Experts know innovation is the key to reversing global warming and stopping the worst long-term effects of climate change. This realization has led to countless sustainable inventions to help homeowners and businesses be part of the solution. Investing in energy-efficient technology can be a significant expense, but it’s worth the cost.
What Is the Trend in Energy Efficiency?
Decarbonization has been the norm. Past energy-efficient products focused on minimizing wasteful use of resources — and many current ones still do. However, the sustainable movement is now pushing for adopting renewable energy because it’s more feasible than ever.
What Is the Future of Energy-Efficient Technology?
Zero carbon is the future of energy efficiency. Genuine sustainability is attainable only after the world decouples from fossil fuels.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to run everything on clean electricity yet. The infrastructure needed to produce large volumes of green hydrogen is limited. Mainstream electric vehicle battery chemistries rely on scarce metals available in just a few countries and are linked to unethical mining practices. Only 8.6% of the world participates in the circular economy, so extraction of virgin materials remains rampant.
There’s still a long way to go before the zero-carbon dream becomes more realistic, but the world is heading in that direction. For now, the best anyone can do is to embrace the most promising sustainable technologies.
4 Energy-Efficient Technology Investments in 2024
Dozens of eco-friendly innovations hit the market, but these four should be high on anybody’s list.
Krypton-Filled Triple-Glazed Windows
Double glazing is the standard in high-performance window replacement. However, choosing units with a third layer of glass promises better insulation. Argon is the most popular gas fill, but krypton is more suitable for triple-pane fenestration units with narrower gaps. Krypton has superior thermal performance, which is more apparent when inserted into 1/4-inch space between glass layers.
In addition to having excellent insulative properties, triple-glazed windows with krypton reduce condensation — the side effect of energy-efficient fenestration products — and offer better soundproofing and security.
The notable drawback to these high-performance windows is cost. Aside from the additional piece of glass, krypton commands a higher price because it’s generally more expensive than argon.
Are krypton-filled triple-glazed windows overkill? Saving too much energy is not a thing. The better question is — are they worth the cost?
Value is subjective, but investing in top-shelf, high-performance glass units to complement whole-house insulation and airtight construction can make sense to anyone planning to live somewhere for the long haul.
Gas-filled windows leak up to 1% yearly, but those with at least 80% of their gas intact can deliver the same energy-efficiency level. With proper maintenance, aging triple-glazed windows can insulate rooms as well as new ones for 20 years.
Energy savings add up over time. Still, the break-even point of krypton-filled triple-glazed products depends on location and the current amount of power wasted through inefficient windows.
Electric Heat Pump
This energy-efficient technology is older than many on this list, but its time has come. Swapping a fossil-fuel furnace for an electric heat pump recorded a cost recovery of 103% nationwide in 2023.
Electric heat pumps draw heat from the air, water or ground to regulate indoor temperatures. They can work in reverse, removing heat from the house during the warmest months and keeping spaces cool. These sustainable appliances consume less energy than baseboard heaters and electric furnaces and dehumidify rooms better than air conditioners.
These heating and cooling units can be ducted or ductless. They can be installed on almost any property with or without existing ductwork.
Air is the most common energy source for heat pumps because it’s easy to harness. Although air-source units have universal application across the United States, they’ve been unreliable in places with extended periods of subfreezing weather.
Alternatively, geothermal units are more efficient and reliable. Their performance relies on soil temperatures, ranging from 50 F to 59 F all year in most of the country.
The caveats to ground- and water-source heat pumps are they’re more expensive and need more space since their installation involves excavating the yard.
Electric Low-Speed Vehicle (LSV)
Electric LSVs are the most affordable way for homeowners and businesses to decarbonize transportation. These zero-emission neighborhood vehicles run 25 mph max, making them widely useful on many roads. Only licensed drivers can operate them in public.
Some states call them street-legal carts because they resemble golf carts. However, LSVs are closer to battery electric vehicles (BEVs). They have compliant tires, ergonomic seats, a capacity for six passengers and standard safety features — such as mirrors, headlights and tail lights, brake lights, turn signals, three-point seat belts, horn and backup camera. They also can feature dozens of enhancements, including smooth acceleration, hill control and single-touch turn signals.
Regarding range, LSVs equipped with lithium-ion batteries can go up to 113 miles on a single charge. They’re also fully rechargeable in as fast as three hours.
Electric LSV owners share many of the problems BEV owners have. Limited range and insufficient charging infrastructure are the biggest concerns. In addition, electric LSVs are only street-legal on most roads with a 35-mph speed limit or less. Doors are optional, so adding them comes with an extra fee.
Solar Roof Tiles
These energy-generating roofing materials can be terrific alternatives to ordinary solar panels, which can be off-putting. Energy-efficient technology has advanced to the point where solar roof tiles are indistinguishable from the original.
The most famous examples are the House of Cerere and the House of the Vettii — ancient Pompeii ruins. These solar panels look precisely like Roman terra cotta tiles.
The beauty of these green roofing tiles is they help historic sites become more sustainable since aesthetic accuracy matters to preserve their value.
Like solar shingles, solar tiles’ downsides are high cost and limited styles. Solar power generation can vary from vendor to vendor, too. They also require a complete roof replacement, which can be impractical when the existing roofing materials are far from the end of their life cycle. Solar roof tile projects don’t always qualify for tax credits and rebates.
These Energy-Efficient Technologies Are Worth the Investment
Investing in any energy-efficient technology needs tremendous forethought. The price factor and the possibility that something better may come along soon are essential considerations. Still, these four innovations are worth the cost to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2024.