The heating and cooling challenge has been a great experience for not only examining how to maximize our heating and cooling but also has demonstrated how changes in behaviours are the true agents of change.
This challenge has really driven home the point that ensuring our home envelope is properly air sealed is imperative to maximizing the energy efficiency of our home as an interactive multicomponent system. Regular maintenance of our mechanical ventilation systems will be on us to continue to ensure we have the maximum effectiveness and energy efficiency of both our heat pump and our HRV (heat recovery ventilator) units (we let both of them go, but now really do understand the significance of WHY regular maintenance is both important for efficiency and our health).
We are also committed to utilizing our heat pump less by using our curtains and ceiling fans more efficiently allowing us to adjust our thermostat. I have even learned this week all the modes on our heat pump (because to be honest I never paid much attention to it before!).
But together they all pack a punch.
The one rabbit hole that we have gone down though is trying to figure out how to best set the temperature on our heat pump. Do we turn it down at night or keep it constant? The debate is out. We have even found contradictions from the same source! Some say to keep your heat pump at a constant in the winter, others say that you can lower the thermostat while sleeping or away for more than four hours. Clear as mud.
But the one thing to consider on this front might just be where you live, the electricity carbon intensity of your province (how your province produces power) and the impacts of peak demand, especially peak winter demand. Peak what? Well, peak demand is when we are all using electricity at the same time, especially in the early mornings and evenings. Think for example of your morning routine while getting ready for work. Making coffee, using the toaster, showers, etc. Well, we are all in the same morning boat, which drives up the need for electricity as we are all using it at the same time. This increases the load on our energy providers. In the winter, we are all also using heat, which drives up the demand even further.
So why does it matter where you live? Well, for example we live in New Brunswick which does have some hydro, and nuclear power, but New Brunswick also unfortunately relies on oil, diesel, and coal to help power the province. New Brunswick first relies on greener energy to provide power, but as demand rises, so does the need to use other fossil fuel energy sources including coal or “dirty” power. Coal produces the most carbon emissions of all other fuel sources and is responsible for approximately 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions! EEK!
Home heating accounts for over 63% of the energy used in the average Canadian home. So, if we all turn our heat down at night and then one hour before we get up turn up the heat, then all turn our coffee makers on, etc. this creates a peak in demand and increases the load on the system. Well, if green energy is used up, provinces must then rely on dirty power to provide enough electricity so that we can all have a warm house, hot showers, coffee and lights on to get ready in the morning.
I’m not willing to give up my coffee, but I do wonder about me. Me? Well, if I just worry about my family’s heating and cooling needs, I may not be considering the impact on my province’s fossil fuel use and resultant global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.
Perhaps by keeping our heat pumps at a constant, along with behaviour changes (turn the lights off kids!), we can beat the peak together, and reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels, a known contributor to climate change. Food for sustainable thought for sure!