Your home is the biggest investment you’ll ever make. And with the rising cost of electricity and the vulnerability of South Africa’s water supply, green living is becoming a more attractive option for many home owners. But can you afford it now? The last thing you want to do is over-capitalise on your property.
Another option would be selling your current home and buying a ‘green’ home instead. But how would a home that’s designed to be environmentally friendly save you money? While it’s true that sustainably built homes cost more initially, the long term benefits extend beyond saving on your electricity bill. So with that in mind, here are four reasons why investing in a green home makes financial sense.
- A green home costs less to maintain
Do you have a list of things to do around the home? Perhaps you need to paint the exterior, tend to your gutters and downpipes or maintain a large garden? There always seems to be something that needs repairing or re-decorating.
And it all costs money, time and effort. A green home simply doesn’t have these issues to begin with. That’s because a good developer makes sure that the materials used to construct a green home are durable. In a green home you should find the following low-maintenance features:
- Naturally coloured roof tiles
That’s right, you’ll never have to spend money or put your back out painting your roof. The colour of these tiles won’t fade from exposure to the harsh South African sun. And they’re tough as nails too. They can withstand rain, wind and hail and aren’t easily damaged. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever have to spend money replacing them due to damage.
- Self-cleaning rainwater tanks
Most rainwater harvesting tanks require some form of maintenance to remove the plant material, waste and sediment that build up over time. This can be a tedious job if you undertake it yourself, or expensive if you call in a professional cleaning service.
Rather choose tanks that are self-cleaning. So you’ll never have to incur the hassle or expense that normally comes with such a feature.
- Aluminium and stainless steel
Aluminium is the ideal material for window and door frames. They add to the look and style of any home and the material itself offers homeowners several benefits over wood or uPVC frames, including:
- Low maintenance: Resistant to all weather conditions and corrosion, aluminium frames won’t warp, crack, split or swell.
- Environmentally friendly:Aluminium is one of the most highly recycled materials in the world which makes it extremely sustainable.
- Thermally efficient:Frames made from aluminium outperform other materials when it comes to adapting to heat gain and loss.
- Inexpensive:Although prices vary between manufacturers, aluminium doesn’t cost as much as you might think. And because the material is so energy efficient, you’ll quickly recoup the initial costs.
- Design flexibility:You can customise aluminium frames to suit any shape or size making it particularly suitable for unusual openings.
Steel is another material that’s both cost-effective and sustainable. It offers strength and durability to the frame of a home and requires little or no maintenance. Best of all, it can be completely recycled so it never goes to waste.
Keen gardeners will already appreciate the fact that maintaining a green lawn and lush shrubbery takes a lot of time and effort. Create gardens that still look appealing without the hassle or cost by including these elements:
- Indigenous trees and shrubs: These require less water as they have adapted to the South African climate. You won’t have to water them as often as foreign plants so you’ll spend less time working on your garden, and more time enjoying it.
- Smaller lawns: This is the part of any garden that requires the most maintenance and incurs the most costs. Constantly watering your lawn to keep it looking at its best comes at a cost. Instead, make smaller lawns and use pots and decorations to make your garden a beautiful space.
- Rainwater tanks: Rainwater doesn’t cost you anything and is perfectly safe for using to water your plants and clean your car. Even in times of drought, supplementing with rainwater saves on costs and helps preserve this precious resource.
A green home normally makes use of alternative energy sources to reduce your reliance on the grid. And these features will reduce your monthly costs. But by taking into consideration every aspect of your living space, you can reduce your costs even further by reducing the need for expensive maintenance.
- A green home is healthier
An advantage of green homes that is often overlooked is the fact that they are healthier than regular homes. In other words, all the materials and methods used in a green home tend to emit less harmful chemicals and toxins into your living space.
There are a few ways in which green building practices contribute to the health of a home:
- Better air quality: Because green homes use paints and adhesives that emit less volatile organic compounds, the air in the home is safer and cleaner. Without constantly breathing in dangerous chemicals there’s less chance of the inhabitants suffering from eye, nose and throat irritations and headaches.
- Elimination of mould: A home that is properly sealed and ventilated doesn’t give mould the chance to grow. Mould and damp can cause respiratory problems and infections, allergies or asthma. They can also affect the immune system.
- Less temperature variations: Proper insulation in green homes reduces the fluctuation in temperature inside the home between seasons. Green homes are a comfortable temperature all year round which means you’re less likely to get sick. You may not get ill from being cold, but it does affect the immune system, making you more susceptible to any kind of infection or illness.
- Cleaner water: the filtration systems used on green homes are effective at removing up to 99% of dangerous contaminants, including chlorine, metal and pesticides. And cleaner water means there’s less chance of you picking up an opportunistic infection.
But what does all of this mean for your pocket? Quite simply, it means you’ll be spending less time at the doctor’s rooms and less money on treatments and medicines. Healthcare is expensive and as the old saying goes—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Many studies have shown the health benefits that green building provide to the people who live and work in them. A healthier living space also makes people happier and more productive. These benefits make investing in a green home a smart decision for your pocket and your future health.
- A green home has a higher resale value
Your initial costs may be high, but if you ever need to sell your green home you’ll be pleased to hear that it can command a higher resale value than ordinary homes. Even retro-fitting an existing home with green features can increase your asking price when you sell it.
Energy efficient homes are becoming more attractive to homeowners because of the continual and long-tern savings they represent. And in current and future economic times, the ability to reduce your monthly running costs will be an important consideration when shopping for a home.
Scarcity of natural resources will also be a concern for future homeowners. So choosing a property that has been designed to make the most of natural energy sources will be more attractive. While green homes are still the exception, rather than the norm, many new developments are starting to incorporate green features. And in the future, tax rebates may be offered for those who make use of green technologies when building new homes.
How quickly you can expect a return on your investment in a green home depends on several factors. Your initial costs versus the savings on monthly utility bills, reduction in maintenance costs and the savings on your healthcare all contribute to the final figure. Within reason, you can expect to have recouped your costs within 10 years or less.
- Green homes reduce the strain on local infrastructure
Even those who do not live in an energy efficient home can benefit from living in an area where there are green homes available.
Because green homes don’t rely solely on the electricity grid to run their homes, this makes it much easier for local suppliers of electricity to cope with the demand. As a result, the cost of supplying these services will stabilise and make them more affordable and reliable for everyone.
Unfortunately there are not enough green homes to make this a reality yet. But with the movement becoming more popular it could mean that in the future, electricity will be more affordable for everyone. And that way, even if you do need to use the grid to supplement your photo-voltaic solar electricity supply, it won’t cost you as much as it might have.
- Green homes have many other benefits
Besides those already mentioned above, green homes have a number of other benefits that can’t be measured in monetary value.
The benefit to environment is the most obvious. Even though these homes still use a variety of building materials, these are sourced and used in a sustainable way. Harvesting rainwater and using solar panels for generating your own energy reduce the strain on local resources. Green homes generate less pollution and reduce your carbon footprint substantially.
Green homes are stronger, sturdier and built to last. They have been designed to work with nature and not against it. A good developer will take all aspects of the construction into consideration when helping you plan your green home. This includes looking at factors such as the location and your requirements. They will know how to maximise the efficiency of systems and techniques to benefit you and the environment.
Once you’ve experienced a green home you won’t want to live any other way. The air and water quality are often much better than those in other homes. Double glazed windows reduce noise pollution and make green homes a haven of peace and tranquility.
If the cost of buying or building a green home is putting you off the idea, these benefits should convince you otherwise. It’s tempting to try and save money, but when buying a home one needs to consider the long-term costs involved in maintaining and running it. And this is where a green home can really make an impact on your future expenses. Your home should be an investment for the future. So take the time to research and calculate the real cost of a potential property. Once everything is on paper, you’ll clearly see the financial benefits of going green.
Ever heard the term ‘early adopter’? It’s used to describe people who are the first to use a new invention or technology before it becomes popular. A good example of this would be television. While some wrote it off as a passing fad, there were those who rushed out to buy their first set. But more often than not, the real reason more people aren’t early adopters of a new technology comes down to cost.
And that’s how many people feel about green homes. If you’re in the market for a new home, you may be wondering whether you should buy a green home now, or wait until they become more affordable. This article will try to help you make a decision about the biggest investment you’ll ever make.
How do you define a green home?
It’s easy to a label a home as ‘eco-friendly’ but before you part with your money you should spend a little time figuring out what ‘green’ means to you.
For some, it’s the fact that a home is energy-efficient. Whether or not you’re ready to go completely off the grid is matter of choice, but if saving on your monthly electricity bill is your main motivation for buying a green home, you’ll want it to have the following features:
– Superior insulation
– Double-glazed windows and doors
– Photovoltaic solar panels
Another reason people are attracted to a green home has to do with health benefits they provide, especially for allergy suffers. That means they’re especially interested in the use of non-toxic building materials from paints and varnishes to carpeting. A green home provides:
– Improved air quality
– Superior ventilation
– Reduced exposure to allergens
Finally, there are those who see green homes as having little impact on the environment. In this case, building materials that are locally sourced and / or sustainable become the main focus. This may take the form of:
– Bamboo for flooring and countertops
– Recycling existing materials such as concrete
– Reclaimed bricks
The ultimate green home combines all of these features. Once you can define what ‘green’ means to you, you can eliminate potential properties that don’t fit your definition. You’ll also be able to work out how quickly you can expect a return on your investment.
How much more would a green home cost?
At present there are simply not enough green homes available in South Africa to provide the data needed to answer this question. But studies in the US show that green homes on average sell for 9% more than ordinary homes. However, when you’re working with a budget, even a figure below double-digits can be off-putting.
What you should really be looking at is how quickly you can recoup your initial outlay by the savings you’ll enjoy on your monthly running costs. Take for example the savings you’ll get from doing something as simple as installing a solar water heater. If you were to retro-fit an existing home with a 200l solar water heater it would cost you in the region of R20 000.
It is expensive, but bear in mind that electric heaters contribute between 30% and 50% of your monthly electricity bill. On a bill of R800 a month, and averaged out at 45%, that means just R360 a month goes towards heating water for bathing and washing. But using the power of the sun to heat your water is completely free which means that money stays in your pocket. And within just four to five years you’ll completely recoup the costs of installing a solar water heater.
That’s just one element of a green home. Imagine how much more you’ll save with a home that incorporates more energy-saving features. Proper insulation is a case in point. With the mild climate we enjoy in sunny South Africa, many homes have no form of insulation at all. You may think that double-glazed windows and doors and underfloor heating are only for homes in the northern hemisphere. But these features have advantages beyond just making the interior of your home more comfortable in winter.
They also help to keep it cooler in summer which means you save on air conditioning. And although you could go through a winter on the Highveld without ever switching on a heater in a green home, if you did, you wouldn’t need to use it for very long to achieve the temperature you want.
Some homeowners opt for roofing insulation for this very reason. But in a green home, even the exterior walls are insulated. The result is a home that maintains an even, comfortable temperature throughout the year without relying on energy-hungry heating and cooling appliances.
And it’s not just your energy costs that you should take into account. What about your water usage? As access to clean water becomes scarce, the price of supplying homes with this vital resource is bound to go up. In a green home you have several options for decreasing your reliance on the municipal supply.
The first method is to install low-flow showerheads and faucets to reduce the amount of water you use for everyday bathing and cleaning. You might also look at ways to re-use grey water for your garden or washing your car. But you can take it one step further by securing a water source for your own private use.
Rainwater tanks can be installed underground, keeping them out of sight where they won’t detract from the aesthetic of your property. Efficient pumps can be installed, along with filters, to make the rainwater you collect potable and safe for use throughout your home. It reduces your reliance on the municipal supply and ensures you always have access to water.
Green home developers take care to ensure your home and gutters are placed in an optimal position to maximise rainwater collection. Even in an area with little annual rainfall, you can ensure that your home has the ability to collect and store water.
Bear in mind that while many of these features ultimately add to the cost of a green home, the money you save on electricity and water will make it much easier to afford.
What are the other advantages of living in a green home?
If you’ve never experienced a ‘green’ home, it can be difficult to understand that there are benefits beyond saving money. But there are several:
Green homes make a real difference to the environment in many different ways, and everyone benefits. Reduced energy consumption means less harmful greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. And by recycling or using sustainable materials they contribute less waste too. Everything from the design, to the materials used works in harmony with nature and not against it.
Non-toxic materials and better ventilation makes a green home a healthy place to live. Your immune system isn’t weakened by toxic chemicals or bombarded with dust or mildew so you simply don’t get sick as often. The temperature in a green home is moderated by features such as insulation and hydronics radiant heating and cooling. An even temperature reduces your reliance on air-conditioners and heaters which can spread bacteria and viruses.
Finally, they are simply quieter and more comfortable than regular homes. Double-glazed windows and doors reduce noise pollution and well-sealed doors stop drafts from getting in.
You don’t just save on your monthly running costs, you save on maintenance too. Green homes cost less to maintain because they use materials that last. Everything from the roof tiles to the flooring is made to withstand years of use without losing their looks.
And should you ever want to put your green home on the market, you’ll discover that it commands a better price for your property than a traditional house. As time goes by, these green features will become more desirable. If you home already has these, then you will be able to raise your price—and get it.
The cost of not going green
The real question is not whether you can afford a green home; the question is whether you can afford not to invest in one. The truth is the cost and availability of things we take for granted now will get even worse. Investing in a green home now allows you to face the future costs of living with confidence.
As costs continue to rise, you end up saving more every year which means you can recoup your costs at a faster rate. It’s a small but growing trend that will gather strength as more people come to realise how important going green is for the planet—and their pocket. While green technologies may become more affordable as time goes on, waiting for that to happen could cost you so much more in the meantime. Especially if you consider that the cost of electricity will rise even faster.
While retrofitting an existing home with some green features will help you to save money, these renovations can be prohibitively expensive. Which is why is makes more sense to invest in a ready-built green home. There are not many of these available in South Africa; if you’re willing and flexible with your location, you will find something suitable.
A green home is designed to reduce your reliance on municipal suppliers of power and water. And by reducing demand, you free up those resources for others. So in the end, everyone benefits from a green home—even those who don’t live in one. Any home is an investment in your future and you have to consider the long-term when making your decisions.
Green homes make considerable sense in the long-term. They are cheaper to run, cheaper to maintain and will be more valuable should you ever have to sell. Being an early adopter is a risk. There’s always the possibility that a new technology will not work out or that it will become so much cheaper that you’ll regret having paid so much to be among the first to have it. This will never happen with a green home. No matter how much you invest now, you will continue to increase your savings over time.
When an investment like that comes along you simply can’t ignore it. Along with all the other benefits of going green, making a solid investment in your future outweighs everything else. So if you’re ready to make the commitment— you’ll find there’s a green home out there for you.
Do you have a kitchen or bathroom in need of remodeling? Would you want to save the planet and your budget at the same time? The green living trend has a number of solutions that will do both. You can save water, save energy and add value to your home without spending a fortune.
Bathrooms and kitchens are two areas of the home that are particularly suited for green makeovers. They both rely on water and electricity to provide you with comfort and convenience of modern living. And they both offer you cost-effective ways of conserving these resources without sacrificing your style.
Getting green in the bathroom
Before you pick out the colour of your new tiles you’ll want to consider how you consume and heat the water for your bathroom. Here are some areas you could consider when planning your ideal eco-friendly bathroom:
Toilets: Surprisingly, your toilet uses the most water. If you’re still using an old toilet, it can use as much as 13.6 litres per flush. In the average home that would add up to 71.2 litres per person per day. Your toilet accounts for about 30% of your household water usage.
You could put a brick in the cistern to reduce the flushing capacity—that’s hardly a renovation! Instead, look for a dual-flush toilet. They are more efficient. A dual-flush toilet uses about 8 – 9 litres for a full flush, and only 4 – 5 litres with a reduced flush. They do cost more than regular toilets and offer you the dual benefit of saving water and money—truly green living. If you don’t want to replace your current toilet you can install a dual-flush converter.
Showers: Next to your toilet, the shower uses the most water in your home. If you shower for seven minutes with a conventional showerhead you’ll go through 112 litres of water. That’s 16% – 20% of your total water usage. Even if you think showering is better than bathing when it comes to practicing green living, that’s no longer true. The average bath uses about 80 litres of water. These days we tend to spend more time in the shower. A five-minute shower consumes 16 litres of water a minute—as much as a regular bath.
With a low-flow showerhead, you can halve the amount of water you normally use for a five-minute shower. And you’ll still enjoy the feeling of a powerful blast of hot water every time you step under the shower. If you consider that 70% of the water used to shower is heated, using a low-flow showerhead means you’re also cutting down on your hot water consumption. With the price of electricity constantly going up, using hot water wisely is becoming a necessity for eco-friendly living.
Water heaters: What would a shower or bath be without hot water? That’s what makes your geyser such an energy-guzzler. You could simply buy a geyser blanket and make sure your pipes are fully insulated. Two steps you can take that would reduce your electricity usage by an extra 4 – 9%. While you’re at it, turn down the thermostat by a few degrees. You won’t feel any difference, and reduce your final power bill.
If you’re serious about green living, you’d probably prefer to splash out on a solar water heater. They are expensive and a retrofit may also require some extra spending; the end result is worth it. Install a solar water heater and you’ll see an immediate reduction in your electricity consumption.
Another alternative you may consider is a heat pump. Although you’ll still be using electricity, heat pumps are more energy efficient. A heat pump works by absorbing the heat energy from the surrounding air and using this energy to heat the water in your water tank. You save more of your total electricity bill with a heat pump.
Finishes and lighting: This is the part you’ve waited for! Choosing the finishes for your new bathroom is probably the main reason why you want to renovate your bathroom in the first place. It’s also an area where you can continue to exercise your desire for greener living. When it comes to selecting eco-friendly tiles for your walls and floors you have plenty of options:
- Concrete: This material can be used as both the finish and structural floor. That makes it a cost-effective choice. You can make it green by combining it with recycled aggregates such as glass, porcelain or coal fly ash.
- Linoleum: True linoleum is made from natural materials and should not be confused with sheet vinyl. It is naturally anti-bacterial, scratch-resistant and easy to maintain.
- Recycled glass: Tiles make from recycled glass give your bathroom a clean, bright and contemporary appearance without impacting the environment.
- Cork: Another natural material, cork is sustainable, durable and safe. It doesn’t release toxins, it’s doesn’t attract dust and it’s resistant to mould.
- Ceramic tiles: Arguably the most popular choice for bathrooms, ceramic tiles can be a green choice. Look out for tiles that are made from recycled ceramic waste such as discarded clay and tableware.
Be sure to use low VOC paints and adhesives when fitting your chosen flooring and finishes.
Energy efficient lighting is essential for every area of the home if you want to keep your electricity costs down. Fluorescent lights for your bathroom are now available in wide range of modern, attractive designs.
Creating an eco-friendly kitchen
Remodeling your kitchen is a serious business. It’s the one room in the house that has to be very practical, while at the same time you’ll want to add a touch of your own style to it. Eco-friendly houses have kitchens that are functional, appealing and green. These are the elements you need to consider before you begin demolition:
Countertops: There are many different eco-friendly materials you can use for countertops. Wood is a popular choice that gives you two options: bamboo and reclaimed wood. Bamboo is a fast-growing material that is sustainable making it 100% eco-friendly. It’s durable, hypoallergenic, anti-bacterial and easy to install. Bamboo adds a touch of real elegance when used in the kitchen. Don’t stop at bamboo cutting boards. Make your whole countertop bamboo and enjoy the benefits of this beautiful material.
Of course, if you want to achieve a different style you could use another type of wood. And instead of buying something new, look for ways to recycle scraps of wood. With a little love and care, they can be restored to their former glory and provide you with a true green living alternative. Scrap wood is still solid and durable and it’s unnecessary to let it go to waste when it can be used to make the perfect countertop for eco-friendly homes.
Recycled stone-chip composite countertops are ideal for eco-friendly houses. These countertops are made from a variety of recycled materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill or burnt in an incinerator. They offer a mix of strength and stain resistance and there are plenty of different styles and designs for you to choose from. They have the appearance of granite countertops and are just as durable, with the added benefit of being an eco-conscious choice.
Flooring: Many of the materials available for bathroom floors can also be used in the kitchen. Bamboo works well for countertops and floors and can help you pull the look of your new kitchen together while saving you money. The same can be said for linoleum. It’s less expensive than tiles although you should call on a professional to install it correctly. It’s highly water resistant and you’re less likely to break your precious crockery on it if you accidentally drop a plate or cup.
Another material you may consider using for the flooring in your kitchen is cork. Made from the bark of a tree, cork has a low impact on the environment. Trees need to be at least 25 years before its bark can be harvested and then the cork can be stripped every 18 – 25 years without killing the tree. It’s one of the most comfortable flooring types available because it ‘gives’ when compressed. Think about how much time you spend standing in your kitchen and you’ll understand why cork is a popular flooring choice for this area of the home.
Appliances: If you haven’t already considered replacing your old fridge, washing machine and dishwasher for new, energy-efficient appliances—do it now. As you’re busy remodelling, it’s the perfect opportunity to cut down on your energy bill. A top/bottom refrigerator unit is a better choice than the side-by-side model because less cold air escapes when you open the door.
You should also investigate getting a convection oven. It uses a fan to drive heat from the source to your food. As a result, your dinner will be ready almost 25% faster than with a conventional oven. Everything from your kettle and toaster to bigger appliances such as your washing machine and dishwasher can be used more efficiently. Using power wisely is the hallmark of eco-friendly homes.
Lighting: Once again, you can take advantage of the modern fluorescent lighting available today to brighten up your kitchen. They could cut your total energy use significantly and your kitchen won’t will feel overly bright and stark. There is now a wide range of tones available to help you set exactly the mood you want in your kitchen without sacrificing your style.
As you get on with the hard work of removing old fittings and fixtures, think about what you’ll do with all that rubble. Estimates reveal that between 22% – 40% of landfills consist of construction debris. Of course, there will be many bits and pieces that you simply cannot salvage. And where possible, donate your old toilets, sinks, baths, kitchen cupboards and countertops to charities. This way you’re reducing the waste that you send to the landfill.
It is possible to build eco-friendly houses from scratch. Although it is not yet a trend in South Africa, many homeowners are coming round to the idea of finding ways to reduce their consumption of water and electricity. Remodelling your kitchen and bathroom to embrace the principles of green living makes just as much sense for your pocket as it does for the environment.
Green alternatives are available, all it requires is for you to put some thought into the choices you make. Every element of these important rooms in your home can be optimised to run more efficiently. And the good news is that you don’t have to sacrifice style or comfort to accommodate greener living.
Do you know how much money you could save by going green? You may be aware that eco-friendly houses are cheaper to run. Retrofitting your existing home or buying a new eco-friendly home can be pricey. How can you be sure that the money you save will help to pay for such an expensive investment? You’ll only be able to calculate the return on your investment if you know exactly how much you’re spending to run your home now.
An energy audit will help you understand where and how you use energy in your home. Once you know that, you’ll be able to work out how much you can save by switching to green living. Or, at the very least you can identify areas where you can reduce your consumption and costs.
Although a professional energy audit will be more thorough, doing it yourself will give a rough idea of the costs and the opportunity to understand your energy consumption better. Keep this checklist handy and make notes as you go through every room in your house.
Calculating the costs of your appliances and devices
Kitchens are filled with appliances that rely on electricity, so it’s a good idea to start your energy audit here. To begin with, you’ll need to determine the wattage of your machines. You can find this information on the wattage label or check the user manual. Once you have that information, work out how many hours a day you use the appliance. For example, your fridge runs all day while your washing machine may only work for 2 – 3 hours at a time.
These are the other appliances that you should take note of:
- Oven and stove
- Washing machine
- Coffee maker
Now you can start to calculate your energy consumption. For example, let’s take a washing machine with a wattage of 350 that works around 3 hours a day:
Step 1: Multiply the unit’s wattage by the number of hours you use it to find the number of watt-hours consumed per day.
350 x 3 = 1050 watt-hours per day
Step 2: The electricity on your monthly bill is measured in kilowatts, so you’ll need to convert your watts-per day figure. All you have to do is divide this figure by 1000.
1050/1000 = 1.05kWh per day
Step 3: Now you need to calculate how much power your washing machine uses in a month. Just take the previous figure and multiply it by 30.
1.05 x 30 = 31.5 kWh per month
Step 4: Use your last electricity bill to see how much you were charged per kWh. For the sake of this example, let’s use the figure of R1 per kWh.
31.5 kWh per month x R1 = R31.50 per month.
There you have it; you’ll have to perform this calculation for every appliance in the kitchen, and once you’re done you’ll have a clearer idea of how much each one contributes to your monthly energy bill.
Once you’ve finished in the kitchen, move on to your living room and work out the costs for the following items:
- TV and decoder
- DVD player
- Game consoles
- Ceiling fan
- Music centre
If you have a study or home office, work out the costs of your equipment such as:
- Cell phone
- Fax machine
You’ll be amazed at just how many of the gadgets you own use power once you start adding them up. These will only account for a percentage of your energy bill. You also have to account for seasonal differences. In winter, your power bill surges because you rely on heaters to keep your home warm and cosy. Don’t forget to work out the power consumption for these:
Aside from your electronic devices, there are other ways you use power that contribute to your final bill. We’ll look at these next.
Adding up the costs of lighting and heating water
Energy for lighting accounts for around 10% of your energy bill. You can work out exactly how much you spend on keeping the lights on using the same calculation as you did for your appliances. Find out the wattage of your globes and average how many hours they on every day.
When it comes to heating water for bathing and cleaning, you’ll need to work things out a little differently. The most difficult part is calculating how much hot water you use in a day. As an example, let’s assume that you shower every day.
A standard shower uses 16 – 20 litres of water a minute. If you shower for 5 minutes that means you use a total of 80 – 100 litres of water. Now you should know that it takes 1kWh to heat 36 litres of water to a temperature of 40°. So a five minute shower would use about 2.5kWh of power.
To work out the total cost of your shower we’ll assume that 1kWh costs R1—remember to check your account to see how much you pay per kWh in your area. The final calculation will look like this:
2.5KWh x R1 = R2.50 per shower
If you shower every day, multiply R2.50 by 30 to get your total for a month which would come to R75. Now multiply that number by how many people in the house shower every day.
Keep in mind that your geyser doesn’t only use electricity when you turn on the hot water tap. It uses power throughout the day so that warm water is always available. Calculating how much energy it uses when not in use gets tricky. Refer to the rating on your geyser to give you a rough idea.
|Category||Standing losses: kWh per day|
Let’s assume you have a 200 litre capacity geyser with an E energy rating. Your geyser will use approximately 3kWh per day to keep warm. Add this to the total kilowatt hours you use for showering in a month and you’ll have a total of 165kWh. At R1 per kWh your total for the month is R165.
Adding up the costs
It may take you a bit of time to work out all the costs; once you have the final figures you’ll be glad you made the effort. You’ll be able to compare the running costs of a traditional home against those offered by eco-friendly homes and see just how quickly you could recoup your investment. You’ll get tp know why greener living saves you money.
Making the change to living green
With a clear picture of your energy consumption start making small changes to your home. Try some of the following tips and then watch what a difference it will make to your next electricity bill.
- Turn down the thermostat on your geyser: You can drop the temperature of your hot water by a few degrees and save a lot of money. You won’t really notice the difference, but you will see the results on your monthly bills.
- Invest in a geyser blanket: They’re not that expensive and they make your geyser more efficient at retaining heat without gobbling up power.
- Install low-flow shower heads: You’ll still get clean and enjoy your showers, and save precious water and electricity.
- Replace your incandescent light bulbs: Switch your old-fashioned light bulbs out for energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs). They last longer too.
- Wait for a full load: Before you turn on the dishwasher or washing machine, making sure you have a full load of dishes or laundry. Don’t waste power and water on small loads; rather do them by hand if you can’t wait.
- Skip the pre-rinse cycle: Again, this applies to your dishwasher and your washing machine. Unless your dishes or clothes are heavily soiled, there’s no need to rinse them before you wash them.
- Don’t make your fridge too cold: Though you need to stop your food from spoiling, you don’t have to set your fridge to the coldest temperature available. That will only increase its power consumption.
- Don’t waste cold water: Collect the cold water when you run the hot tap and use it for your kettle or watering your garden.
- Switch off at the plug: Don’t leave your electronic devices plugged in when you aren’t using them or charging them. Even in standby mode they’ll use small amounts of electricity. This contributes to your bill at the end of the month.
- Insulate your home: To reduce your heating costs in the colder months, make sure your house is properly insulated. Seal up the gaps in window and door frames to keep the heat inside.
All it really takes is being mindful about the way you use power in your home. Once you know the true costs, it will be easier to adopt habits that can help you save. Green living isn’t just for the eco-conscious. Saving resources and money benefits everyone, even the planet.
The benefits of eco-friendly houses
If you’re serious about reducing your living expenses you’ll find that it’s worth investing in eco-friendly homes. They are purpose built to make the most of natural resources such as sunlight and rainwater. They take greener living to the next level with features such as photovoltaic solar panels and rainwater harvesting tanks. They make living green just as comfortable because they’re fully insulated and use a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system to keep your home warm in winter and cool in summer.
Eco-friendly homes require less maintenance and are cheaper to run. Your initial investment is much higher, though with the money you save on monthly costs, paying it off won’t be as long as you may think. If you try out some of the tips above, you’ll see immediately that greener living makes a difference to your pocket. And with eco-friendly homes, you save even more.
Another advantage of green living that you rely less on the grid for power and water. When load shedding or water restrictions happen—your impact will be less. That’s something people don’t always factor in about green living. It is more cost effective, mot comfortable and more convenient than living in a traditional home.
Try the home energy audit for yourself. Though it takes a little effort, you’ll be glad you did it. Even if you’re not ready to make the move to an eco-friendly house just yet, you’ll find ways to save on energy while still living comfortably. Going green isn’t about making sacrifices. It’s about finding ways to use resources wisely. Get the most out of your electricity supply and save!
Environmentally friendly homes are not the norm in South Africa. Homeowners are however slowly realising that green homes are sound investments. They have significant advantages over traditional homes that will become important as the years go by. If you’re unaware or unconvinced that investing in eco-friendly homes is a wise move, here are some reasons why greener living is a smart move.
Eco-friendly homes have a longer lifespan
Would it surprise you to learn that green homes age better than traditional homes? That’s because eco-friendly building materials are tougher. For example, steel beams equip a home with a solid frame that is much stronger than wood. As a result, green homes can withstand high winds without damage. And steel beams aren’t at risk from rot or termites.
Even natural, sustainable construction materials are treated so that they last as long. In order to minimise waste, green living demands that every element of a home is used to maximum effect.
Green homes are healthier
Paints, adhesives, upholstery, carpets and other materials all emit Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs) into your home environment. You may not be aware of it, that breathing in these dangerous chemicals can affect your health. They are responsible for a variety of conditions that range from mild to serious. One thing is certain; being exposed to these VOCs for long periods of time result in being more susceptible to illness.
On the other hand, green living focuses on using products that are non-toxic and not harmful to the environment or people. Low VOC paints, varnishes and adhesives are available and used in the construction of eco-friendly houses. Wooden flooring is an alternative to carpets. Even tiles made from recycled materials are available to ensure that green living principles are followed throughout the construction of a home.
The result is that green homes have a better air quality. And good air quality reduces risk of illness and allergies. It’s difficult to imagine that a home could be a source of becoming sick, though those living in eco-friendly homes know that being environmentally conscious makes a difference to their health.
Eco-friendly houses are more valuable
Should the time ever come to sell, green homes command more money. As the trend towards greener living gains popularity, buyers will be on the look-out for eco-friendly homes. Features such as photovoltaic solar panels, comprehensive insulation and a rainwater harvesting system make such homes attractive to eco-conscious buyers.
It’s these features that make green homes comfortable. Green living is about modern conveniences, about luxury living. Photovoltaic solar power and rainwater harvesting means efficient access and use of two important resources. Why be solely dependent on the grid for electricity when it’s easy to generate electricity. And the same with water, why be solely dependent on municipal water, when it’s easy to harvest rainwater.
When compared to traditional homes, taking the benefits of the aforementioned translated into monthly savings, and that green homes are fully temperature controlled throughout the year, and that the temperature of each zone is individually adjustable, it stands to reason that eco-friendly homes are valuable assets.
Green homes are cheaper to run
One of the noteworthy points of eco-friendly houses is their low running costs. Other points are their convenience and benefits to the environment. In fact, living green saves a substantial amount of money. In comprehensive tests, calculated savings of up to 65% can be achieved – that is – including the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling – registering better than optimal temperatures during the tests in summer and winter.
Harvesting rainwater reduces monthly water costs by as much as 60% averaged over the year. Installing a solar water heater reduces water usage slightly and saves electricity based on usage patterns. Using photovoltaic solar electricity to power a home reduces electricity costs by almost by 100%.
Even small actions result in big savings over time. For example, switching to Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) reduces electricity consumption immediately. Green living is about finding efficient ways to achieve things.
And with costs of basic services such as electricity, water and refuse removal continuously increasing, living in a green home makes solid economic sense.
Eco-friendly homes are attractive
Homes fitted with green technology is not unattractive. When building eco-friendly homes from scratch, designers and developers find ways to incorporate green features so they don’t stand out. Photovoltaic solar panels are indeed visible. And large rainwater harvesting tanks are usually installed underground and out of sight. It’s even possible that an eco-friendly home isn’t distinguishable unless told.
Very often, the natural materials used to decorate eco-friendly homes are as beautiful as traditional materials. Bamboo floors and countertops add a touch of luxury to any home. Recycled materials that have been re-purposed have a charm of their own. Finding eco-friendly tiles, paints or finishing’s to decorate interior spaces are easy to find. More suppliers are recognising the demand for green living alternatives.
All that is needed is educating about these choices and asking manufacturers the right questions. Take into account how products are sourced and handled and to decide whether they match green living principles.
Green homes keep working during shortages
There’s nothing worse than arriving home after a long day to discover a power or water outage. With a green home, this won’t be the case often. Even during rolling black-outs, cooking, having a hot shower and lighting the home continues. Investing in back-up batteries to store the power generated by the photovoltaic solar panels, though expensive, provides power when needed.
Likewise, rainwater harvesting tanks supply water as designed even when the municipal supply is turned off. Or, if water restrictions are instituted, rainwater is likely available from the previous rains for flushing the toilets and irrigation.
These are examples of how green living make life easier. Being self-sufficient enables the use of resources as implemented for the home. And reduces the impact of price increases for power and water. In a green smart home, it is easy to monitor and manage usage to retain basic comforts.
Eco-friendly homes are the future
The idea of building sustainable homes has already taken off in many parts of the world. Designers and builders are constantly coming up with innovative ways to build homes that work with the environment and use limited resources efficiently.
At the same time, more homeowners are becoming aware of how green living saves money. Swapping out old lightbulbs for more cost-efficient CFLs or buying a geyser blanket, is beneficial to our pockets and the environment. These are small aspects of being eco-friendly. Image implementing green features comprehensively.
If you’re in a position to buy a purpose-built eco-friendly home, don’t hesitate. It’s worth the investment. Not only will you save on your monthly costs, you’ll be investing in the future. An eco-friendly home is a home for life. You’re investing in a home that will last you well into your retirement, a home that you can leave to your children.
Green homes are better for the environment
It’s worth stating this advantage again. The benefits of eco-friendly homes extend well beyond the construction phase. As time goes on, green homes continue to reduce impact on the planet: Using less resources and releasing fewer toxins into the environment.
Although the full impact of current habits is yet to be felt, by adopting green living habits, we’re contributing to an improved environment. Few people appreciate how uncomfortable life would become if steps aren’t taken to stop pollution or reduce the consumption of precious resources.
Greener living doesn’t require much. It requires changing just a few habits, and we stand to benefit as much as the planet does. Being committed to leaving our children and grand-children with a bright future, we’ll need to take action, rather sooner than later.
As is evident, there are many reasons to invest in a green home. In the future, eco-friendly homes will be in demand. Be an early adopter. Start saving money and reducing your impact on the environment.
What to look for in a green home?
If you’ve already decided that your next home should be a green home, here are some features to look out for when you go house hunting:
One important feature of eco-friendly houses is how well they’re insulated. Retrofitting an existing home with ceiling insulation is not enough. An eco-friendly home will have:
- Ceiling insulation
- Floor insulation
- Exterior wall insulation
- Double-glazed windows
- Water pipe insulation
A home that is properly insulated will significantly reduce your cooling and heating costs. An underfloor Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system will eliminate your need for heaters and air-conditioners. You’ll be able to control the temperature in separate zones for maximum comfort all year round without using much electricity.
Being well insulated contributes to sound proofing the home.
- Rainwater harvesting tanks and a water-wise garden
All eco-friendly homes have some kind of rainwater harvesting system. Whether tanks are installed underground or above ground, a pump and filter enables using harvested rainwater inside and outside.
Combined with a garden that features indigenous plants, water usage is minimal. And the harvested rainwater is available to flush your toilets and supply the washing machine.
- Heat pump or solar geyser
Both options provide you with hot water. Not only does this make eco-friendly homes more comfortable and convenient, it saves on water and electricity. With a linked-loop system, hot water is immediately on tap, reducing the need to run the water until it reaches the right temperature.
- Photovoltaic solar panels and backup batteries
For the full green living experience, include photovoltaic electricity. Reducing dependence on the grid provides massive savings on monthly bills. Backup batteries ensure that electricity is available during the evening when the sun is down.
Bamboo countertops, reclaimed wooden floors and tiles and efficient use of building materials are all features of eco-friendly homes. The environmental impact of every material used in the home needs to be investigated. It’s the only way to ensure that building a green home creates the least possible impact on the environment.
Speak to the builders and designers and ask them about the various features they include in their eco-friendly houses. Work out how much you can save by living in a green home and compare it to the cost of living in a traditional home. You’ll discover how well-designed and efficient they are. Once you understand how greener living can make a difference to your life, you’ll realise that buying an eco-friendly home will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
Temperatures are beginning to rise which means summer is on its way. With the warmer weather, you may be planning to spend more time outdoors, enjoying the heat. Along with the longer days, comes the prospect of thunderstorms. While a sudden shower would delay your outdoor activities, it presents the opportunity to adopt a greener living habit—harvesting rainwater.
Last summer water restrictions were put in place as South Africa was in the grip of a drought. Many communities were forced to rely on the kindness of strangers and organisations to supply them with clean water for drinking and cooking. Harvesting rainwater reduces the demand on the municipal supply and supplements your need on municipal water.
What are the benefits of harvesting rainwater?
Installing a rainwater harvesting tank on your property makes a significant difference to you, your community and the planet. Greener living really does benefit everyone.
The water collected in a rainwater harvesting tank is available to flush your toilets, water your garden, wash your car and in your washing machine. Although it’s not fit for human consumption unless you filter it first, using rainwater for general purpose cleaning and irrigation reduces your reliance over the year on mains water by up to 60% and thus cut your water bill accordingly.
- Minimises the impact on local storm water infrastructure
During the thunderstorm season, it’s not unusual to see rivers of water flowing down your street and into storm water drains. That’s because our paved and tarred areas don’t allow for the rainwater to be absorbed back into the ground.
The excess water places a strain on the drainage system and increases the chances of flooding. By harvesting rainwater and releasing it back into the natural water course, this helps minimise the strain on your local municipality.
Harvesting rainwater achieves several green living principles. You’re saving potable water which is a valuable resource. That makes water available to other communities who need it. At the same time, you’re reducing your carbon footprint. Water has to be pumped around to the cities and towns where it’s needed which means it uses electricity. By harvesting rainwater, you reduce the amount of power used to supply your home with potable water.
With all of these benefits, it’s no surprise that eco-friendly homes incorporate rainwater harvesting tanks into their designs. Rainwater harvesting makes a definite contribution to the planet, saves homeowners on their monthly utility costs and stretches water supply, though marginally, even during times of drought.
If you’re keen to make rainwater harvesting a part of your lifestyle, you have two choices. You can either buy one of the eco-friendly homes currently on the market or install a rainwater collecting tank on your existing property. Let’s take a closer look at these two options.
Rainwater harvesting and eco-friendly houses
The trend towards green living is growing in South Africa. More and more developers are aware that homeowners are looking for properties that are cheaper to run and kinder to the environment. Eco-friendly houses typically include several green features that achieve this.
Photovoltaic solar panels and insulation keep energy costs down. Underground rainwater harvesting tanks ensure a supplemented supply of water. Eco-friendly building materials reduce environmental impact. Eco-friendly homes require less maintenance, cost less to run and provide families with a healthy and comfortable lifestyle.
Eco-friendly houses are more expensive than traditional homes. And with the money you save on maintenance and running costs, it’s possible to recoup your initial investment within a few years.
Buying a rainwater tank for your home
You don’t have to buy an eco-friendly house if you want to harvest rainwater. It is possible to retrofit your existing property with a tank, and it is affordable. Here are some things to consider if you want to buy a rainwater harvesting tank and start living green.
How to choose a water tank
It’s more efficient to have one large water tank rather than several smaller ones. Determining the size of the rainwater tank that will provide for your needs depends on the rainfall in your area and the size of your collection area (roof size).
- Calculating the collection area
A general rule of thumb is that 1mm of rain falling on 1m2 will deliver 1 litre of water to your tank. Measure the size of your roof and you’ll have an idea of how much rainwater you’ll harvest.
- Working out the size of the tank you need
How much water does your household need? Think about how many people live on the property and what you’ll do with the rainwater you harvest. Rainwater tanks come in many sizes – broadly classified as follows:
- Small tanks hold less than 2000 litres
- Medium tanks hold between 2000 and 10000 litres
- Large tanks hold more than 10 000 litres
Don’t forget to take your local climate conditions into account. In South Africa, different regions get most of their rain either in winter or summer. If the rainwater you collect will be used to flush your toilets or feed your washing machine, then you’ll want a rainwater system that automatically switches over to the municipal supply when the tank drops below its threshold. Research green living ideas to help reduce your household water usage.
- The best place for your tank
When you’ve worked out the size of the tank you need, you’ll need a place to install it. Underground water tanks are common in purpose-built eco-friendly houses. That’s because underground water tanks take up less space, last longer and produce a better quality of water. Subsoil conditions would need to be ideal if you want to install your water tank below ground.
Above ground water tanks are easier to fit, they’re exposed to the elements which affect their lifespan. Place your rainwater tank to best use gravity so water flows into the tank. If this is not possible, then a pump is required to push the water to the tank.
You should try to place your rainwater harvesting tank under some form of shelter such trees or a roof. By limiting its exposure to sunlight, you’ll reduce the temperature fluctuation and extend the life of the tank.
- Choosing the right material for your water tank
Water tanks are made from a wide variety of materials. Light shouldn’t enter the water tank so prevent algae. Choose a water tank made from solid, opaque material.
Polyethylene water tanks
Polyethylene is a tough plastic used to make water tanks of varying sizes and colours. They’re affordable and attractive which makes them ideal for use in existing gardens. If the polyethylene is reinforced, the tank is made for underground installation. Though the material itself doesn’t conform to green living principles, it is used in a way that benefits the environment overall.
Although they are robust and require little maintenance, the material is susceptible to UV damage when exposed to the sun for long periods which means they’ll need replacing at some point. If the tank is painted appropriately or installed under some form of shelter, its life is extend. It’s worth paying a little more for a high-quality polyethylene as these tanks have built-in UV protection.
Fibreglass water tanks
More expensive than plastic tanks, fibreglass water tanks are not easy to find in South Africa. They require precise installation because they cannot tolerate any soil movement.
Galvanised steel water tanks
Steel water tanks are better suited to greener living commercial applications. They hold more water than plastic tanks. They are prone to rust, so if potable water is required, the tanks need to be lined with a membrane.
Concrete water tanks
Concrete water tanks could last u a lifetime. They’re durable but expensive. They provide the best storage conditions for rainwater. Concrete neutralises the slight acidity of rainwater which improves its quality. It’s not biodegradable, so not a good choice for those who want to follow green living principles.
The disadvantage of using concrete water tanks is cracking and leaking. Before installing a concrete water tank underground, best to consult civil and geotechnical engineers. The soil conditions need to be suitable and the installation perfect to decrease the risk of cracking. These tanks need to be waterproofed to reduce the risk of leaking.
Pre-manufactured concrete water tanks are available too. They come in sections for quick and easy installation underground in modules to provide for required volumes.
Protecting your rainwater supply pipes
Pipes installed underground need to be of the appropriate code and specification and require additional protection against heavy vehicles. Pipes above ground require support or they will crack and break when filled with water. Paint appropriately to protect them from sun damage. Or pipes with built-in UV protection are best suited.
Installing an overflow pipe takes excess water to natural light. Water tanks overflow several times a year so the water flow needs to be correctly designed. Uncontrolled overflow could cause unwanted damage.
Adding a pump to your rainwater tank
Your rainwater tank will need a pump to help you achieve the right water pressure. A water tank installed 2m above the tap and filled with 2m of water will only produce a discharge pressure of 40kPa. Normal household water pressure ranges from 250kPa to 400kPa. So your rainwater tank needs a pump to help achieve the required water pressure.
Cleaning and maintenance
Rainwater tanks need a screen to stop debris and organic matter such as leaves and bird droppings from contaminating water supply. A first-flush device is recommended for diverting the first rainfall after a dry season away from the tank. The collection area needs to be clear of leaves and debris.
Tanks require inspecting for an accumulation of sludge at least every 2-3 years. This requires emptying and rinsing completely if necessary. Professionals could be used to clean tanks and make sure that the water supply is correct.
Depending on the rainfall in your area, it is possible to harvest rainwater for various needs. When harvesting rainwater, you realise how green living supplements your water needs. Using water wisely is one feature of eco-friendly living. Whether living in an eco-friendly home or implementing this feature at a conventional house, goes to show, anyone can enjoy the benefits of harvesting rainwater, financial and otherwise.
You may have heard of green homes. Eco-friendly houses that are built using green principles to conserve resources and reduce running costs are slowly gaining traction in South Africa and around the world. As the green trend develops, smart technologies are being incorporated into green homes to enhance their efficiency. The two work well together to enable monitoring and efficiently managing power and water resources. What does this mean for homeowners?
Green homes are desirable because they use resources efficiently. This is particularly important when it comes to power consumption. An ordinary home relies on the municipal electricity supply. As the price of electricity continues to rise, homeowners are looking for ways to reduce their consumption and to save money. And become less dependent of the resource providers. Investing in a green smart home maximises the conservation of precious energy and saves money in the process.
The smart technology continuously collects consumption data. The information is available on an app, on a laptop, desktop, and smart devices for any period. Up to the minute, hour, day, over weeks, months and years the information is available and enables extensive monitoring of the resources to track and immediately identify patterns. This information is invaluable to efficiently manage resource usage. Thereby providing facts to make important decisions about how the home is run.
Let’s use an example to illustrate this. As the weather cools down at the start of winter, we’d want to increase the temperature inside the home. The Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system takes 24-48 hours to reach the newly required temperature. Almost immediately after adjusting to the newly required temperature, by monitoring the electricity usage it is possible to see how much more electricity it would use. By adjusting the temperature by a half to one degree or so while maintaining the comfort level within the home, it is possible to save on electricity costs. Without such a system, we’d need to wait for the next bill to see the cost of raising the temperature.
Bear in mind that green homes also make use of superior insulation to protect the home from temperature fluctuations. The comprehensive insulation prevents the loss of warm air in winter, and cool air during summer. This increases the efficiency of the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system. Thus, the heat pump does not use excessive electricity to retain the home’s temperature as the seasonal outside temperature cools down or rises.
Being able to monitor and adjust the temperature of the home might be considered a luxury. Ultimately though, it’s the ideal way to maintain the comfort level without resorting to drastically increase energy consumption. The smart technology provides the easy monitoring and efficient managing and to fine tune every element of the home. Thus, comfort and luxury at momentous saving of monthly running cost.
Heat pumps generates hot and cold water. Heated water is used by the Hydronics and in the bathrooms and kitchen; cold water is used by the Hydronics. Heating and cooling of water accounts for a large portion of the total electricity bill. Having the ability to manage the temperature by half or a single degree presents yet another good opportunity for reducing the monthly running costs. Once again, the real advantage of the smart technology lies in its ability to collect data. Over time trends and patterns are visible. This allows for planning future needs, budgets and expenses.
The water temperature and temperatures throughout the home is adjusted from a laptop or smart device app which means there is no need to climb up into the ceiling, as with traditional houses, to manually adjust the geyser’s thermostat. These are some of the reasons why smart technology is used. It offers an added level of convenience for running a green home efficiently.
Making every drop count
It is essential to use water efficiently. Therefore, many green homes usually include a rainwater harvesting system. Untreated rainwater is used for garden irrigation, flushing the toilets and for the washing machine. There are two significant benefits to using rainwater for these purposes. Firstly, it helps to conserve one of our most precious resources by making efficient use of water which would otherwise be lost. Secondly, it presents homeowners with the opportunity to reduce the effects of water restrictions and price hikes.
Rainwater is free and green Homes shoul have rainwater tanks to capture and store rainwater. The rainwater harvesting system should be connected to the municipal supply, so the home always has access to water. Without the necessary sensors, it is cumbersome to monitor the water levels in an underground tank.
A rainwater level sensor needs to be installed in the tank that connects to the smart technology system. This enables the monitoring of the level and usage of the harvested rainwater in the tank simply by logging in and checking the data. This information is stored and enables seeing how the levels fluctuate over a period of days, weeks, months, and years. This information is used to adjust and manage rainwater usage. This is up to the minute data and is an accurate picture of how much rainwater is used. Calculating how much water is required for a water-wise indigenous garden then enables adjusting the irrigation exactly according its water requirements. Usually saving multiple times the water used for the garden when based on guesswork.
Efficiently managing resource usage
Until we have experience of green homes and smart home technologies, it’s difficult to understand how practical and convenient it is, how empowering it is, how efficiently resources are managed to maximise saving of monthly running costs. The aim of using smart-home technology features helps to increase the effectiveness of the green features. Smart technology with the green home features is based on an easily extendable smart technology infrastructure which in turn enables home automation capabilities, in addition to the green smart home monitoring and management.
For example, it is possible to use the smart technology for added security. It’s simply a matter of adding the relevant interior and exterior movement sensors and connecting them to the system. When the sensors are triggered, in addition to setting off an alarm that alerts us to an intruder, the following alerts are also possible.
Triggering the lights to come on, the blinds to open, and loud music to start playing: Thus, alerting anyone in the home and the neighbours, to a potential break in and has the potential to severely startle and repel the intruder.
Yet another way in which smart technology adds value to our homes. When we sell on our green smart home, this is a feature that is sure to appeal to future buyers.
Added convenience with an app
Smartphones, smart devices and personal computers have dramatically altered the way we stay in touch and access information. It’s therefore not surprising that smart home technology includes an app. This allows us to access the system from anywhere in the world through our smartphone, tablet or laptop. That means we could be away on holiday, or on the other side of the world, and still be able to monitor and manage our home.
We are able to adjust the various green features from the app. For example, adjust the temperature of a room simply by logging in and tapping away on our smartphone. The system is easy to use, and user friendly and doesn’t require any additional software. It’s simply a matter of downloading the app and logging into our account.
We have access to all the information that is being collected by the system from the beginning. Smart home technology isn’t complicated or time-consuming. In fact, every effort has been made to ensure it makes running our home simpler and convenient. When we’re familiar with social media, or the Internet we’ll have no trouble using the app to monitor and manage our home remotely from our laptop, smart phone and smart device.
Enhancing our green home
Ordinarily, smart home technology and automation may be seen as a luxury. We might think that it’s not necessary to adjust the temperature of the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system when we’re not physically at home
The true intention of the smart system is to increase the efficiency of the green features. The real power of the smart system lies in its ability to collect data on the way we use electricity and water in our home. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of green living, it’s easy to imagine that it’s all about saving money. In fact, there are real environmental benefits to conserving these resources.
Those who embrace these new green smart home technologies to monitor and manage their homes are able to enjoy the benefits of authentic green living. Although investing in a green smart home requires a larger investment initially, it is possible to recoup this through the momentous monthly savings. The green features and the smart home technology also adds value to our properties. Not only do we start saving money immediately, we’re able to command a higher price should we sell on our home. Future buyers will be on the lookout for green smart homes as the trend develops.
From the aforementioned it is fair to conclude that a smart green home offers more than the ability to save on monthly running costs. It gives us the opportunity to understand exactly how we use resources such as water and electricity to maintain our standard of living and lifestyle. We monitor and efficiently manage our home which allows us to adapt it to suit our needs.
Being able to create a comfortable, efficient home is a true luxury. While green homes offer us the ability to save money and resources, smart home technology takes it one step further. We maximise the efficiency of the green features included in the design and construction of our home. In the future, this will be the standard by which all homes are measured. Why merely invest in a green home? Rather invest in a green smart home!
What is a green smart home? It’s a home that combines green features with smart home technologies to maximise energy- and water-efficiency and comfort. You may already be aware of the benefits of greener living, however, people don’t generally know that smart home technologies are used to manage and maximise the efficiency and costs of running the green features while making our lives simpler, easier and cheaper. Let’s explore how living in a green smart home makes a difference to our lives.
Green smart homes enable us to monitor and efficiently manage the green features
Smart home technology has moved with the times and most systems include an app that provides access from our smartphone or computer. This means that we easily manage all the green features of our eco-friendly home from wherever we are. That could be anything from monitoring the water level of the rainwater harvesting tank to adjusting a zone temperature of the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system.
Imagine how much simpler it is to manage our home when all we need do is log in to the program, adjust the particular settings and let the system carry out those adjustments. When it’s time to turn down the temperature of the heat pump, thats done in a matter of minutes. And while at it, changing the temperature of individual zones in the house, in fact, even setting up schedules to take care of everything.
This provides us with capabilities to monitor and manage our home, our energy, rainwater consumption, all with our comfort in mind. Thereby maximising the energy- and rainwater-efficiency of our green home with ease. And because we’re able to access the app from our smartphone, changing settings even while on the go. This is ideal where we’re short on time. It’s all at our fingertips. This is especially handy to make finer adjustments to our home.
We save money every month with our green smart home
Eco-friendly homes are designed to be energy- and water-efficient. They include features such as Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling systems, heat pump solutions that use less power. The green features save us money by reducing the amount of energy and water our homes use. By connecting these elements to the smart home technology, we’re able to use the information collected by the system to reduce your energy and water consumption.
Here’s an example of how that would work. With the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system being connected to the smart home technology, and with the arrival of summer, we’ll want to lower the temperature in our home so it’s comfortable. And we adjust the relevant settings to the required temperature, say 21°. The system goes into action to make those adjustments and its done between 24 and 72 hours for the rooms throughout the home to reach the new temperatures we’ve set. Finer adjustments to the temperature works in the same way.
As the smart home technology collects information of our energy consumption, we’re able to monitor data and see the effect of our changes. At a glance, we’ll note whether lowering the temperature on the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system made a big or small difference to the electricity used immediately after the adjustment. If the electricity used to adjust the home to the newly set temperature is too high, changing the temperature by half or a full degree, again immediately shows up in the electricity consumption. Repeating such minor adjustments enables us to determine the balance between comfort and electricity efficiency. The energy consumption data is available to see the patterns immediately and over the past month or year. Interesting to note, that cooling our home uses more energy than heating our home.
This information is empowering. Homeowners that make the move from traditional homes to eco-friendly homes know that they’ll save on their monthly running costs. They see the difference in their monthly utility bills, and they’re able to calculate how much they’ve saved by living green. And until we’re able to monitor and efficiently manage our home we’ll not be able to balance comfort with cost efficiency.
When we have a clear picture of the costs involved in running our home it’s easier to budget and plan. We’re able to budget accurately, save more money and introduce new methods to increase our savings. We might discover that with the extra money we’re saving to add further photovoltaic solar panels. Or further invest in backup batteries to run our home longer at night. Green smart homes don’t just make our life easier, they provide us with valuable information enabling us to save money while living a luxurious lifestyle.
Green smart home luxury
Imagine it’s the dead of winter and as the alarm goes off we slide our bare feet out of bed onto the tiled floor. It’s still dark out and as we turn on the shower hot water tap, hot water comes out almost immediately, well in 3 – 5 seconds. Once ready for work, taking a look out of the double-glazed windows we see there’s an icy wind whipping the trees in the garden; we make a mental note to grab our jacket before heading out the door.
If that sounds like luxury and expensive, it’s surprisingly affordable to live this way. The Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system in eco-friendly houses works so well that we would place our bare feet directly on the tiled floor in the middle of winter finding the tiles warm. Smart home technology enables the use of sensors to detect movement and turn the lights in our home on and off without us having to reach for the switch. A linked-loop system provides us with hot water on tap saving both electricity and water. The double-glazed windows prevents cold air in during winter and warm air in during summer. In fact, they’re a small part of all the insulation used in the design of green smart homes that make our living comfortable all year round.
Eco-friendly homes are designed to use energy efficiently and that’s why, in the long term, investing in a green smart home is affordable. Giving us these creature comforts without the continuous rising costs of basic services. And because we’re able to monitor our energy consumption, we’re able to manage the costs efficiently. The information the system gathers on a continuous basis empowers homeowners to maximise the energy-efficiency of the home while they live in comfort and convenience.
Green smart homes grow with us
Technology improves all the time. A perfect example of this is the smartphone market, where new and improved models are released every year. With green smart home technology our home gets smarter too, we’re able to download new software and keep our system up to date.
We’ll be able to add on features as we need them, or as we budget to. For example, we could add an alarm system that works with our smart home technology. Adding sensors to detect movement and set off the alarm. What about combining the alarm with the blinds and lights so that the moment the alarm is triggered, our blinds open and our lights switch on as an immediate alert. By adding an alarm to our smart home system we’re also increasing our property value.
With more sensors we’re able to set schedules for the lights. While away on holiday we could set the curtains to open and close and lights to turn on and off as if someone was at home. There are many ways that smart home technology as the foundation has the capability to make our green home a smarter and safer place. Like, setting schedules to manage our blinds and lights according to our routine. Like, waking up with the sun, and setting the lights to come on every evening without doing it manually, by programming the system from the laptop.
The technology is in place so these are possible by adapting your home to suit your needs. Smart home technology allows you to manage many elements of your home and doing it remotely with the app on your smartphone or laptop.
Green smart homes are valuable
The truth is that eco-friendly homes are more expensive. Investing in property always pays dividends. And green smart homes will only become more desirable with time. Both the concepts of green living and smart technology taking off as more people come to realise the potential savings they offer.
In the future, new home buyers will be looking for properties that are energy- and water-efficient, comfortable and don’t require significant maintenance. Due to the nature of green smart homes, most of the features included in green smart homes are built to last. They need little maintenance and don’t require regular repairs. Photovoltaic solar panels last up to 20 years and don’t have moving parts that would easily break. And underground rainwater harvesting tanks are mostly self-cleaning; they require periodic rinsing if the finer filters.
As mentioned earlier, green smart home technology software is easy to upgrade, we’re thus able to access new features as they’re made available. We’re able too, to start with the basics and add extra functions to the system whenever needed. All of this adds value to our homes which means we’re in a position to command a higher price, when selling the green smart home on.
It’s no exaggeration to say that green smart homes are the future. The initial costs of investing in a green smart home are completely outweighed by the future savings and immediate comfort and convenience they offer their owners. As both developers and home owners come to realise this, more green smart homes will be built. With monitoring, managing, more knowledge and greater comfort, a green smart home gives us the kind of lifestyle we’ve always unknowingly dreamed of.
When owning an eco-friendly home we’ll command a premium when the time comes to sell. Investing in a green home will not only save money while living in it, it will increase in value with each years. Future buyers will be better educated about the benefits of greener living and actively seek out homes that already have green features. Even seek out purpose built eco-friendly homes. And with the added benefits of smart home technology, the value increases even further. Buyers will come to expect eco-friendly homes combined with smart home technology.
What is smart home technology?
Smart home technology refers to the use of computers to manage functions and features of a green home such as the electricity consumption, heating, cooling and the water usage. Such homes are referred to green smart homes. The smart technology infrastructure includes that the home’s data is easily accessed from a smartphone app or computer. The smart technology enables the monitoring and managing of a smart home from our smartphone or computer.
This enables that we efficiently manage our green smart home from within the home or from remotely. It makes running our home convenient and adds an extra layer of security to our property. With some systems, it is even possible to set schedules for lighting and the home’s temperature. Or, we’re able to rely on sensors to automate certain features. For example, before leaving the office, we’re able to turn on the lights so we arrive home to a bright house. Or, a sensor could detect the morning sun and automatically open the blinds and curtains, and the converse in the evening.
What is a green smart home?
Smart technology infrastructure is the foundation of a green smart home. Because, along with making it convenient to manage the green features, the smart system enables us to monitor various main features, like the energy and water consumption. Smart home technology continuously collects data of the home. This data is used to maximise the efficiency of all the features of the home. The efficiency translates to increased savings of the monthly running costs. And as the cost of basic services continues to rise, we enjoy greater savings without having to change our lifestyle. In addition, with a green smart home, luxury features are implemented in the most cost effective way. For instance, such a home is constructed taking many things into account. The green smart home being fully temperature controlled throughout the year with the electrical costs even multiple times lower than the traditional home equivalent, while sporting the luxury of being fully temperature controlled.
How do green smart homes increase our return on investment?
Eco-friendly homes are more expensive than traditional ones. That’s because they include features that cost more to implement during the building phase. And, the value of a green home lies in the fact that our monthly utility costs are significantly reduced. The money that we save every month on electricity and water is available to, for instance, put towards paying off our home.
And this is how green smart homes increase our monthly savings:
- Tracking our power consumption
The smart home system can be connected to a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system and heat pump. Both of these features use electricity efficiently. And because we can track our energy consumption over days, weeks, months and years, we have a clearer picture of exactly how much energy our home uses.
If we raise the temperature of our home in winter, within minutes, we are able to see the impact this has on our costs. We then have the option to make an informed decisions about our comfort level versus the costs involved. With a smartphone app, we are able to log in to the system at any time and make adjustments to the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system. Though reducing the temperature by half a degree or by one degree would not make much difference to our comfort levels, it would in fact make a significant difference to the cost of running the system.
The same applies to the heat pump. Hot water accounts for a significant portion of our monthly electricity bill. A heat pump uses electricity efficiently, so it already saves us money. When adding a linked-loop system, we have hot water on tap, which saves on water. Instead of running the tap for what feels like minutes while waiting for the hot water to reach the required temperature, the water is instead at the temperature you need within seconds.
With traditional geysers, adjusting the thermostat is cumbersome, which is why most people set it and forget it. We’re able to reduce our electricity usage by adjusting the temperature every season. We don’t need the water to be as hot in summer as in winter. And with a green smart home, it’s easy to adjust the temperature from our smartphone. Plus, we’ll be able to see immediately how dialing the temperature down a few degrees impacts our electricity consumption.
Once again, we’re able to monitor and manage our power consumption while maintaining our comfort. People generally don’t realise that greener living is luxury living. Imagine, living luxuriously, while saving money. Having full access to monitor every element and every feature of our home empowers to make choices and to manage our home efficiently, and to maximise the savings of our monthly running costs.
As we use the smart home technology to track our power consumption, we increase our understanding of how our lifestyle impacts our home’s running costs. Over time, we’re able to identify patterns and budget accordingly. Or, find new ways to reduce our consumption and be able to track the results. Simply being aware of our energy consumption makes a big difference to the way we live. It encourages us to use energy wisely, save money, while incidentally easing the strain on the municipal supply and the planet. It’s all about balance.
Smart home technology adds value
The features discussed above have already been implemented in some green homes. The aforementioned are some of the benefits of smart home technology. Expanding the system is possible and includes other features and benefits of the green smart homes such as:
- Security: Add an alarm to the system which works with motion sensors. When the alarm is set off, it triggers the blinds to open, switches on lights and play loud music. This takes the intruder by surprise. Having an alarm system will also lower our insurance premiums and again we save money.
- Setting schedules: By developing the smart home technology system further, to set schedules for the lighting and blinds. For example, turning the lights on shortly before arriving home at night. Although a new technology, we’re able to add many features to the smart home system.
- Remote control: By adding additional sensors to appliances, we’re able to set the washing machine or dishwasher to run while out of peak period. Smart home technology offers us the ability to interact with our home, even when we aren’t there.
When selling our green smart home, we’ll have more to offer potential buyers than what a traditional home offers. The green features alone already add tremendous value to our home. Future buyers will be more aware of how much they’ll save while living in a green home. From a cost-effective Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system, to underground rainwater harvesting tanks, buyers will appreciate that a green smart home saves them money from the moment they move in.
Combined with the smart home technology, we’re offering buyers a modern, luxurious lifestyle that contributes to their saving from when they move in. We have already become dependent on our smartphones for access to information, and smart home technology does the same for our green homes. Tech savvy buyers will appreciate this added levels of information that the system offers. And once we’ve experienced it for ourselves, we’ll be able to show them why it’s valuable.
Save now and increase our return on investment
By combining green living and smart home technology, we push the energy-efficiency of our homes. We’ll gain a deeper understanding of our power consumption, and have at our finger tips features that make our lives comfortable. With the knowledge, it’s easy to implement other features to further increase our comfort and savings. That’s money to put towards paying off our home faster, thereby investing for our children’s future and for our retirement.
After experiencing all the benefits of living in a green smart home, we’ll get a good return on our investment when selling our green smart home on. Green homes are not common in South Africa. Studies in the USA have already shown that green home owners command a higher price for their property. And by adding smart home technology to the mix, we increase the value of our homes even more.
With that in mind, it certainly makes sense to consider investing in a green smart home. Property has always been considered a sound investment. We’re able to maximise the value of that investment by looking at green smart homes.
South Africans are already aware of the benefits of greener living. Some new residential developments have added green features. That’s because they know they’ll save on monthly running costs and are less dependent on the utility service providers. The rising costs of electricity and water have contributed to this and it’s likely that costs of these basic services will continue to increase.
Buying any property will be the biggest financial decision we ever make. By choosing wisely, and investing in a green smart home, we’ll save money now and reap the rewards of a good return on our investment in time to come. Green smart homes offer us more financial benefits than traditional properties ever will.