Recommended Home Upgrades:

Electricity makes Renewables Possible:

If there were only one thing I could share with people about how to use more renewable energy, it would be the importance of transitioning 100% of your energy consumption to electricity. It makes renewable energy possible. If you are using natural gas to power your water heater, stove, or space heating, those appliances are powered with 100% fossil fuels. If instead you powered them with electricity from the grid, over 30% of your consumption would be emissions free in the form of wind, solar, hydro and nuclear. It also allows for you to, at some point, generate your own power from wind or solar. The grid is rapidly moving toward wind and solar. The chart below shows the grid capacity additions and retirements by fuel source for 2015.

2015 electricity generation changes

 

Efficient use of Water Matters:

Many of us don’t think about water as a source of energy consumption, but it is. Water utilities use huge amounts of energy to process, filter, and distribute the water we use. The US Geological Survey says the average person in the U.S. uses 80-100 gallons of water per day. Average energy use for water treatment according to southern California studies is 652 kWh per acre-foot (AF), where one AF = 325,853 gallons, but that is not the only energy used to provide water. Water also needs to be lifted out of the ground from aquifers, and it needs to be pumped to storage facilities and points of use. One source of info on how much power that takes comes from the California State Water Project (SWP) which transports water for two-thirds of the residents in California. The SWP accounts for 2% of the state’s electricity consumption. In a state where 20% of water usage is urban and 80% is agricultural, that 2% only makes up a small portion of the total energy consumption used in the water delivery and processing sector. All this is to say, that by decreasing our water usage, we decrease our energy usage.

Just as with direct energy consumption, I recommend only changing your habits in ways that either make your life easier, more enjoyable, more convenient, or doesn’t affect you one way or the other. Those types of changes are the ones that will make you happy. Changes that make you happy are the ones you stick with year after year. I used that as my criteria for the recommended water-based projects in the home section: faucets and toilets. The high efficiency versions of both types of plumbing fixtures made huge leaps in functionality since their introductions over 20 years ago. If you encountered poorly designed fixtures in the past, I would encourage you to take another look at the well-reviewed products on the market today and choose something that works for you. On our faucets and toilets pages, we have several recommendations for high quality products so you do not have to do the research yourself.