By Guest Contributor André Fonseca
People’s concern about environmental issues have increased dramatically. The environment is now regarded as the third most important issue facing the UK after Brexit and public health. The young are even more concerned than older people, rating it the second most pressing issue.
Apart from pushing for greater action at a national level, what can ordinary people do to confront the climate crisis?
To paraphrase Anne Marie Bonneau, “We don’t need a handful of people [reducing their environmental impact] perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
This means including a number of solutions into your daily life that, together, will add up to a tangible difference.
Let’s review some promising solutions that could help reduce your home’s environmental impact…
Our energy use
When people think of environmental impact, they often think of their energy use. There has been a big push towards finding renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, and I would encourage everyone to switch to a renewable energy supplier.
People have also taken some responsibility for their energy usage, swapping out their light bulbs for energy-efficient LED bulbs, for example. Solar panels have also grown in popularity as the cost has fallen and efficiency improved. Unfortunately, these solar panels are rather ugly, which puts some people off.
But what if every window in your home (or office building) could generate energy?
Solar Glass – Enormous potential
With solar glass, it will be possible to turn windows into solar panels. While still transparent, they trap the sun’s energy as it passes through, generating free, renewable energy for your home or office.
While the transparent nature of solar windows reduces the efficiency of solar windows, teams are working to improve the efficiency to 15%. This may not sound like a lot, but with billions of square meters of glass windows in the UK alone, even 15% could generate all the energy we need as a nation!
Using smart switches
As well as generating more renewable energy, there are also ways to reduce our energy consumption in the first place. One area where we are particularly wasteful is in lighting where lights are often left on unnecessarily.
Smart switches help combat unnecessary energy usage from lighting, switching them off when unneeded. They use a combination of automation tools, such as motion sensing and programmable times, to automatically turn lights off when they’re not being used.
Not only will this help save energy, but it will also cut down on your energy bills!
Mitigating heat loss
While we tend to think of electricity use when we think of environmentalism, heat loss is another huge contributing factor. Heat is still energy and heat loss both wastes energy and warms the environment.
Of course, insulating your home with modern insulating materials and double glazed windows are essential. However, there are also some new ways of recapturing heat energy, reducing your home’s environmental impact.
Recapturing shower heat
If you own a smart meter, you’ll be aware that electric showers are one of the biggest costs on your energy bill. Electric showers take a large amount of energy to quickly heat the water, yet are seen as an essential modern convenience.
Fortunately, Zypho has been working on a clever device that recaptures the heat from your shower water. Zypho devices can be retro-fitted into existing showers both in the home and commercial buildings. They exchange heat between the water disappearing down the drain and the water heating up to the heating unit, reducing energy use by up to 67%. That means for every three showers, two are free!
Increasing water efficiency
The amount of fresh drinking water available is rapidly declining. As such, water efficiency should be considered just as important as energy and heat.
Showers, as well as using a lot of energy, also use a lot of water, usually much more than a bath!
Fortunately, there are a number of companies developing solutions that reduce the amount of water used in a shower by up to 65%.
One example is Nebia, creators of a new showerhead that uses up to 65% less water than a traditional shower. It does this by atomising the water for a more efficient shower without sacrificing on the quality of the shower.
It’s estimated that the average household could save up to 12,000 gallons of water every year using a Nebia showerhead!
Another low-cost option is the Niagara low-flow showerhead that simply reduced the amount of water sprayed out by the shower while ensuring a consistent pressure. And with a 10-year guarantee as standard, you won’t have to worry about your shower for a long time to come!
Greater efficiency for laundry
The other device that uses huge amounts of water is your washing machine. Washing machines have improved in efficiency over the years. New high-efficiency washers use around 15 to 30 gallons of water compared to 29 to 45 gallons used by older washers.
However, for an average house doing two loads per week, that still equates to hundreds of litres of water used. Not to mention the energy cost of heating the water and spinning the drum.
The Laundry Pod has been developed to drastically cut the energy and water used to clean laundry. Functioning much like a standard washing machine, complete with wastewater disposal, the Laundry Pod is a manual washing device that doubles as an exercise machine. This means it uses no electricity and a mere three gallons of water at most per wash.
As you can see, it’s not all doom and gloom. Yes, the planet may be heating up at an unprecedented rate and action is needed at a national level. However, we as individuals can still make a huge impact.
If people used all these technologies we could reduce non-renewable energy usage in homes to zero and massively reduce the amount of renewable energy and water usage. This could cut household utilities bills in half. As homeowners we can make a contribution and save too!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
André Fonseca is the CEO of Zypho, a company developing internationally-patented shower-drain heat recovery solutions for domestic and commercial showers.
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