I recently chaperoned a trip of high school students to the German town of Heilbronn. On the trip we got to live with German host families and really experienced the cultural differences between Germany and America. The students noticed the bigger differences like the school systems and transportation systems, and complained about the smaller differences, such as most of the water being carbonated. I stayed with a host family and had the opportunity to better understand certain cultural differences, including the contrasts between the way Germans and Americans think of energy usage.
What I largely noticed was that Germans are very good at not using heat. The idea is largely to just keep the heat down and wear more clothing rather than using more energy. Each room has one or two radiators that are individually controlled, so only the parts of the house that are in use are heated. Whereas at my own home, I would simply keep my house at a higher temperature, in Germany, I simply turned on my heater when I am in my room.
Overall, Germany is quite impressive when it comes to reducing their carbon footprint and becoming more energy efficient. In 2002, Germany passed the Energy Conservation Act which outlines an energy efficiency building code. This act strives to reduce energy usage by creating a legal framework for reduction, providing incentives to get work done, and by running educational programs throughout the country Passive houses, homes which require very little active heating and consume nearly 90% less energy than normal homes, have become increasingly popular in Germany. The first passive house was built in Darmstadt in 1990 by construction physicist Wolfgang Feist and by 2007 there were more than 6,000 passive buildings in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. These measures will contribute to the goal Germany set in 2011 to reduce the demand for energy by 30%, one of the most ambitious goals set in the world.
The United States is joining this world-wide movement to reduce energy usage, as was illustrated in the President’s State of the Union Address on Monday night. He not only focused on expanding alternative, greener sources of energy, but also encouraged reducing the nations wasted energy. In his speech, Obama stated that we should set a new goal for our nation to cut in half the amount of energy wasted in our homes and businesses in the next twenty years.
At Retrofit Baltimore, we seek to help Baltimoreans join this national and world-wide movement to create more comfortable and energy efficient homes. Instead of having to just suffer through the cold or heat, we have the option to make our homes stay cooler and warmer through retrofit work. While having individual heaters for each room would be nice, that is not how most of our homes are built. Instead, by making the smaller investment of air-sealing and insulating our homes, we can become more energy efficient. The work not only increases your comfort, but also reduces the cost you pay for energy per month and your carbon footprint. Join the movement to cut our energy waste in half!