Since the COVID-19 outbreak, people have been spending more time at home, increasing domestic energy consumption. In the US in 2020, for example, whilst national power consumption dipped by 4% between April and June, household energy use increased by 8% — the highest energy usage for the last decade.
This trend makes home energy consumption hugely important to meeting the challenge of climate change; the cumulative effect of small changes in energy use in every house, in every neighbourhood, in every country, would be enormous. Our homes offer us an opportunity to be more sustainable: they are where we can all make a difference — by being in control of where our energy comes from, how much we use, when we use it, and even generating our own energy — to combat the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Transitioning to low carbon energy
We are increasingly turning away from high carbon sources of energy such as gas, to low carbon sources such as electricity. It is forecast that we will see an “accelerated transition to low carbon energy”, “pragmatic investment in carbon capture solutions”, and “the advancement and application of low-carbon technologies.”
In fact, the fossil fuel industry has struggled during the COVID-19 crisis — due to reduced demand from transport and other sectors — yet renewable energy has experienced record growth. It was estimated that:
- By 2025 renewables will become the largest source of electricity generation worldwide (as predicted by the International Energy Agency (IEA))
- Global solar thermal consumption to heat water will be 20% higher in 2025 than it was in 2020
What’s more, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that in response to the COVID-19 crisis, governments (excluding the EU) have been investing in energy-related stimulus packages worth $220 billion — half of which focus on clean energy technologies, particularly increasing the energy efficiency of buildings. In the UK for example, the government’s Green Home Grant vouchers offer up to £10,000 toward installing energy efficient home improvements such as insulation or low-carbon heating.
Government grants and conscious consumers are creating a shift toward greater home energy resilience including the use of solar panels and other renewable technology, smart systems, and systems that enable households to store the energy they capture. What’s more, as electric vehicles gain popularity, this energy resilience means our homes can become charging stations without the worry of energy cost or environmental impact.
Enter smart technology
Advances in smart technology are giving households the opportunity to better understand and control the energy used in the home, enabling us to become conscious energy consumers – from smart thermostats that enable remote home temperature control, to entire systems in which all electrical devices are connected via the Internet of Things.
Domestic systems can track the energy use of each appliance and times of energy consumption, so that households can understand where they can reduce their energy waste and make savings – such as charging an electric vehicle overnight to take advantage of off-peak tariffs.
Engineered for sustainability, connected home solutions support more efficient energy use through smart automation in a range of applications:
- Lighting– Homeowners can set Away Mode for when nobody’s home to automatically turn off all lights. The use of presence detecting sensors for less frequented areas of the house helps make sure no light is turned on and then forgotten.
- Heating– Smart systems can lower the heating when no one’s around and warm up the house before the owners get home. The system is also able to detect if a window is open and adjust the heating to prevent energy loss.
- Shutters and blinds– Automated schedules can also be set for shutters. They can be lowered on a cold day to prevent heat loss or raised on a sunny day to warm up the house. In the summer, closing the shutters can help keep interiors cooler and optimise air conditioning.
- Appliances –Remote control of home appliances via an app means homeowners don’t have to wonder if they turned them off. They can control them from anywhere to both save energy and gain peace of mind.
- Energy management– With a smart module added to their electrical panel, homeowners get detailed insights into their energy consumption. They can track energy usage patterns throughout the day, see which devices consume the most energy, and make informed decisions when choosing their tariffs. Systems can also detect electrical installation issues and send immediate notifications.
Not only is having this kind of control over energy use good for the environment and household expenses, it is also good for our well-being: it can reduce financial stress and create more comfortable environments for all occupants. This is more important than you might think, as the desire for control is innate in human beings and anything that undermines it can be harmful to our well-being.