Sustainability Scoop – Going Green in Winter
I continually seek ways to use less energy and shrink my carbon footprint. This has brought me some itchy projects, like adding insulation to my home. It’s a challenge to use less energy in the winter. To heat a home, you need to burn something. For most of us, that heat source is fossil fuels. So how do you keep warm in winter and shrink your carbon footprint?
When our son was born, we needed a way to cool the bedrooms in the summer. Our home has a natural gas-fired boiler system with no ducts for central air conditioning. Instead of window AC units, we decided to install a ductless mini splits heat pump system. Don’t let the name heat pump fool you, these units are amazing air conditioners. These systems are popular in other parts of the world and are gaining popularity in the U.S. These ductless systems hang a rectangular box in each room and a small compressor called a heat pump the size of a large suitcase outside the home. Newer units have inverter technology that can regulate the compressor speed, which adjusts to speed up and slow down as needed. This dramatically reduces power consumption by only using the exact amount of energy you need to maintain the temperature setting. These heat pumps can also operate in reverse. Instead of making cool air for air conditioning, they can make warm air for heat.
This fall, we decided to install ductless mini splits in the living spaces of our home. We were motivated by having more cooled space to escape the increasingly hotter summers. There was also an added benefit. With the additional units, we could start heating our home with them instead of the natural gas boiler. These systems do an excellent job of keeping our home warm and cozy. We have learned there are some limitations during the winter. Heat pumps are efficient to about 20 degrees of outdoor air temperature; lower, they become very inefficient and won’t create heat past 0 degrees.
We love the flexibility of these units. You can set each room to its own temperature, adding efficiency and comfort. We have noticed the system’s efficiency in our energy bills. They are more efficient than window-mounted air conditioners. We found that cooling our whole home in the summer used less power than running two window AC units. So far this winter, we have used 75% less natural gas than last year.
These systems are not inexpensive, but we believe they are well worth the investment. Some of that cost is offset by lower energy bills. The other is knowing we are less reliant on fossil fuels and shrinking our carbon footprint. We will continue to transition to other applications for this technology, like water heaters and clothes dryers. We are setting up our home for the all-electric future and dream of one day getting to net zero emissions. I breathe easier, knowing that I am doing my part to battle climate change.
Learn more about heat pumps and ductless mini splits here