Heating is the single largest source of anthropogenic (=human made) greenhouse gas emissions, because almost all heat is produced by burning fossil fuels and we humans use a lot of heat. Heat is used in homes and in office buildings, schools and gyms, as well as in the industry, for producing goods we consume or the materials these goods are made out of. It is also needed to heat up the warm water we use when we shower or do the dishes.
Heat is basically produced in one out of three ways: either by using renewable sources of heat such as geothermal heat or solar heat; by burning a fossil fuel like coal or oil to heat up water that circulates in radiators to heat a space; or by turning on an electrical heater that uses electricity to produce heat locally in your home. If you live in a Nordic country, your heat might be produced in a so-called Combined Heat and Power plant. As the name implies, these power plants produce both heat and electricity, and this is a much more efficient way of using fuels than producing just one of these. However, these plants often run on fossil fuels.Moreover, the amount of electricity they produce is dependent on the amount of heat needed in society, which means that it is hard to adjust the electricity production according to the demand..
Heat is something we will always need, but it’s good to be aware of that small savings in heat or hot water consumption means large savings in GHG emissions. Turning down the temperature at home by just 1 °C saves 5% of the energy needed to heat your home – and if it saves 5% of the fuel, it saves 5% of the emissions! Since space heating is often a large contributor to our personal emissions at least in the Nordic countries, this is a very easy was to mitigate our personal emissions. You can save heat by making sure your home is well isolated and windows don’t leak heat, by turning down the heat when you are away from home, and by testing to lower the temperature also when you are home, by just 1° C. Most people don’t notice that small a difference in indoor temperature, and research has shown that it is actually healthier to live in 18 – 21 °C than in warmer temperatures. You can save hot water by not doing dishes under running water, by shortening your shower time by 2 minutes and by just making sure your faucets don’t leak!