As the cost of living continues to climb, and environmental problems continue to worsen, solutions that will actually make a difference seem difficult to identify. Everything seems to require political will that isn’t materializing.
But there are “off the shelf ” solutions that can be
purchased today, that will dramatically change our lives.
“Passive houses” is a type of design and
construction already in use across the world. These
houses are so energy efficient, they don’t require a
furnace, even in colder climates. Many of these houses
have been constructed in countries such as Norway
and Sweden. Imagine not having to pay to heat your
house each month.
But, this energy efficient building system is also
used in tropical climates to reduce cooling costs.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating
and cooling accounts for 48% of all the energy used in
a typical American home, making it the largest energy
expense for most homes.
According to a 2010 New York Times article, there
were 25,000 passive houses in Europe, but only 13 in
the US! Many people considering building a home
assume passive building techniques will make a home
more expensive, but experts say, when operating costs
are factored in, “Passive House emerges as the most
affordable way to construct any building”.
Another element is the source of energy for your
house. Systems already in use in Japan, Australia,
Italy, England, Germany and the US use solar panels
built into the roof, and large battery banks built into
the house to create and store all the electricity the
house needs. So much so, that the houses often sell
the excess power to the local electrical grid. Because
these “self -generation, self-storage” system companies
are growing so rapidly, the prices drop year after year.
Tesla car founder Elon Musk has created a $5 billion “
Gigafactory, producing “Powerpacks” to be mounted
in an existing garage. They start at $3,000.
Musk estimates if Boulder Colorado, population
103,000, bought 10,000 Powerpacks and paired them
with roof top solar panels, it could eliminate its’
reliance on conventional power plants, entirely.
Add to this house an electric car to plug into your
in-house solar power system, to further reduce costs
and environmental impacts. In China, dozens of
different models of mini electric cars (like the one
in the picture) are available. Some have a range or
50 to 70 miles on a charge, and speeds from 60 to 70
mph. Others have much greater operating ranges,
depending on price and options. Some are single
seaters, while other companies offer 4 seaters. Many
consumers buy them as second cars for every day,
around town shopping, and commuting. Prices start
at under $500 for a bare bones model, to $10,000 for
a car that looks like any current small car in America
today, and the average around $4,000.
All of these technologies and products exist now. No
need to wait for politicians to agree or act, or to wait
for government to “solve the problem”. These types of
solutions change the current conversation about how
to transition away from fossil fuels. No need to argue
about the noise of wind turbines, or the damage to the
environment from pipelines or tanker traffic.
These products and approaches give each of us the
ability to make a difference for future generations.
Any one of us can do the right thing, right now.