Why U.S. Homes Should Be Greener

Reader Contribution by Ruth Barton

According to statistics, Americans are responsible for roughly 25 percent of global emissions of carbon dioxide, which is more than any other nation and on a per capita basis is 6.6 tons of CO2 annually. In the U.S., most carbon dioxide (98 percent) is emitted as the result of burning of fossil fuels.

Surprisingly residences account for as much as 21 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions with 68 per cent of residential emissions coming from the consumption of electricity and 80 per cent of those coming from the burning of coal at coal-fired power plants, which residences use for lighting, air conditioning, heating and other household appliances.

In order to help reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions, and to achieve the rule put in place to reduce America’s carbon dioxide emissions by 30% from 2005 levels, housing in the US needs to be made more energy efficient through improved insulation.

Although efforts have already been put in place to help reduce CO2 emissions from residences, for example, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is helping buildings save energy, water, resources and money, efforts need to increased considerably further in order to reduce residences carbon emissions by a significant amount.

Much of the existing housing stock in the US is not insulated to the levels it should be today, with older homes in particular, significantly using more energy than they should, which is not only bad for the environment but also leading to higher heating and air-conditioning bills. Newer homes tend to be much more energy efficient because they have been built with ‘being green’ in mind.  However, while some newer housing is being built in the US, a large percentage of US housing is old.

The UK is an example of a country who have put in place a system, called the Green Deal, to help improve energy efficiency in housing and reduce the UK’s carbon emissions from residency. The Green Deal is a new way to pay for energy-saving home improvements. Brits are able to take out Green Deal finance to pay for measures such as loft, cavity or solid wall insulation, glazing, a new boiler or solar panels. Which makes us question, would the U.S. benefit from a similar system? As a lot of U.S. residents may be put off investing in insulation for their home simply because of the costs that are associated with it.

Not only are is the UK government introducing new green government initiatives, they are also cracking down on building new homes that are extremely energy efficient. For example, just one example of a new housing development in the UK are the new homes in Norfolk by Abel Homes. Each home has been fitted with triple glazed windows, ‘Superwall’ insulation, insulated ground floors and lofts, low energy lighting and have Solar PV (meaning that homeowners will enjoy free electricity that it generates as well as benefit from the ‘Feed in Tariff’ payments from the Government for 20 years).

Although newer green housing is being built in the U.S., because of the size of the country, it is not having such a significant effect on reducing the carbon emissions that the U.S. are generating.  And if the U.S. want to reduce the carbon footprint from U.S. housing, government efforts need to be significantly improved.