Ravina Project guest blog #1

Introducing a new feature on the Pocket Change website – The Ravina Project Blog by Gord Fraser – lessons from almost 15 years of gathering energy data from a local Pocket household.

Susan and Gord Fraser have been experimenting with all things "green energy”  for years, from solar panels to conservation, and have the data to prove it!  The geeky details of deep energy retrofits made simple! Looking for an even deeper dive? Go to http://www.theravinaproject.org

A lot has changed since Susan and I started The Ravina Project in 2007. Back then just having solar panels on the roof was a huge deal. Today it’s all about carbon abatement … that is, using various ways to cut down the amount of greenhouse carbon our houses put into the atmosphere. Hence, we have the Pocket Change Project which encourages The Pocket’s residents to make their houses more efficient to heat and cool.

The household carbon footprint is dominated by heating. A cubic meter of fossil gas, which is methane when burned, produces 1.9 kg of CO 2. Leakage of methane from the distribution system’s pipes adds to the carbon footprint for each cubic meter used for heating. When the leakage is combined with combustion, the carbon footprint rises to 7.9 kg per cubic meter or 745 grams of CO 2 e per kWh of energy. (See the academic paper by Cornell University professor Robert Howarth for more on this issue.)

Using CO 2 e allows us to show the equivalent amount of CO 2 that would have to be released to produce the same global warming. If you insulate your house and don’t use 150 cubic meters of fossil gas in a heating season, all things being equal, you stop the release 1.2 tonnes of CO2e. There is nothing else you can do that even comes close to this kind of savings.

Our Ontario grid produces electrical energy at about 40 grams of CO 2 per kWh. If your house uses on average 20 kWh per day of grid electricity, in a year you would release 0.3 tonnes of CO 2. If you installed solar panels for tens of thousands of dollars and eliminated your grid usageyou would only reduce your carbon footprint by the same amount, 0.3 tonnes. If you took that same money and further upgraded your house to save another 150 cubic meters your total yearly carbon reduction would be 2.4 tonnes. It’s no contest.

Putting your money into insulation and not solar, in this case, is 8 times more beneficial for the planet.

In our next installment we will take a closer look at how solar power changes the household carbon footprint.