the latest reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show that to avoid massive loss 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 measures such as using energy more efficiently, slowing deforestation and accelerating the adoption of renewable energy.
Many of these strategies require new laws, regulations or funding to advance at the speed and scale needed. But an increasingly feasible strategy 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?
In 2020, household energy consumption accounted for about one-sixth of total energy consumption in the United States. Nearly half (47%) of this energy came from electricity, followed by natural gas (42%), oil (8%) and renewables (7%). By far the greatest household energy consumption is heating and air conditioningfollowed by lighting, refrigerators and other household appliances.
The most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from household energy use is to substitute electricity generated from low or zero carbon sources for petroleum and natural gas. And the power industry is rapidly moving in that direction: As a 2021 report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory showed, power producers have reduced their carbon emissions by 50% what energy experts were predicting in 2005.
“This decline has occurred through policy, market and technology drivers,” concluded a team of analysts from the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Wind and solar energy have grown and reduced their costs, so utilities are using more of them. Cheap natural gas has replaced production from more polluting coal. And public policies have encouraged the use of energy-efficient technologies like LED bulbs. These converging trends make electricity an increasingly climate-friendly energy choice.
2. Heat pumps for cold and hot days
Since heating and air conditioning use a lot of energy, switching from an oil or gas furnace to a heat pump can significantly reduce a home’s carbon footprint. As a sustainability expert from the University of Dayton Robert Brecha explains, heat pumps work by moving heat in and out of buildings, not by burning fossil fuels.
“An extremely cold fluid circulates through coils of tubing in the outdoor unit of the heat pump,” writes Brecha. “This fluid absorbs energy in the form of heat from the surrounding air, which is hotter than the fluid. The fluid vaporizes and then circulates through a compressor. Compression of any gas warms it up, so this process generates heat. Then the steam moves through coils of tubing into the heat pump’s indoor unit, heating the building.”
In the summer, the process is reversed: heat pumps take energy from the inside and move it outside, much like a refrigerator extracts heat from the room where it stores food and expels it into the refrigerator. air of the room where it is.
Another option is a geothermal heat pump, which harvests heat from the ground and uses the same process as air-source heat pumps to move it through buildings. These systems cost more, as their installation involves excavation to bury the tubes under the ground, but they also reduce electricity consumption.
3. Cooking without gas – or heat
For people who love to cook, the biggest sticking point of going electric is the prospect of using an electric stove. Many home chefs consider gas flames to be more responsive and precise than electric burners.
But magnetic induction, which cooks food by generating a magnetic field under the pan, completely eliminates the need to light a burner.
“Instead of conventional burners, the cooking points on induction cooktops are called hotplates and consist of coils of wire embedded in the surface of the cooktop,” writes the electrical engineering professor at the Binghamton University. Kenneth McLeod.
Moving an electric charge through these wires creates a magnetic field, which in turn creates an electric field in the bottom of the cookware. “Because of the resistance, the pan will heat up, even if the cooktop doesn’t,” says McLeod.
Induction cooktops heat up and cool down very quickly and offer very precise temperature control. They’re also easy to clean because they’re made of glass, and safer than electric stoves because the hobs don’t stay hot when pans are lifted. Many utilities offer rebates to cover the higher cost of induction cooktops.
4. Electric cars as backup power sources
Electrifying systems like home heating and cooking have made residents even more vulnerable to power outages. Soon, however, a new backup system may become available: powering your home from your electric vehicle.
With an interest in electric cars and light trucks rising in the United States, car manufacturers are launching many new models and designs of electric vehicles. Some of these new rides will offer two-way charging – the possibility of recharging a car battery at home, then reinjecting this energy into the house and, possibly, into the network.[Over 150,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletters to understand the world. Sign up today.]
Only a few models offer this capability now, and it requires special equipment that can add several thousand dollars to the price of an EV. But Penn State’s energy expert Seth Blumsack sees value in this emerging technology.
“Allowing owners to use their vehicles as a back-up in the event of a power outage would reduce the social impacts of large-scale power outages. It would also give utilities more time to restore service, particularly when poles and electrical cables are significantly damaged,” Blumsack said. Explain. “Two-way charging is also an integral part of a broader vision of a next-generation electricity grid in which millions of electric vehicles constantly draw power from the grid and return it – a key part of an electrified future. “
Editor’s note: This story is a summary of articles from The Conversation archives.