Insulate and innovate: Saving energy in the home
A lot of money and resources go into making our homes warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. How can we minimize the amount of power we use for climate control?
For example, 1/3 of all energy consumed in Germany is used to heat or cool homes. This can be quite an expense and is a significant source of climate change driving greenhouse gases.
People have been insulating their homes for thousands of years with grass, mud and other natural materials. Now we use fiberglass, foam insulation, special glass in more developed areas, while houses in poorer, hotter places are sometimes still insulated (and quite effectively) with loam – typically a sand/silt/clay mixture.
Some architects are working on glass houses that would be suitable in all climates and require neither heating nor cooling. The only requirement would be that those who live in them don’t throw stones.
Other ways to decrease your home’s energy bills include installing solar panels, energy-efficient light bulbs and replacing old appliances with Energy Star-rated ones.
Another thing to consider is what to do with your home while you’re not living in it. For example if you are away on vacation or for work, switch off your appliances and electronic devices. This means not just setting them to standby, but switching the power point off (if you life in the UK or Ireland, for example) or simply unplugging them from their electrical outlets.
In the kitchen, the most obvious targets are the kettle, toaster, coffee machine and microwave. After emptying the fridge and freezer, you can switch off these appliances, too. The oven, dishwasher and washing machine can also be unplugged but may require a little more effort: in most kitchens, these appliances have to be pulled away from the fixtures to reach the plug.
The following short video from Deutsche Welle’s Global Ideas looks into past, present and future ways of insulating homes around the world: