In a recent Twitter thread, MSNBC host Chris Hayes wondered what kind of consumer technology we would need to adopt in order for the United States to reach its goals for reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Basically, what kinds of appliances and gadgets can we use in our daily lives that minimize our carbon footprint? It’s an interesting question, and a tricky one to answer.
His thread also highlighted an appliance we’ve covered before on SPY without really considering its environmental benefits — induction cooktops.
Been spending a lot of time reading about the basic, consumer-facing technologies needed to hit climate targets: residential solar, geothermal, heat pumps. Here's another one, and I'm curious for people to post their experiences in the replies: induction cooktops.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 27, 2022
As a human on planet earth, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the effects of climate change. From record-breaking temperatures across the globe to deadly flooding, fires and hurricanes, we’re living through the impacts of human-caused planetary warming, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down anytime soon. While the Senate is hopefully on the verge of passing climate legislation that’ll curb some of the effects, it’s difficult not to feel paralyzed in the face of disaster after disaster, and the knowledge that a lot of damage has already been done.
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While a sole individual’s actions can’t solve our current climate crises, thoughtful lifestyle changes can help us feel empowered, rather than stymied, by the realities of our surrounding environment. Thoughtful additions to your home can substantially impact your carbon footprint and have an effect, albeit small.
There’s been lots of talk about relatively accessible consumer technology that, if purchased and used widely, can help America meet its climate targets. As Hayes highlighted on Twitter, this includes residential solar power, geothermal heating and cooling, smart thermostats and induction cooktops. This guide will briefly dive into each climate change technology, its pros/cons and how to install them in your home. If you’re a concerned citizen looking to make domestic changes for the environment, you’ve come to the right place.
The Best Home Tech and Appliances for Combating Climate Change
Suppose you’re serious about combatting your individual impact on climate change. In that case, there are a few pieces of climate change technology and appliances you can install in your home to get you started.
One important note: Many of these options involve a heftier upfront cost than their cheaper, less-climate-friendly alternatives. They save you energy and money on your electric bill in many instances, but they may require a more substantial cash outlay.
What It Is: Solar panels use the sun that typically hits your home’s roof or backyard and bounces it back up into the atmosphere and absorbs it, transforming it into energy you can use to power everything in your home.
How It Helps: By using solar power rather than electricity that needs to be generated by the larger power grid, you’re saving fossil fuels that need to be burned to create that energy — saving money on your energy bill in the process.
- Saves money and energy
- Gives you access to renewable energy sources at home in case of a natural disaster
- Set it and forget it technology
- Potential tax incentives and breaks depending on which state you live in
- Large upfront cost
- Requires panel-friendly roof
- Not as efficient for homes without direct sunlight
Once upon a time, solar panels were a rare climate change technology that was expensive and complicated to install. Thankfully, it’s becoming much more common and user-friendly, with many states offering tax benefits and incentives to homeowners installing panels on their roofs or in their backyard. There are plenty of solar panel companies you can enlist to install them for you, or you can DIY it with the help of a few online guides.
If you want to do it yourself, there are a few key metrics about your home that you’ll need to gather:
- Your annual electricity usage
- Wattage of the solar panels you’re looking to install
- Production ratios of the solar panels, basically their estimated energy output over time, depending on how much sun your home gets, the size of the panel, etc
Geothermal Heat Pumps
What It Is: Geothermal heating and cooling is a climate change technology that uses a heat pump to access air deep underneath your home, in the ground, to heat and cool your home. This happens instead of the air exchange with surface level temperatures, which can vary much more widely than a standard HVAC system.
How It Works: One of the biggest contributors to your home’s carbon footprint is maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature, whether heating in the winter or cooling in the summer. Instead of pumping hot air out during the summer to cool and drawing heat from energy usage in the winter to warm you up, geothermal heat pumps exchange with air deep below the earth’s surface. The air below stays warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer (like a cave!), so geothermal heat pumps draw warm air up during the winter and pump hot air down during the summer.
- Concentrates and uses heat already present, rather than artificially generating it
- Can be used for both heating and cooling of the home
- Saves you money on heating and cooling
- Requires an external contractor for installation
- Upfront cost
Buying a geothermal heat pump is difficult, so you’ll want to consult a team of specialists if you’re serious about installing one of these systems in your home. Often, they need to be installed as the home is being built, but exceptions exist.
You can find a ton of information on EnergyStar.gov about heat pumps and where to find the most efficient one for your home.
What It Is: Induction cooktops are a recent climate change technology being added to the discussion around climate-friendly home gadgets. It’s a new style of stove that offers a more climate-friendly way to cook.
How It Works: Instead of burning fossil fuels, these stoves use electricity and magnetic technology to cook food. A switch to an induction stove doesn’t just reduce the number of chemicals being released into the air to zero; it also reduces asthma risk in households by a significant margin.
- Still able to cook all the same foods
- Sleeker look
- Doesn’t burn fossil fuels or risk the health of individuals in your household
- Much easier to clean if water boils over or food spills
- Safer surface; area around cooking surface stays cool to touch
- Incompatible with some cooking materials — mainly aluminum, glass and copper pans will need to be replaced
Purchasing and installing an induction cooktop in your home is easy, and there are even options for smaller, portable ones you can use on the road or in homes that don’t have a stove or oven. Here are a few of the ones we recommend.
Frigidaire Gallery 36″ Electric Induction Cooktop
This Frigidaire Induction Cooktop is a large cooking surface designed for family homes and larger kitchens. It comes with a 10-inch burner element for larger pots and pans, two 7-inch elements and a single 6-inch element for smaller cookware. The surface is designed to be easy to clean, heat evenly, and heat up 50% faster than other options. It also has a built-in cooktop timer to set the time you want the stove to stay on and cook.
GE 36-Inch Electric Induction Cooktop
This similar model from GE comes with five different induction burners and the ability to control two elements simultaneously using the sync burner function. It has convenient touch controls for managing your heat and a power boil burner with 3,700 watts of power for quickly boiling water. The cooktop also has automatic pan detection and turns off burners automatically when a pan is removed for safety.
Duxtop Portable Induction Countertop Hot Plate
This smaller, more portable, less expensive version of an induction cooktop is perfect for a dorm room, office, outdoor kitchen with a generator or bare-bones kitchen. It has 20 different temperature settings and has a touch control panel with a child safety lock for security. It’s compatible with all magnetic cookware and is an affordable way to try induction cooking to see if it’s right for you.
Energy Star-Certified Appliances
One reliable, surefire way to know that your appliances are working more efficiently than others is an Energy Star certification. This certification is used to assess the energy usage of everything from office buildings to insulation, and it’s a great way to evaluate a potential purchase for how climate-friendly it is.
What It Is: This certification ensures that the appliance is a certain percentage more efficient than the industry standard and therefore uses less power, water or another finite resource to run.
A few distinctions about Energy Star-certified appliances:
- Refrigerators: 10-30% more efficient than models that meet the federal energy efficiency standards
- Clothes Washers: Use 25% less energy and 33% less water than regular washers
- Dishwashers: Save you an average of 3,870 gallons of water over its lifetime
Here are a few of our favorite Energy Star-certified appliances that all come with a guarantee of being more environmentally friendly without sacrificing performance.
- Many appliances are Energy Star-certified these days, as along with the environmental factor, the money-saving element has become a large draw for consumers
- Most Energy Star appliances don’t lack any other sophisticated features or technology
- Widely available at many major retailers
Frigidaire Top Freezer Refrigerator
This refrigerator from Frigidaire is Energy Star-certified and comes with a top freezer compartment, two full-width glass shelves, a crisper drawer that’s humidity-controlled and a sliding deli for meats and cheeses. It has LED lighting and a temperate knob to augment the environment inside.
It’s built for year-round energy efficiency and saving you money, and is currently more than $200 off!
Maytag Smart Capable White Top Load Washing Machine
This washing machine also meets the Energy Star energy efficiency standards. It comes equipped with the ability to control your cycle from afar via an app and an “Extra Power” button that ramps up the stain-fighting capabilities. It has a built-in water faucet to rinse away loose soils quickly and a Quick Wash 30-minute cycle if you need something to be ready fast.
Samsung Smart Dial Electric Dryer
This dryer from Samsung is another Energy Star option that comes with all sorts of powerful features along with increased energy efficiency. It’s made with an AI-powered smart dial, a Super Speed Dry setting that takes just 30 minutes and a Steam Sanitize+ mode that removes 99.9% of germs and bacteria.
Read More: The Best Smart Thermostats
What Is It: Smart thermostats have become all the rage in new, technologically-advanced homes as they come with the ability to control your home’s temperature from afar. These regular thermostats come with smart features like scheduling certain temperatures at certain times, app syncing so you can moderate your A/C and heat from afar, and smart learning of your temperature habits and automation.
How It Works: Along with streamlining your home’s internal environment, many also come with an “Eco” mode, designed to save you money by establishing a temperature range for your home and making incremental changes throughout the day to get there. Compared with setting a specific temperature and demanding tons of energy to get there, whether warm or cold, “Eco” modes save energy and money while keeping your home environment comfortable.
When paired with a geothermal heating/cooling system, you’ve got the recipe for a climate-friendly home improvement solution.
- Remote monitoring of your home’s temperature and environment
- Smart learning of your temperature preferences and automated scheduling
- Easy user interfaces
- Not compatible with all existing home HVAC systems
Learn more about how smart devices can save money on your monthly energy bill (and lighten your carbon footprint) in another SPY piece here.
Google Nest Thermostat
The Nest is probably the most popular smart thermostat out there for the smart features, programmability and Savings Finder that looks for ways to make your home more efficient. It automatically turns itself down when you leave and is Energy Star-certified for its ability to keep your home comfortable without excessive demand on the planet.
Amazon Smart Thermostat
Amazon has its own smart thermostat with great reviews for its user-friendly features and design for reducing energy usage. It’s also an Energy Star-certified thermostat that statistically helps users save an average of $50 on yearly energy bills, alongside saving that energy in the process. It gives you remote control over your home through the Alexa app and is made with Honeywell’s Thermostat Technology, a reliable partner in the industry.