Wondering what you can do to minimize your carbon footprint at your home? Solar panels are great, but they aren’t a good fit for everyone. If your house is in a shaded area, or your shingles are older but not quite ready for replacement, solar electric may not be practical for your house right now. Fortunately, there are other things you can do.
1. Even without solar panels, you can choose a 100% renewable electric supplier for your electricity- which supports the development of renewable energy whether or not you get panels personally. Instructions on how to do this in Ohio are available here: https://uucaearth1.wordpress.com/signing-up-for-renewable-electricity/
2. Try induction cooking before buying another gas cooktop. Induction offers the performance of a gas cooktop without the fossil fuels or indoor air quality problems. (Yes, your gas cooktop is bad for the air quality in your house.) If you’d like to minimize your fossil fuel cooking even before you get a whole new cooktop, you can buy an induction hot plate to try it out. They start at about $50.
3. If you haven’t already, get an energy audit for your house. If you are a Dominion Natural Gas customer, you can get an audit for just $25 https://www.deohpwes.com/ They will do a blower door test on the house that helps to identify air leaks, which are even more important to the efficiency of the house than insulation is, and they’ll use an infra red camera to see insulation levels in the walls. Air sealing and insulation will make the house more comfortable and reduce your utility bills, and if you aren’t using electricity for heating, reduce your use of fossil fuels too. If your house is already all electric, First Energy offers a similar audit program: http://www.energysaveohio-homeaudit.com/home-audit. These audits will give you more information about your house’s energy use, but if you have serious comfort problems or are ready to do a major energy renovation, you may want to talk with the consultant I used: http://energysmartohio.com/how_it_works/our-process-read-me/
4. Next time you need to replace your water tank, consider your options. My preference is a heat pump water heater. It costs about the same to run as a gas water heater, but it’s all electric so there is no need to worry about carbon monoxide. These are best in a basement, since the air around them gets pretty chilly sometimes! If you are going to keep your gas service for quite a while and don’t mind annual maintenance, an on-demand unit may make sense, but it will need a larger gas pipe than a tank-type heater.
5. If you are due to get a new air conditioner, be sure you get a heat pump that can provide heating as well as cooling. That way you can use it to provide much of the heat for your house with renewable energy from your renewable supplier.
6. Start thinking ahead for when you will need to replace your furnace. Maybe you don’t need to rely on fossil fuels for your heating at all! An air source heat pump can provide all of your heating and cooling needs if your house has good air sealing and insulation. It is important to work with a professional specializing in this kind of work to make sure your house is ready for this so you don’t end up with excessive operating costs. Energy Smart Home Performance has converted many homes in northeast Ohio to all electric with good success, including my house.