Space & Innovation

Is Your House Causing Global Warming?

Energy efficiency at home is crucial to protecting the environment. Where exactly do our houses waste the most, and how can we fix it?

Indulging yet again in its rigorously annual habit, summer is settling in over the northern hemisphere, heating things up and triggering air conditioning units from Austin to Zurich.

In today's DNews special, Trace Dominguez considers the matter of air conditioners and other home appliances, in regard to energy usage. Reducing energy waste in the home is a fast and simple way to increase efficiency, save money, and -- while you're at it -- confront the single most lethal crisis our species has ever faced. What's not to like?

Let's start with a little quick math -- don't worry, it only stings for a second: According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average annual energy consumption for a residential home is 15,497 kilowatt-hours (kWh). About one third of U.S. homes still use coal to generate those kilowatts. It takes 1.04 pounds of coal to generate one kilowatt-hour, which also generates 2.13 pounds of carbon dioxide.

These numbers can come in handy when assessing how to conserve energy in the home. The figure to remember is this: For every kilowatt-hour you can cut, you're preventing two pounds of harmful greenhouse gas (and other pollutants) from entering the atmosphere via coal plants.

RELATED: Can New Energy Technology Save the Planet?

Now, then. Since the biggest chunk of energy use in the typical home goes toward heating and cooling, the easiest way to save energy is to monitor air temperature. If you keep the thermostat at 68 in the winter, and 78 in the summer, you'll remove more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air annually. You'll also save money. Turns out mom was right about this business all along.

Another quick trick: Use curtains to keep the sun from overheating indoor air temperatures. Double-paned windows are also a good investment. Up to 25 percent of home energy loss goes out the window, literally, and double-paned glass is a low-tech but incredibly efficient insulation strategy.

Lighting is the other major energy-eater in most U.S. homes. If you haven't already, replace those incandescent bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) or LED bulbs. Swapping in just one of these can reduce greenhouse gases by 400 pounds over the life of the bulb.

Trace provides more details in the video regarding water tank options, efficient appliances and other fast-and-clean energy strategies.

-- Glenn McDonald

Read More:

Mapping How the United States Generates Its Electricity

How You Can Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions at Home

CFLs vs. LEDs: The Better Bulbs