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With climate change affecting people across the globe, energy conservation is no more a choice but a must for all. As buildings are one of the largest sources of energy consumption, conservation should start at home, through behavioural changes that ensure that we have energy-efficient homes.
“Each of us should consciously evolve ways, to avoid wastage of scarce resources such as water and power, in our homes. The problem with urban planning today, is that building structures are guzzlers of energy. Their design is based on the assumption of limitless supply of HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) resources. No effort is being made to tap renewable energy, to meet the need for power. There is an urgent need to revisit climate-sensitive concepts of indigenous architecture, to design and construct multi-storeyed buildings, while making appropriate use of advanced building technologies,” says Anthony Raj, founder-director of the Center for Indigenous Architecture.
Opt for energy efficient appliances
According to Pune-based NGO, Prayas Energy Group, residential electricity consumption has gone up by 50 times since 1971 and now forms about a quarter of India’s total electricity consumption, up from about four per cent in 1971.
Aditya Chunekar a fellow of Prayas Energy Group, in the research area of energy efficiency, maintains that consumers should opt for energy-efficient appliances.
Citing an example, he says that an energy-efficient 1.5-ton split air-conditioner can utilise 30-40 per cent less electricity than an ordinary 1.5-ton split air-conditioner, used for the same amount of time. “The total residential energy consumption can decrease, with the use of energy-efficient appliances. Studies reveal overall savings of 15-25 per cent from the use of efficient appliances. Air-conditioners consume much more energy than all the other appliances combined. Refrigerators can also contribute to 25-50 per cent of the electricity consumption in a household. An inefficient refrigerator can increase the annual electricity bill of a household by as much as Rs 4,000-5,000, in some cases. So, it is important for a consumer to choose appliances with five-star rating,” Chunekar explains.
Energy efficiency in homes, where the construction is complete
The challenge with ready-made homes, is that the buyer has no control over the exterior façade design, like shading structures and type of windows installed in the homes. “If the buyer has control over these features during the construction phase, well and good. Otherwise, there are a few things that can still be done, to reduce energy consumption in the home,” points out Mathan Ramaiah, director of design, Fountain Head Design (FHD) Group.
“Replace light fixtures with CFL (compact fluorescent light) or LEDs (light-emitting diodes) if they are not already installed. Proper size of the AC is also important. An AC that is too small, means that it will run at full load, which wastes energy and during peak hours, it cannot produce enough cooling. Oversized ACs will also lead to loss of energy. The best practice is to set the temperature at around 24 degrees and wait till the room cools down,” says Ramaiah.
Home owners can even use shading devices over the windows, to reduce the heat gain. “For example, one can have bamboo blinds on all the balconies. This reduces the exposure of walls to direct sunlight and improves the thermal comfort within the house,” Raj elaborates.
Solar panels for electricity generation for all common areas and common amenities, can also help energy conservation, adds Ramaiah. “It is more economical for a community to install solar panels than an individual home. As a community, one can also install biogas plants, where all kitchen waste can be segregated and put into the plant to generate electricity. The advantage of biogas plants is that they store energy in the form of gas that can be used whenever required,” suggests Ramaiah.
Dos and don’ts for saving energy at home
- Opt for energy-efficient appliances, BEE (Bureau of Energy Efficiency)-labelled or Eco-star products.
- Clean the filters in air-conditioners regularly. Insulated walls and roofs decrease the heat gain and reduce load on air-conditioners.
- When doing laundry, only run the washer when there is a full load. Once done, hang the clothes out to dry under the sun instead of using the dryer.
- Unplug any battery chargers or power adapters and switch off devices completely, when not in use.
- When leaving the house ensure that all lights are off. Have a master switch at the entrance, to switch off the lights.