Protecting the Environment by Making Your Home Green

By: Cyril Cabral Jr.

How would you dress if you had to spend the day outside in Antarctica, with an average yearly temperature of -57 o F? You would probably not have any exposed skin – covered from head to toe with windbreaking garments – to minimize the chance of frostbite. Next, you may consider many layers and a down-like jacket to make sure your body heat does not easily escape. The extremities will need good quality watertight, highly insulated boots, gloves, and a hat for your head. Last, the windows to the world, your eyes, need protective goggles. Believe it or not, these are the same things a green home needs to minimize the amount of conditioned air (energy)
necessary for a comfortable interior environment.
Protecting the Earth’s environment entails minimizing climate change, or global warming, by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide or methane (natural gas) released into the atmosphere. In our neck of the woods, Yorktown, the amount of greenhouse gasses the average family releases per year is 62 metric tons, with about 32% (20 metric tons) coming from our homes. This is the
amount of emissions released from 4.3 automobiles for a year, or carbon storage (sequestration) from 25 acres of U.S. forest. This article will discuss how these emissions can be eliminated or
aggressively reduced by making the correct choices, creating a win for the environment and a win for us in our homes.
The major initiative needed to achieve this goal is the electrification of everything in the home.
The reason for this is that we know how to generate clean electricity, free from greenhouse gas
generation. This electricity can be generated from solar, wind, hydro (motion of water),
geothermal (within the Earth) and nuclear. All these generating sources are free from greenhouse gasses and are renewable (limitless). From our home perspective, we can tap into
these clean electrical sources by adding rooftop solar or for those who don’t have the appropriate
roof location, buying from community solar or from an energy services company (ESCO) that
provides renewable energy. This alone will make our homes carbon free! The challenge is that
purchasing renewable electricity or generating it on our rooftops, comes at a monetary cost.
Therefore, it behooves us to make changes to our homes to reduce the energy needed.
Making our homes more energy efficient is very similar to dressing appropriately for the arctic
conditions. In the building vernacular, it is moving toward a passive home- one that has ultra-
low energy use, without sacrificing comfort. In the order of importance, here are the items to
consider for the reduction of energy use.
● Air-tight construction / mitigation to keep air infiltration / exfiltration to a minimum – like the windbreaker for the arctic conditions
● Very well insulated with no thermal bridges (locations with poor insulation) – like dressing in layers and the use of down coat for warmth in arctic conditions
● Use of high-performance windows (triple- glazed with appropriate thermal efficiency
coatings)- like goggles for those arctic conditions
● Employ heat pumps for conditioning the air and water (heating, cooling, and water
heating) – typically, heat pumps are 3-4 times more efficient than conventional HVAC systems

● Efficient appliances (Energy Star), lighting (LED), and electronics
● Balanced energy recovery systems (heating, cooling, and moisture) – known as energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) or heat recovery ventilators (HRVs)

In summary, protecting our environment means making smart energy choices to sustain our
lifestyle. When it comes to our home, making the choice to electrify as much as possible and
obtaining the electricity from a clean energy source / supplier drastically reduces our home
carbon footprint. Reducing the cost for the clean energy or rooftop solar can be obtained by
following some of the guiding principles for passive home construction.

There is no better feeling knowing you have a very comfortable home that is not contributing to climate change or that you are well dressed for a day out in the winter.

Cyril Cabral has worked as a researcher in Yorktown for over 30 years, at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center. He has lived in Yorktown for the past five years with his wife and daughter in a new energy efficient, net zero emission home.

Yorktown100 is a 100% volunteer group of neighbors working to reduce our carbon
footprint by 5% a year through various programs. Check our website for further info at
https://yorktown100.cure100.org.

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