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6 Eco-Friendly Ways to Keep Warm and Cool

February 17, 2024
topic:Climate action
tags:#climate change, #energy efficiency, #green
located:Germany, USA, India
by:Nour Ghantous
The quest for eco-friendly solutions to our heating and cooling needs has never been more urgent. 

With climate change looming large, summers are hotter than ever, and winters are growing more unpredictable each year.

As a global energy crisis has set energy prices to record highs and the push for sustainability and green energy intensifies, the quest for eco-friendly solutions to our heating and cooling needs has never been more urgent. 

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that the world must stop burning fossil fuels if it is to stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Combined with the urgency to save money, this imperative to shrink our carbon footprint drives innovation in home comfort technologies. 

Here, we explore five environmentally friendly ways to keep warm and cool.

1. Improving energy efficiency

The more energy-efficient a home is, the less energy it will need to be heated. Investing in energy-efficient measures reduces utility bills and lessens our environmental impact. 

Proper insulation is essential for maintaining a comfortable indoor environment while minimising energy consumption. Insulating walls, floors and ceilings effectively prevent heat transfer between the interior and exterior of a building, reducing the need for heating and cooling systems to compensate for temperature fluctuations. 

Environmentally friendly insulation materials, such as recycled cellulose, sheep's wool and cork, offer excellent thermal performance without harming the environment. 

But improving insulation is just one aspect of enhancing energy efficiency. Homeowners can create a more airtight building by sealing air leaks, upgrading windows to double or triple glazing and installing energy-efficient doors. 

Additionally, adopting smart thermostats, metres and energy-efficient appliances like LED bulbs reduces energy consumption, leading to significant long-term savings. 

Incorporating passive solar design features, such as south-facing windows for solar heat gain in winter and shading elements to minimise summer heat gain, optimises natural heating and cooling. Landscaping with deciduous trees can provide shade in summer while allowing sunlight to penetrate in winter, contributing to overall energy efficiency. 

Additionally, sealing air leaks around windows, doors and ductwork enhances energy efficiency and ensures that conditioned air remains inside, reducing heating and cooling costs.

2. Harnessing Solar Energy

One of the most abundant and renewable sources of energy available is the sun. By utilising solar energy, homeowners can significantly reduce their reliance on traditional heating and cooling methods powered by fossil fuels.

Solar panels on rooftops capture sunlight and convert it into electricity, which can then be used to operate heating and cooling systems. 

Solar thermal systems, specifically designed for heating water or air, can be easily integrated with existing home temperature systems to provide sustainable heating during colder months. 

Combined with a battery storage unit, homeowners with solar panels have the potential to generate enough electricity from the sun to use nothing from their national grid. Even without battery storage, having solar panels can save homeowners between 50 and 70 per cent of their energy bills. 

Though the money saved on energy bills over the 25-year lifetime of a solar panel unit easily justifies the cost of buying and installing the technology, the initial investment can be costly. Thankfully, many countries offer incentives to help with these expenses. 

In Germany, for example, households that produce excess renewable energy at home can sell any excess to the national grid. The feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme - adopted by many other countries - pays renewable energy producers a set rate per kilowatt-hour for electricity they feed into the grid.

Germany also provides homeowners with tax incentives for energy-efficient renovations - households can claim back 20 per cent of renovation costs up to €40,000 (USD 44,000) if they replace inefficient doors or windows or buy new heating systems and insulation.

The US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) arrived later than many other renewable energy initiatives, but it transformed the nation into a global leader in decarbonisation investment potential.

Nearly USD 400 billion in federal funding is available across various sectors, primarily in tax credits. These incentives help the private sector invest in large-scale projects, such as producing clean hydrogen or nuclear facilities.

However, there are also incentives available for households to help them decarbonise and take advantage of the typically lower unit costs of renewables.

India aims to generate 65 per cent of its power from non-fossil fuels by 2030. A solar initiative in Gujarat has been particularly successful, and has resulted in the state accounting for approximately two-thirds of all residential rooftop solar power in the country despite covering only 6 per cent of India's total land mass.

3. Embracing Heat Pumps

Heat pumps extract cool air from the environment, which could be from sources such as ground, air or water, convert it into heat and pump it into a building. These pumps are much more efficient than traditional gas boilers and can save up to six times more energy.

Additionally, the mechanism of heat pumps can be reversed in hot weather, which allows them to provide cooling as well.

Unlike traditional carbon-intensive boilers and air conditioners that burn fossil fuels to generate heat or cold air, heat pumps use electricity to transfer thermal energy indoors and outdoors, depending on the desired temperature. 

Even if they run off fossil-fuel-generated electricity, heat pumps would only release half as many emissions as gas boilers.

Air-source heat pumps extract heat from the air outside and deliver it indoors during winter while reversing the process to remove heat from the indoor air during summer. Ground-source or geothermal heat pumps utilise the ground's or groundwater's stable temperature to provide heating and cooling throughout the year. 

By leveraging renewable energy sources, heat pumps offer significant energy savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional heating and cooling systems.

Initiatives from governments offering subsidies to install heat pumps are available across the world as they attempt to meet their net-zero targets.

4. Layer up in cold weather

To stay warm, it's essential to keep dry. This means selecting clothing made from waterproof or moisture-wicking materials like polyester and nylon.

These fabrics help move moisture away from your body, keeping you dry and helping to maintain the insulating properties of your clothing. It's also important to layer breathable materials, which allow moisture to escape when necessary.

Layering clothing is a simple yet effective way to stay warm indoors during colder months without using the thermostat. By wearing multiple layers of clothing, individuals can trap body heat close to the skin, providing insulation against chilly temperatures.

Opting for natural fibres such as wool, cotton, or fleece ensures breathability and comfort while retaining warmth. 

Homes can be layered, too. Blankets, throws and area rugs adds an extra layer of insulation to rooms, preventing heat loss through floors and surfaces. 

5. Utilising natural ventilation and passive cooling

Embracing natural ventilation and passive cooling strategies can significantly reduce reliance on carbon-intensive and costly air conditioning systems, especially during mild weather conditions.

Opening windows and strategically positioning vents allows fresh air to circulate throughout a home, removing excess heat and improving indoor air quality. 

Cross-ventilation, where airflow is encouraged by creating openings on opposite sides of a building, also enhances cooling efficiency by promoting air movement.

Homeowners can create comfortable living spaces using natural resources for energy efficiency while reducing energy consumption and environmental impact. Shading devices such as awnings, overhangs and vegetation can reduce solar heat gain and lower indoor temperatures. 

6. DIY air conditioning with ice

Thanks to the principles of thermodynamics, placing frozen water bottles in front of a fan creates a makeshift air conditioner capable of providing effective cooling in warm environments.

As the fan blows air over the frozen water bottles, the surrounding air temperature decreases due to the heat exchange between the air and the cold surface of the bottles. This process results in thermal energy transfer from the warmer air to the colder bottles, causing the air to become cooler before being circulated into the room.

Additionally, when the frozen water bottles begin to melt, they release latent heat, further contributing to the cooling effect.

By strategically positioning the fan and arranging the frozen water bottles in its airflow path, this method optimises the distribution of cool air throughout the space, offering a cost-effective and energy-efficient solution for temporary relief from heat discomfort. 

Image by Vivint Solar.

Article written by:
6CD29B1A-B356-4274-B875-1585B2211EEE
Nour Ghantous
Associate Editor
Germany USA India
Embed from Getty Images
Investing in energy-efficient measures reduces utility bills and lessens our environmental impact.
Embed from Getty Images
Solar panels on rooftops capture sunlight and convert it into electricity, which can then be used to operate heating and cooling systems. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems are integral to home comfort, regulating temperature and air quality.
Embed from Getty Images
Heat pumps are highly versatile HVAC systems. They extract heat from the environment, which could be from sources such as ground, air or water, and then concentrate that heat into a building.
Embed from Getty Images
To stay warm, it's essential to keep dry. This means selecting clothing made from waterproof or moisture-wicking materials like polyester and nylon.
Embed from Getty Images
Embracing natural ventilation and passive cooling strategies can significantly reduce reliance on carbon-intensive and costly air conditioning systems, especially during mild weather conditions.
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