part, it’s a moot point. This isn’t a cause for discouragement, but it’s a sign that everyone has to work together to reduce the overall impact on the environment.

Recently, the U.S. government released a four-pronged initiative to help curb carbon emissions on a national level. While it mainly pertains to industry and power plants, you can employ the ideas into your daily life. This includes becoming more energy-efficient, reducing energy consumption, using alternative fuel sources, and capturing carbon before it gets into the upper atmosphere. Out of these four ideas, only carbon capture is one that isn’t viable in a residential setting. So, let’s take a glance at the other three aspects of carbon emissions reduction.

Getting Energy-Efficient

Becoming energy-efficient in your home isn’t as hard as you might think, and it also fits just about any budget. To begin the process, you should start with one of the largest consumers of energy in your home: the HVAC system. In 1992, the EPA, in conjunction with the Department of Energy, started the Energy Star program, which recognizes appliances for their reduced energy requirements. Most furnaces and air conditioners made prior to 1992 don’t have any sort of regulation, making their energy efficiency lax at best. However, new HVAC systems have a far higher efficiency, and the Energy Star logo is the first step towards a more efficient home.

Even if you don’t have the urge or the budget to upgrade your HVAC system with Energy Star appliances, you can still do other things to help improve energy efficiency and improve awareness of your energy consumption. One of these is our system performance evaluation. During this process, our technicians inspect your HVAC system, check the air distribution system, and perform a home perimeter evaluation to ascertain where and how to improve efficiency.

Twice a year, you should also consider an HVAC tuneup, especially if your furnace or air conditioner has been in disuse for several months. During this tuneup, our technician will improve the overall efficiency of the unit and get it into perfect working order for the coming summer or winter.

Without an inspection or tuneup, you may miss out on some vital suggestions and advice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t boost your energy efficiency without it. One overlooked aspect of inefficiency is your HVAC filter. Designed to remove harmful allergens and contaminants from the home, the air filter gets clogged with this debris over time, causing your HVAC system to work harder to produce the ideal temperature. By replacing the filter at least once every 90 days, you not only cut your energy waste, but you also save on your energy bills and dramatically improve the air quality in your home.

Outside of your HVAC system, you can do even more to cut emissions by transitioning to new light bulbs in lieu of traditional incandescent bulbs. Halogen, CFL (compact flourescent), and LED bulbs are all far more efficient than other lighting sources. They produce the same amount of lumens (brightness) as incandescent lighting while emitting 75 percent less heat and using 75 percent less energy. By replacing just five incandescent bulbs in your home, you stand to save over $70 in just one year while vastly boosting your efficiency.

Reducing Energy Consumption

Poor energy habits are one of the leading contributors in residential carbon emissions. However, this doesn’t mean that the problem is unfixable. It starts with setting an example and openly discussing the issue with your family. Set a family meeting and address the problem with your spouse and children. You should also use the meeting as a forum for suggestions, allowing each family member to explain how they intend to reduce their energy consumption.

The predominant waste of energy comes during your daily activities. To curb this energy loss, become vigilant about your daily energy use. Things such as turning off the light, unplugging electronics, and closing the front door are all simple activities that take only seconds to accomplish, yet they provide a sizable reduction in energy use and carbon emissions.

Switching to Alternative Energy Sources

In many areas of the country, homeowners are aiming to reduce carbon emissions and energy costs by switching to alternative energy sources. The most popular of these alternative sources are solar power and geothermal power. Although the initial cost of these power sources is sometimes expensive, the break-even date is far closer than you may think.

If you don’t have the capital to install solar panels in your home, you can still purchase green energy from suppliers. However, installing solar panels on your home makes you eligible for up to 30 percent in tax credits, and when coupled with the amount of money saved on utility bills per month, you may find that you can recoup the cost in only a year or two.

Although the prospect of an energy source switch may seem daunting or extreme, you can still use solar energy in other areas of the home. Instead of opting for hard-wired landscape lighting, try transitioning to solar lighting. Most of these solar lights emit a similar light to traditional landscape lighting, cost about the same, and save you tons of money each month, all while cutting carbon emissions.

Other Considerations

While lighting and HVAC systems are the more obvious sources of carbon emissions in the home, you should also note that water usage contributes to these gases. Treating, pumping, and heating water all require a huge amount of power, making your water usage habits just as important as electricity usage.

To lessen your impact, start changing your habits. Some of the things you can do are cutting shower times in half, waiting to do laundry until you have a full load, turning the water off when brushing your teeth or shaving, and doing dishes by hand rather than using the dishwasher. By taking these steps, you’ll help curb these emissions as well as reduce your water bill.

With some planning and a little due diligence, you can cut your carbon emissions substantially. However, you might need someone to offer suggestions and expert advice to help you on your journey. That’s when you should give Davis Air Conditioning & Heating a call at 888-710-5530. Whether you want to do a full overhaul of your HVAC system or something more simple, our technicians will provide the service you need to become the greenest house on the block.

Image provided by Shutterstock

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