We hate to tell you this, but you probably already know this: warming your home may be contributing to global warming. But how much?
How much a comfortable home contributes to global warming depends on your specific circumstances, but generally speaking, one-fifth of your total emissions are related to home energy.
As an example, here is a breakdown of Dutch household emissions. Of course, figures for other countries may be different, but this is a solid indicator for developed countries in a similar climate.
As you can see, home facilities are responsible for 19% of total household emissions. With home facilities, we mean all the energy you use in your home by:
A closer look reveals that the bulk of home energy goes into space heating, amounting to almost two-thirds of total home energy consumption on average in the EU - it is much less for some countries in Southern Europe. For example: Malta (18.3 %), Portugal (27.4 %) and Cyprus (37.4 %):
Since space heating takes up such a large part of energy consumption, we will focus on emissions caused by home heating for the rest of this article.
Excellent, those pie charts about home heating, you might say. But what does this say about my situation or my household situation? It largely depends on the type of house you live in and how you behave. For example, do you put on a jersey on colder days, or do you prefer to keep your home a comfortable 22 degrees Celsius?
If you are happy with an estimate of your emissions, you can simply try this Scone Calculator. It calculates your CO₂ footprint and lets you know how you compare to the country average. By answering a few simple questions about the year of construction of your house and the possible presence of solar panels, you’ll get a picture.
The good news about your home warming emissions: it’s effortless to calculate and monitor your energy use in most cases. A digital (or smart) meter is all you need. However, it’s not that easy to get from energy use to carbon emissions. First, you have to do calculations, but a bigger problem is that various sources give different figures. We took our figures from this source (beware: the link starts a pdf download).
The most straightforward situation is a home heated by just natural gas. The average amount of CO₂ generated by burning natural gas is: 0.2 kg per kWh or 2 kg per cubic meter - more precise figures vary per type/origin of the gas.
A typical Dutch household, for example, uses 1 169 cubic meters of natural gas per year, of which around 80% is used for home heating purposes. This amounts to 1 870 kg, or (rounded) 1,9 tonnes of CO₂ for heating. For reference: 1,9 tonnes of CO₂ looks like a giant hot air balloon and equals:
Fortunately, home energy on fossil fuels is on the decrease. But natural gas is widely used, and in large areas of Europe, heating on oil or coal is still a common practice. Different sources will give different estimates, but the CO₂ footprint for oil and coal is around:
Heating your house with a heat pump is the best way to reduce carbon emissions. However, since heat pumps run on electricity, it matters how that electricity was generated. A heat pump that solely runs on solar panels is practically emission-free. If your device runs on coal-generated electricity, it’s another story. But considering the current mix in the grid, including the remaining coal plants, a heat pump is still better than heating directly with coal.
Chances are, you skipped the paragraph above because it’s all numbers and stuff. So you went straight for the ‘what to do about it’ section. Good for you!
There are plenty of things you can do to reduce your emissions. For example, we’ve got tips to save energy by renovating your house. But there is no reason to wait for big changes. There are some simple things you can already do today.
After all, your day-to-day behaviour partly determines your energy use: taking a short shower - with a water-saving showerhead - instead of a bath, turning down the thermostat one or two degrees - while wearing a jumper, and simply turning the heating off when leaving the house. These are all simple practices that easily can save you up to 20% of your energy costs and emissions.
Want to learn more? Download the Scone app to receive personalised information, in-depth tips to lower your energy bill and carbon footprint, and a supportive community on your way to zero emissions.