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Heating Your Home Helps Warm the Planet

We'll need new efficiencies in home heating and insulation to counteract thermal pollution

3 min read
Heating Your Home Helps Warm the Planet
Illustration: Chad Hagen

If our climate models are correct, and if indeed we must limit the increase in global warming to two degrees Celsius, then we will have to take many unprecedented steps to reduce carbon emissions. Attention commonly focuses on new techniques that result in higher efficiencies—like light-emitting diodes—or that introduce entirely new modes of energy conversion, such as electric cars. Conservation, however, is in principle a more practical solution, but unfortunately there are few ways to extend it to what has long been the single biggest energy hog in the colder parts of the world: house heating.

More than a billion people need to heat their houses: about 350 million European Union citizens living outside the warm Mediterranean climate, about 400 million people in North America living outside the U.S. South and Southwest, and 400 million Chinese in the northeastern, northern, and western regions. And almost everywhere you look, the best available techniques are already as efficient as is practically possible.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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