Going Green: Energy in Housing

Earth Day 2020

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Across the world people gather for advocacy and action in a global effort to protect and preserve the earth and keep it sustainable for years to come. The impact housing-related issues have on our planet vary: from the effects of construction to the energy sources we use to heat and cool our homes.

To determine overall impact, researchers look at carbon footprint, a measure of how much greenhouse gas emissions emit into the atmosphere. In Ohio, the average household carbon footprint is 16.61, compared to the national average of 16. In counties like Delaware, Geauga and Medina, household carbon footprint is closer to 18.

For many, the more direct impact of a high carbon footprint is high-energy use and poor insulation that lead to expensive energy bills. Ohio's Department of Development's Home Energy Assistance Program helps low-income individuals pay their energy bills2. High-energy costs especially burden lower income households, which often pay more than 3 times the average of the energy costs of higher income households. Low-income families often live in spaces that are what they can afford, including old homes with poor insulation, drafty windows and inefficient appliances. In Scioto and Vinton counties, 18% and 19% of the population received HEAP assistance, respectively, compared to just 1.6% in Warren County.

In affordable housing developments, there's an effort to lower high-energy costs for residents. One green housing solution is passive house design, a type of energy efficient construction that seals the home tightly to prevent air leaks or drafts. Complete with triple-pane windows and continuous insulation, the design keeps hot air in during the winter and out during the summer. The sealed infrastructure means the house can self-regulate, meaning lower heating and cooling costs for residents. OHFA multifamily properties like Forest Village Homes have implemented passive house design features. Several others, including The Cottages at Riverview and Quinn Court, have received Enterprise Green Community certifications in affordable housing developments, meaning these communities have completed standards for healthy, efficient, and environmentally responsible homes for residents. All OHFA multifamily developments must obtain one of the energy efficiency or green building certifications in the Design and Architectural Standards.

You don't have to wait on a developer to build you an energy efficient home to make changes and lower your carbon footprint. Anyone can make green changes: from small efforts like turning down the thermostat and using energy efficient light bulbs to installing energy efficient appliances and reinsulating problem areas. Or visit earthday.org to see how you can take action and make changes in your everyday life.

1Source: CoolClimate Network, Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, University of California–Berkeley (based on 2013 data)

2Source: 2019 Home Energy Assistance Program data, Ohio Development Service Agency (public data request); 2014–2018 American Community Survey Five-Year Estimates, Table DP04