Are you running your home’s air conditioning system a lot on these hot summer days? Are you in an area, like many, that’s suffering moderate to severe drought? Do you glaze over at the gas pump as you try not to think about the hard-earned money you’re funneling to the oil and gas companies?
The need to be energy-efficient is all around us now—and nearly inescapable.
But what does this have to do with climate change, or global warming, or whatever you want to call it?
While there’s no ironclad proof that the more extreme weather patterns we’ve been experiencing are linked to global warming, the possibility that we’ve been pumping too much greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has become all too apparent to many.
NASA climatologist James Hansen, who has been warning about global warming for decades, has released a statistical analysis concluding that the recent extreme heat and drought being experienced in the United States and other parts of the world absolutely must be the result of man-made global warming. (Short summary: The statistical probability that it’s not global warming is somewhere in the vicinity of fairy land.) Add to that Greenland’s ice sheet recently showing inexplicable signs of melt—and if those mile-high glaciers slip into the sea, we’re in a heap of trouble.
Still not convinced? Your neighbors may be. The New York Times reports that belief in climate change now crosses party lines—if just barely—and that’s likely the result of the scorching temperatures and drought.
According to a survey conducted in July by the University of Texas, 70 percent of Americans believe the climate is changing, compared to 65 percent in March, and only 15 percent say it isn’t. Party affiliation continues to divide public opinion, but today most Republicans, 53 percent, believe in climate change, as do 72 percent of independents and 87 percent of Democrats.
Efficiency is Required, Regardless
Whether or not you believe in man-made climate change, there is no escaping the fact that the age of energy efficiency is upon us.
Your home’s overworked A/C system can be regulated with a programmable thermostat to trim your energy costs while you’re not home and make it comfortable when you are. Or you can get a wireless, communicating thermostat that you can program and operate from a smartphone. Or get a thermostat that learns your patterns, like the one from Nest.
Drought can be battled several ways to save water in your house, from hot water recirculators to pool pump regulators to low-flow fixtures and automated irrigation systems. And as it turns out, just saving electricity in your home can help save enormous amounts of water used to cool power plants. Better for that water to serve your home.
Electric vehicles (EVs) and other more efficient cars will eventually make inroads on the old gas-combustion engine, potentially freeing us from the monopolies of the oil and gas companies and the influence of foreign regimes. EVs will soon arrive en masse, and they could be the biggest game-changers ever.
In addition, more and more people are investing in solar systems to produce their own electricity or heat hot water from the sun.
We also have good energy monitoring and management systems from companies like Powerhouse Dynamics and Eragy. Home control systems like those from Crestron, Savant, and Vantage add energy monitoring and energy management options. And similar systems from HAI, Eaton, Nexia, Honeywell and others are available. Lutron enables effective energy control through its lighting and motorized shading systems. And Somfy controls lighting, shading and thermostats through its TaHomA system.
That’s Just the Beginning
Companies like Panasonic, Samsung and Toshiba have shown off energy storage and management systems at big shows like CES, and Toshiba has promised a smart-grid-tied system by the end of this year.
In the near future, our homes could have their own energy producing and storage systems, electric vehicle charging, smart appliances that operate when it’s most economical, devices that turn on and off automatically—all governed by an intelligent and automated energy management/home control system that responds to our needs and send us alerts only when we need them.
With all the efficiency needs that are being foisted upon us—environmentally and economically—our homes will be smarter for it. That’s one good thing.
Here’s a nifty side benefit: It will go a long way toward curbing climate change, too.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates