Home2025: Heating and cooling

Featuring contributions from:

How comfortable we feel at home is no small contributor to our home energy use. Space heating and cooling as well as insulation solution technologies account for 63% of the potential energy savings in the building sector, and two thirds of these savings are in the residential sector.

In many countries, heating – of both space and water – and cooling, is the largest share of energy consumption in the home. This differs dramatically depending on climate and access to heating or cooling systems; for instance in some countries in Africa, the majority of consumption is instead from cooking.

Heating use also depends on factors such as the country or region, as well as the year the building was built, or building and technology standards. Heating can be thermal or electric and may either be connected to a wider ‘district heating’ or building system, or come from an isolated system within the home. This fragmentation makes mass retrofit across systems and countries a challenge. Either way, demand for heating in temperate regions is also expected to grow at under 1% annually to 2030, when it will decrease slowly.

Cooling is similar in size and complexity to heating. Climate change and economic development will further drive cooling requirements as countries warm and the middle class grows globally. As average annual incomes increase and household sizes decrease, growth in cooling will be primarily in countries where energy demand more generally is rising rapidly. As the International Copper Association notes in their contribution, the global stock of air conditioners in non-OECD countries will increase by 78% from 2010 to 2030. And as population grows to 2100, cooling demand is expected to be 40 times larger than it was in 2000, in spite of a 50% decline in household size. Air conditioning demand is set to skyrocket in developing regions, with demand in India alone increasing from less than 1000kWh in 2000, to 13,000kWh in 2100.

If nothing is done, these projected changes in world energy demand for heating and cooling would cause associated global emissions to rise from about 0.8GtC in 2000, to about 2.2GtC in 2100, which is 12% of the total CO2 emissions from energy use. In the case of air conditioning, energy consumption alone will not tell us the potential climate impact, because dangerous HFC emissions in 2050 could also reach the equivalent of 500 million tonnes of CO2 – as our contribution from CEEW shows.

As our contributions show, home-owners are beginning to tackle both heating and cooling in greater numbers with help from regional and national initiatives that allow them to reap economic and environmental benefits.

But skyrocketing growth in cooling along with the building of millions of new homes, mainly in emerging economies, will still be necessary to meet the needs of a growing middle class in the next decade.

Energy performance standards are crucial to seeing energy efficiency increase over time to accommodate this growth. The emergence of consumer services such as NEST demonstrate an opportunity for consumers to play a more active role in improving their energy use – and as Rocky Mountain Institute’s work shows, consumers can also build on their interest in these new products to bring both economic and carbon savings to their full potential. But without fundamental changes in how we link homes to wider strategies for climate mitigation, the new gadgets will only tinker at the edges of home cooling and heating.

See our section on ‘electricity’ for more on the link between energy consumption in the home and the wider electricity system.

Contributions to Home2025: Heating and cooling, are coming soon.

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