Refridgerant Management #1
Every refrigerator and air conditioner contains chemical refrigerants that absorb and release heat to enable chilling. Refrigerants, specifically CFCs and HCFCs, were once culprits in depleting the ozone layer. Thanks to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, they have been phased out. HFCs, the primary replacement, spare the ozone layer, but have 1,000 to 9,000 times greater capacity to warm the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
Through an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, the world will phase out HFCs—starting with high-income countries in 2019, then some low-income countries in 2024 and others in 2028. Substitutes are already on the market, including natural refrigerants such as propane and ammonium. Scientists estimate the amendment will reduce global warming by nearly one degree Fahrenheit. Still, the bank of HFCs will grow substantially before all countries halt their use. Because 90 percent of refrigerant emissions happen at end of life, effective disposal of those currently in circulation is essential. After being carefully removed and stored, refrigerants can be purified for reuse or transformed into other chemicals that do not cause warming. Refridgerant Management
Rooftop solar panels are one example of distributed solar photovoltaic systems. Whether grid-connected or part of standalone systems, they offer hyper-local, clean electricity generation. Today, photovoltaic (PV) panels use thin wafers of silicon crystal. Small-scale solar systems, typically sited on rooftops, accounted for roughly 30 percent of PV capacity installed worldwide in 2015. Rooftop solar is spreading as the cost of panels falls, driven by incentives to accelerate growth, economies of scale in manufacturing, and advances in PV technology.
Water heating is a major energy use. Hot water for showers, laundry, and washing dishes consumes a quarter of residential energy use worldwide; in commercial buildings, that number is roughly 12 percent. Solar water heating—exposing water to the sun to warm it—can reduce that fuel consumption by 50 to 70 percent. All told, solar hot water is among the most effective ways to convert solar energy into thermal energy. Payback periods are as short as two to four years, depending on specifics of system and location. Solar Hotwater
To close the gap on unwanted heat gain or loss and maintain comfortable room temperature, we use more energy. Air infiltration accounts for 25–60 percent of energy used to heat and cool a home—energy that is simply wasted. By better insulating a building envelope, heat exchange can be reduced, energy saved, and emissions avoided. Ideally, a building’s thermal layer should cover all sides—bottom floor, exterior walls, and roof—and be continuous. Sealing gaps and cracks is also critical to a more effective building envelope.
Insulation is one of the most practical and cost-effective ways to make buildings more energy efficient—both in new construction and through retrofitting older buildings that often are not well encased. At relatively low cost, insulation results in lower utility bills, while keeping out moisture and improving air quality. Insulation
LED Lighting #33
LEDs (light emitting diodes) are the most energy-efficient bulbs available. Unlike older technologies, they transfer most of their energy use into light, rather than waste heat. LEDs work like solar panels in reverse, converting electrons to photons instead of the other way around. They use 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs for the same amount of light, and half as much as compact fluorescents, without toxic mercury. LED Lighting
The building sector worldwide uses approximately 32 percent of all energy generated; more than one-third of that is for heating and cooling. Maximum efficiency in heating and cooling could cut energy use by 30 to 40 percent. The means to increase efficiency are at hand, and one technology stands out from the rest: heat pumps. When paired with renewable energy sources and building structures designed for efficiency, heat pumps could eliminate almost all emissions from heating and cooling. High-Efficiency Heatpumps
Household Recycling #55
To produce new products from recovered materials requires fewer raw resources and less energy. That’s how recycling household, commercial, and industrial waste can cut emissions.
Waste production multiplied tenfold over the last century and will likely double again by 2025. Half or less of that waste is generated at the household level. Though the mix varies widely from place to place, in high-income countries paper, plastic, glass, and metal comprise more than 50 percent of the waste stream—all prime candidates for recycling.
Recycling can reduce emissions because producing new products from recovered materials often saves energy. Forging recycled aluminum products, for example, uses 95 percent less energy than creating them from virgin materials. Recycling remains an effective approach to managing waste while addressing emissions. It also reduces resource extraction, minimizes other pollutants, and creates jobs. Recycling and Paper Recycling
Smart Thermostats #57
Thermostats are mission control for residential energy use for heating and cooling. At present, the majority of thermostats require manual operation or preset programming, and studies show people are notoriously unreliable in doing either efficiently. Smart thermostats eliminate the capriciousness of human behavior, thereby driving more predictable energy savings. You can still turn the temperature up and down, but these devices will remember your choices and memorize your routines—adapting to the dynamic nature of day-to-day living.
Smart thermostats detect occupancy, learn inhabitants’ preferences, and nudge users toward more efficient behavior. The newest technologies also integrate demand response; they can reduce consumption at times of peak energy use, peak prices, and peak emissions. The net effect: Residences are more energy efficient, more comfortable, and less costly to operate. Smart Thermostats
Retrofits address electricity and fuel waste with better insulation and windows, efficient lighting, and advanced heating and cooling systems. Improved efficiency lowers existing buildings’ emissions. Worldwide, buildings account for 32 percent of energy use and 19 percent of energy-related greenhouse emissions. They pull from the electric grid or natural gas lines to heat, cool, and light the spaces within them and to power appliances and machinery. As much as 80 percent of the energy consumed is wasted—lights and electronics are left on unnecessarily and gaps in the building’s envelope allow air to seep in and out, for example.
Much of the attention paid to green buildings is in new construction, but retrofitting brings energy efficiency to the existing built environment. The world has 1.6 trillion square feet of building stock, 99 percent of which is not green. Retrofitting addresses how heat and cold are escaping or entering the building, the systems that cool or warm inhabitants, and how spaces are illuminated. It ultimately improves the experience of being inside the building.
Retrofitting is a well-understood practice, and good building performance data is making it increasingly effective. The payback on retrofits, depending on the building, is five to seven years on average. Building Retrofitting
The Good Home covers a few of Project Drawdown's 100 solutions to reverse global warming, including:
The Good Home has a lot of cross over with reducing your waste (our Tip #6) from refusing, reusing, recycling, upcycling, composting and so on but the biggest impact can be changing what you buy and even if you need to buy it in the first place.
There are now thankfully many eco-products available that reduce plastic and are kind to the planet. Local small businesses like Ethique, Refillery and Remix Plastic have been doing this for some years now. We also have some larger New Zealand made businesses like Eco-Shop and Eco Store with products in all supermarkets and don't forget your local Bin Inns! If you haven't got a local eco-friendly shop then there are plenty online now.
Watch out for Green-Washing, where businesses say they are green but aren’t really. For example, having refills of soaps and detergents in soft plastics isn’t any better than the solid bottles. What is greener is having it in plastic bottles 1 or 2 that can be easily recycled or even better refill your own, make your own or blocks with no plastic at all.
The eco-home will be more fully covered in our Tip #6 Reduce Waste. Check out our The Good Home Facebook page too!
Healthier Warmer Homes
Energy use at home includes electricity and heating fuels. Reducing energy use is great for your pocket but also lightens the load on our electrical infrastructure which isn’t 100% renewable. Most of New Zealand’s power comes from our hydro dams (about 80%). Fossil fuels, such as coal, are burned in power stations to meet peak electricity demand times such as early evening.
Other easy actions to trim electricity bills include:
Water- In Christchurch City it's easy to take a clean water supply for granted. Here are many ways you can reduce your household water use (and your water bill, if metered) and reduce pollution going into waterways:
Rainwater and storm water solutions - In principle, a rainwater collection system is simple: rainwater is collected from your roof and stored in a tank until you need it. Exactly how you set the system up will depend on how much rainwater you need and what you want to use it for. To collect rainwater for watering the garden, you might not need anything more complex than a 44-gallon drum or a 200-500 litre rain barrel with a tap or connection to a soak hose. Generally, systems for outdoor use only rely on gravity with no need for pumps.
You can also collect rainwater for:
For advice on creating rain gardens, pumice wicks and swales, ask your local or regional council, or local garden centre. For lots of information check out Sustainable Living Aotearoa
Lighting – LED Light bulbs use up to 85% less electricity that traditional bulbs and can last 15 times longer. They cost more upfront but the long term savings are worth it. LED bulbs have become much cheaper and can be as cheap as $3.
Downlights - Most older recessed downlights get so hot that they require gaps in the ceiling and/or insulation around them to reduce the risk of fire – but that means heat and energy leak out. Imagine having a jersey with huge holes in the middle of winter! Incandescent (traditional) bulbs and halogen bulbs are also inefficient and expensive to run.
Replace with LED downlights and, if required, a ceiling insulation fix up/top up. Good insulation makes our homes more energy efficient, comfortable and healthy. It makes homes easier and cheaper to heat and adds lasting value to properties.
Healthy Homes' Programmes
Warmer Kiwi Homes Programme by Government has 80% subsidies for insulation and Heating – check if you are eligible here
Book a Healthy Home Assessment and a friendly Advisor can visit your home and talk with you about ways to improve the health and efficiency of your home. This free service is available to ALL Christchurch Homeowners. Check with them if you are renting. This expert advice will be tailored to your needs and be specific to your home, including; Insulation, Heating, Ventilation and moisture control, Windows and curtains, Draft stopping, Glazing, Water heating, Smoke alarms. Community Energy Action or Healthier Homes Canterbury.
Home fit has a free online Home Assessment Tool. This is designed for Kiwis looking at homes to buy or rent, or for homeowners looking to improve their property. It also offers advice to landlords on how to meet the Government’s Healthy Homes Standards.
Learn how to make your building or renovation more eco-friendly. Advice is available for homeowners, home designers, builders and industry professionals. If you're an architect, you can earn 10 CPD points for a two-hour consultation with an Eco Design Advisor. Book a free two-hour consultation with a specialist Christchurch City Council Eco Design Advisor.
Build Smarter - Home improvement guide and new home building guide. Also has other useful resources and links.
There are loads we can do in our own home - many things actually make living cheaper too. We can't cover everything (just yet) like solar and wind power, other ways to live sustainably. Please let us know your Good Home Ideas by emailing us or on Facebook.
Our Michelle's Kitchen downlights that she wants to replace
Mitre10’s How to install a small water tank
#4 The Good Home
IF EVERY NEW ZEALAND HOUSEHOLD INSTALLED LED LIGHTING, WE’D AVOID 82,000 TONNES OF GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS EVERY YEAR – THE EMISSIONS OF ALMOST 34,000 PETROL CARS.
Did you know that we only drink around 5% of the water we use?
The other 95% goes down the drain from showers, taps, laundries and toilets, as well as use in gardens