Hugo, the eco-friendly living entrepreneur, shares his passion

Hugo, the eco-friendly living entrepreneur, shares his passion

“Follow your passion, because if you don’t believe 100% in what you are doing, you won’t make it through the challenging times to get to the rewards…”

Touwsberg Private Game and Nature Reserve, about three hours’ drive from Cape Town in the Little Karoo, is a self-contained biological and geological eco-system and home to a variety of fauna and flora.

Hugo La Grange-eco-friendly-entrepreneur

Hugo says “I’m the third generation of the La Grange family to work and live at Touwsberg Private Game and Nature Reserve, and my interest and core passion lie in sustainability and eco-friendly living. The industry is taking a very positive turn towards more sustainable development and ever-growing technology and development keep this industry dynamic.”

Hugo, the eco-friendly living entrepreneur: Shares his passion for eco-friendly living. Stay informed on all things eco-friendly-living.

 

Review: Taking a Closer Look at Drinking Water Filters: Did You Know This About Your Water Filter?

Review: Taking a Closer Look at Drinking Water Filters: Did You Know This About Your Water Filter?

When looking clinically and in a balanced way at drinking water filters, considering costs, replacement intervals, filter capability, filter recycling and the filter’s effect on our carbon footprint, how many drinking water filters would make the cut?

And importantly, do any water filters tick all the boxes and stand out as a best of breed product?

Reviews.com, elaborates on How We Found the Best Water Filters. A worthwhile review. Stay informed.

Is it viable to live green in South Africa

Is it viable to live green in South Africa

Are you a couple who understands the benefits of living green? Perhaps you started out by separating and recycling your rubbish. Then you read about solar water heaters and installed one into your home. Perhaps you’ve even gone as far as installing rainwater catchments and photo-voltaic solar panels.

But the question is this: What will you do when the time comes to move out? How will you find a home that someone else has invested in as much as you have in your current home?

The sad truth is that converting your home into a green home is often over-capitalizing on your property (depending on the area in which you live). Not many buyers will appreciate your green features enough to give you a return on investment. So unless you’re planning on staying put for a really long time, green features are not always recommended.

Growing accustomed to green living

But let’s say you’ve slowly implemented green features into your home. You’ve added some solar panels. You’re collecting rainwater for your garden. You’ve even had a heat pump installed to save on your geyser costs.

And now the time comes for you and your family to move. All these green features have become such a part of your life. Will you look for a home that has the same green features? How hard will it be to find such a home?

This is a question of finding a new home for sale that offers the same green benefits you’ve come to expect. These may include:

  • Saving money on your utilities
  • Living comfortably and sustainably
  • Being independent of the grid
  • Having a clear conscious about your impact on the environment

Green home development is slow but sure

Well, you’ll be happy to know that slowly but surely, green home development is catching on in SA. Fully green homes are being developed.\

Now buying a home like this is a big decision. You already know that green homes in South Africa cost more than regular homes. But if you’ve done your research, you also know that green homes give you such a large return on investment, the initial price is well worth it.

But you already know that, don’t you? You’ve already experienced the savings and convenience associated with green features. Right?

Not necessarily!

Those bad experiences

You see, there are a lot of people out there who were quickly sold on the idea of living green. They understood that being off the grid would save them money in the long run. They also wanted less dependence on the grid and convenient living. But did they get what they bargained for?

Let’s face it: there are a lot of dubious companies out there who provide dodgy products—or don’t know how to install them. In short, many people in South Africa have experienced problems with their green features. And these problems are often enough to put people off green living for good.

Another issue is the return on investment. If green features are not properly thought through, home owners may not get all the benefits they were promised. This is the case for many home owners—and maybe you are one of them.

So have you been scared away from green living?

These obstacles may easily scare you away from living as green as you’d like. But the truth is, living green is an inexpensive, hassle-free lifestyle that keeps you and your family happy, healthy and safe.

These three objectives are exactly what you should aim for:

  • Happy: If the green features in your home aren’t adding joy and convenience to your life, then something is amiss. Your home should aim to provide you with a happy life by making things comfortable and spacious. Everything you need is always on-hand. In addition, all aspects of the home require almost no maintenance.
  • Healthy: Green living is healthy living. When you consider the five types of insulation all green homes possess, you can be sure your family will remain healthy during the harshest winters. The under floor hydronics radiant heating and cooling also ensures your family’s health without costing you the earth. As opposed to air conditioners, air is able to rise and circulate within the home—instead of circulating what is outside and bringing it into your home.
  • Safe: The location of your home influences your safety. Be sure to choose an area with tight security and a close-knit community culture, making it a safe haven for families who want their kids to be able to play in the street without fear of harm.

Don’t these benefits seem worth it? Living green is a lifestyle that is becoming easier and easier to obtain. A few bad eggs should not put you off pursuing this kind of life.

So what about that initial capital?

Now an immediate objection many have when considering a green home is the price. Green homes cost significantly more than regular homes because of all the extra work and strategy that goes into them.

But buying a green home is actually one of the smartest investments you can make in South Africa at the moment. People invest in properties all the time. They invest in properties with the hope that the value of that property will appreciate in value.

Buying a green home in South Africa is a sure way to get a solid return on your investment. Even though the market for green homes is on the increase, it’s currently a very slow market. This means that, say within five years—when the market for green homes has increased—your home will be worth a lot more than what you paid for it!

Now that’s what we call an overall return on investment. But let’s consider the compounding ROI you receive while living in your green home:

  • You will save costs on water due to the implementation of rainwater harvesting
  • Your electricity bill will be significantly low with the use of photo-voltaic solar panels
  • Low maintenance strategies will ensure that you almost never have to fix up sections in your home such as roof tiles, repainting the walls, rust-proofing the banisters, maintaining the garden, etc.

These savings will add up very fast as the months and years of your stay go by. Soon you will grow accustomed to living in your home at a fraction of normal living costs! Now add these savings to your overall ROI when you sell the home, and you can see how buying a green home makes great business sense.

The responsibility to live green

One also cannot overlook the aspect of living with a clear conscious towards the environment. This human responsibility is wedged into the conscience of most of us. People who have children are especially concerned with the future of the planet and how their lives will ultimately impact life as we know it.

So let’s take a quick look at seven ways a green lifestyle can have less of an impact on the environment:

  1. Utilizing rainwater reduces the need for chemically treating water for home usage. Of course when one person uses less water, this hardly makes a difference. But as the trend grows and more people stop needing municipal water, the need for chemically treated, fluoridated water will begin to decrease.
  2. Insulating a home is a great way to cut down drastically on power usage. Think about it. During the hot months, your electricity usage goes up because of fans, air conditioners and the like. In winter, heaters form a massive part of your electricity bill. But when a home is insulated at the ceiling, the floor, the windows and the walls, each room maintains its temperature for much longer.
  3. Generating and using photo-voltaic solar power ultimately reduces the need for burning fossil fuels. The sun is a limitless source of energy that can be harnessed by us to power our homes. Why use fossil fuel generated electricity when a renewable source is at hand?
  4. Planting a garden that is fully indigenous is a way to work with nature rather than against it. By excluding invader plants from your garden, you give indigenous plants a chance to thrive. And by planting trees and shrubs that are native to South Africa, you ensure little maintenance and watering.
  5. A proper hydronics radiant system uses way less power than conventional heating and cooling methods. By having such a system in your home, you negate the need for grid electricity thereby having less of an impact on the planet’s fossil fuel usage.
  6. Through pipe insulation, water is kept at its temperature for much longer. This means that less electricity is used to heat up water when it is accessed through a tap. Again, this is another contribution to the planet’s welfare.
  7. Finally, by furnishing your home with low maintenance material, fewer chemicals are needed to repair and maintain wear & tear.
    1. For instance, using bamboo instead of tree wood shows an understanding for how important trees are to our environment.
    2. Using aluminum and stainless steel is a great way to ensure long life and low maintenance for your metal fittings.
    3. Roof tiles that don’t require painting mean that fewer chemicals are used.
    4. A decorative approach to gardening uses very little lawn area. This will mean never having to use a lawnmower to maintain your yard.

So as you can see, living green makes you a responsible citizen of the planet. Not only is it cheaper, more convenient and simple, but it’s also the right way to live.

There’s really no reason why you shouldn’t consider buying a green home in South Africa.

If you and your significant other are highly conscious about living a green lifestyle, we’d welcome you to speak to your real estate agent and find out what options are out there. 

Green Smart Homes & Offices &  Cities & Cars originate from Recycling 1 plastic bottle

Green Smart Homes & Offices & Cities & Cars originate from Recycling 1 plastic bottle

“A circular economy is one that builds economic, natural and social capital” (petco.co.za).

Plastic bottles are valuable and aren’t actually waste.  In modern times, packaging is necessary to get the product to the consumer, but once it has served its purpose, packaging is considered dirty and unwanted.

As an example of how recycled plastic is used, Isotherm is an insulating material that’s made entirely from recycled plastic bottles.

Traditional homes usually have ceiling insulation that’s made from fibre glass or asbestos, which isn’t environmentally friendly at all. Isotherm is an eco-friendly and effective alternative.

Isotherm is dust and water resistant, non-toxic, without associated health risks, non-flammable and lasts longer than most other insulating materials.

The humble plastic bottle is humble no more.

Is it then farfetched to Recycle, Reduce, Reuse and ending up living in a green smart home, driving a green smart car, working in a green smart office, and living in a green smart city?

Eco-living is Healthy, Really

Eco-living is Healthy, Really

In modern times, we are indoors for most of the day, including the time spent in our cars.  And there’s no guarantee that the air we breathe is clean.

Dust, dust mites, fungi, bacteria and viruses are some of the more common air pollutants.  Contagious illnesses and allergies are made worse by polluted air.

In a green home, the growth of mould and fungi is minimised.  Radiant heating doesn’t produce the same kind of humidity as conventional heating systems.  And as radiant heating is made up of a network of water pipes laid over the insulated floor, there is no extra equipment to collect dust within the home.

With traditional homes, chemicals that evaporate at room temperature are based in the materials.  This is harmful to our health as well as the environment.  Green homes use natural material and finishes and so the air in a green home is virtually chemical-free.

Eco Pools Podcast

Eco Pools Podcast

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Your questions about rainwater harvesting answered

Your questions about rainwater harvesting answered

When was the last time you thought about your water consumption? During times of drought we are all reminded of how necessary a steady supply of water is to our lifestyle. If all you have to do is turn on a tap, it’s easy to take this limited resource for granted.

But as the cost of potable water increases, the idea of collecting and utilising rainwater becomes even more attractive. Not only will it reduce your monthly expenses, it also means you’ll never be without water. And if you consider how much water you use every day for cooking, cleaning and consuming, it makes sense to reduce costs. In this article we’ll aim to answer some of the more common questions about rainwater harvesting.

What is rainwater harvesting?

Simply put, rainwater harvesting means having some kind of tank which you can use to store collect rainwater. It could be as simple as a large tank connected to your downpipes, or in the case of a purpose-built green home, a tank that is possible buried underground.

Without filters in place, rainwater is not potable and cannot be used for human consumption. But you can use it in other ways:

  • Washing your car and watering your garden
  • Flushing your toilets
  • Topping up your swimming pool
  • In your washing machine

However, if you install an underground tank, you can add a fine filter and a pump to channel clean, potable water right into your home. That way you can use the water you’ve collected for showering or bathing and cooking.

What size of tank do I need?

This depends on several factors. First of all you need to know the average rainfall for your area. Then you also need to think about how you will use the water you collect. If you’re only going to use it for irrigating your garden, topping up your pool and washing your car, then you may not need such a big tank. But if you want to also use the water you collect in your home, you’ll need a larger tank to ensure you collect as much water as possible.

The size of your roof and the material it’s made from will also influence the amount of rainwater you’ll be able to collect. You should also factor in the number of people in the home and how much water you use on a daily basis.

Discuss your situation with an expert and they will help you determine what you need. They’ll also be able to advise you on the best placement for your tank, and how to maximise the amount of water you collect. The placement of the collecting pipes is important in allowing you to collect as much water as possible.

Can underground rainwater tanks be retrofitted to an existing home?

Provided you have the space to do it, you can install an underground rainwater harvesting tank on an existing property. While it is much easier and cheaper to incorporate a tank into a new development, it can still be done for an established home. You may only be limited to the size of the tank you can install.

Underground rainwater tanks have some advantages over external tanks. They are hidden away so they don’t detract from your home’s appearance. And they may last longer because they’re not exposed to the damaging effects of the elements. Even the pipes can be buried to make sure the whole installation is neat and attractive.

How does the municipality charge me for sewerage effluent?

It might not cost you anything to collect and use rainwater, but you will still be charged for anything that flows through your pipes as effluent. In general, they tend to charge on volume, so the more water you use, the more you pay.

But this cost is based on the volume of water you draw. In other words, you will only be charged on the amount of water that has run through your water metre. So you won’t be charged on the rainwater that you collect and use. And if you re-use your grey water (from your bath or laundry) you can reduce the amount of water you send to the sewer for treatment down to as little as 5%. That is a tremendous saving for you and for our water resources.

But remember that there are rules governing the use of grey water. Because it has qualities that allow anaerobic bacteria to breed, it cannot be stored and must be disposed of safely. It must be sent through your sewerage system and not re-directed to a river or other water sources.

If you’re using the grey water from your laundry to irrigate your garden, don’t use detergents that contain phosphates. These will poison the soil in the long term, so look for a phosphate-free washing powder.

Can I use rainwater in conjunction with municipal water?

If you’re concerned that your water tank may not always be able to provide for your needs, you can rest assured that most rainwater harvesting tanks provide for an emergency supply. A sophisticated rainwater harvesting system uses a low water threshold sensor to automatically switch over to use municipal water directly, before your own rainwater supply runs dry. With such a system, nothing further is required for a continuous supply to where rainwater is designated.

What about electricity outages?

In the case of a power cut, these tanks have an override that allows you to switch over to the municipal supply. Thus provided there isn’t a water outage happening at the same time, you’ll still have access to water.

Do I have to clean the tank out?

Most tanks are self-cleaning so you’ll never have to worry about getting your hands dirty. A cleaning mechanism ensures that any sediment is flushed to keep your tank clean. It also helps to oxygenate the water and prevent anaerobic bacteria from building up. Most tanks also include some kind of screen or net to stop insects and debris from entering the tank.

You’ll also find that rainwater harvesting tanks require very little maintenance. When you consider how easy they are to operate, and how much money you can save, installing a rainwater harvesting tank is one of the best things you can do for your home.

What are rainwater harvesting tanks made from?

The tanks can be made from a variety of materials such as steel, plastic and even concrete. But the most common kind of water tank is usually made from high-density polyurethane. This is one of the safest food-grade plastics available. So you needn’t be concerned that any toxic chemicals will leech into your water. And it shouldn’t affect the taste of your water either.

How long will a rainwater harvesting tank last?

While this depends on the material used to construct the tank and where it’s positioned, most tanks will last you for a few years before they need replacing. If your tank is exposed to the elements, you can expect it to degrade at a faster rate. When a tank is buried underground, it will last much longer because it is protected from the sun, rain and wind.

Is it worth collecting rainwater in a low rainfall area?

The answer to this question depends very much on how you value the water you currently use. If you look at it merely in financial terms, it could be that the cost of installing a rainwater harvesting system is too great compared to the potential savings on your utility bills.

However, the value of water cannot be reduced to a sum of money. Water is necessary for a number of essential human activities such as bathing and cooking. These activities add significant comfort to our modern lives and if you have to consider the alternative, you’ll appreciate just how important it is. And if you use rainwater to irrigate you vegetable garden, it also contributes towards feeding your family. This means you save even more money than just that on your water bill.

Even during times of sufficient rainfall, it is essential that we use water sparingly and make every drop count.

Tips for using water efficiently

Should you already have a rainwater harvesting tank, it’s still important to make the most of your water. So here are some tips to make your store go even further:

  • Switch your irrigation system to manual and only use it when necessary.
  • Water your garden either early in the morning, or later in the evening when it’s cooler. That way the water will feed your plants instead of just evaporating away.
  • Reuse grey water from your bath or washing machine to water your garden. But be sure to follow the rules regarding the use of grey water.
  • While waiting for water to heat up, don’t let the cold water go to waste. Collect it and use in your kettle or for cooking, or to water pot plants.
  • Load up your washing machine or dishwasher before you switch it on. Don’t waste water on small loads.
  • Install a low-flow shower head and limit your time in the shower to five minutes.

There are many little ways to save water and they should not be overlooked, even if you are collecting rainwater. Adopting a green lifestyle should be about more than saving money. It’s about changing your attitude towards natural resources and reducing your impact on the planet.

The benefits of harvesting rainwater

The main benefit of investing in a rainwater harvesting tank is a financial one. You can save up to as much as 80% of your water bill. Of course the final figure will depend on the size of the tank you install and what your general water consumption is like. Remember, you can stretch any saving you would enjoy even further by incorporating some of the water saving tips suggested above.

You’ll also have the benefit of a consistent supply of water during times of drought or when the municipal system is switched off to carry out repairs and maintenance. It may surprise you that adopting a green living practice could actually make your life more convenient.

For new and existing homeowners, a rainwater harvesting tank represents an opportunity to save money and make a positive impact on the environment. And the ongoing issue of water security is prompting buyers to seek out homes that already have this feature. All green homes should include rain harvesting tanks and several other green features that make them ideal for the eco-conscious home buyer. These homes are particularly water and energy efficient, even going so far as to include a water-wise, low maintenance garden. In the future, we will all be forced to think about the way we use water and make drastic changes.

Your green home checklist

Your green home checklist

Being involved in the construction of your own home is exciting. You’re calling the shots and it’s only natural that when you’re making that kind of investment that you want everything to be perfect. And it stands to reason that what you chose now will influence your lifestyle and that of your family for years to come.

It’s no different when building a green home. In fact, it requires even more thought and planning to build a home that’s not just beautiful, practical and cost-effective, but in harmony with the environment too. So where do you start? This green home checklist should give you something to think about.

Location, location, location

When shopping for a new home, most people consider location to be the most important factor. You want to be close to your place of work, in an area with convenient shopping, entertainment and schooling. It also needs to be safe and have the right infrastructure in place for comfortable living.

But when you’re buying or building a green home you have to take it one step further. Look at the site conditions of your future home and whether it has the necessary qualities such as enough space for rainwater harvesting tanks and access to clean air and water.

Building position and orientation

You’ll want to orientate your home in the best position to take advantage of what the site you’ve chosen has to offer. In the southern hemisphere, a north-facing position is best as it allows you to make use of sunlight to warm your home in the winter and keep it cool in the summer.

Knowing where to place your windows, what size they should be and what the best spot for solar panels would be are all crucial elements when it comes to building a home that is energy efficient. After all, the purpose of a green home is to work with nature and not against it. Getting the basics right from the start will have a significant impact on the practical operating of your home and determine just how efficient it can be.

Get savvy with your layout

This is an important part of turning your green home dream into a reality. When planning the layout of your home take the orientation of the building into consideration. Think about which rooms need natural light and heat to reduce your electricity costs. Look at the flow of air around the building and how you can use natural ventilation to your advantage.

The way you layout your home can go a long way to reducing your construction costs too. So don’t focus only on the aesthetic. Be practical about how your home will function now and in the future.

Choose the right building materials

You might think that green construction is all about using materials that are sustainable and don’t poison or damage the environment. And while that is certainly true to some extent, it’s essential to be practical about this element.

All materials have strengths and weakness when it comes to being eco-friendly. While the production of a certain material may be more sustainable, it might not be very durable. In which case, you’d have to replace it or maintain more often. And that may have a negative impact on the environment. For example, bamboo is an excellent substitute for traditional wooden structures in a home such as counter tops and even flooring. It’s a fast growing plant which means it’s more sustainable than other woods. But the finishes used on bamboo may contain toxic chemicals to ensure its durability. Find out as much as you can about the sourcing and manufacturing of various construction materials before you commit to using them in your design.

Try to achieve a balance between using materials that are sturdy, don’t require much maintenance, are sustainable or recyclable and aren’t produced using methods and techniques that are harmful to the environment. Building a green home requires you to think farther into the future than you would with any other type of home. The initial layout will cost more so you should think of it as a long-term investment. Choose wisely now and you’ll reap the benefits well into the future.

Add green features for future cost savings

A home may be considered green when it incorporates technologies that reduce or eliminate your reliance on the normal infrastructure associated with housing. So make sure these elements are part of your initial plans:

  • Insulation:A home that is properly insulated is easy to keep cool in summer and warm in winter. This means you’ll draw less power from the grid to live, work and play in comfort. Insulation should be built into the structure, between exterior walls and in the ceiling and flooring.

You won’t need to use an air-conditioner or heaters to maintain the temperature of your home throughout the year. Not only will you save on electricity, but you’ll reduce the demand on the grid and reduce the risk of outages which affect everyone.

  • Rainwater harvesting:With green homes these large tanks can be hidden underground reducing the amount of space they need and ensuring that your property looks as attractive as a regular home. It also means you’ll have a supplementary supply of water available for flushing toilets or watering your garden.

By making use of rainwater, you’re not only saving a precious resource you’re also saving costs.

  • Solar panels:Can a home really be green if it doesn’t have solar panels? These are essential for anyone who wants to reduce their reliance on the grid and power their own home. The size, type and number of panels depend on several factors. Careful planning will ensure that you have enough power available for necessities or to run your full household, including for your lights, TV and appliances.

And given the constant sunshine available in South Africa, relying on solar panels to power your home isn’t just wishful thinking. You may need back-up batteries, but if you’re building a new home from scratch these can easily be incorporated into your design. And you’ll never have to worry about being unable to power the things you need if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Solar panels are also perfect for heating your water which has a double cost-saving effect. Not only do you save on electricity, but you could have hot water on tap, meaning you don’t waste it just waiting for the hot water to reach the right temperature – thus saving on water too.

  • Hydronics radiant heating and cooling: This is a clever system that uses a network of pipes to run hot or cold water through the floor of your home. It’s a cost-effective way to maintain the temperature without resorting to power hungry heaters or air conditioners.

And if the pipes are properly insulated, the system is not only more effective, but a cheaper method of keeping your home at a comfortable temperature through all seasons.

You may not be able to afford all of these things right away. In which case, you’ll need to decide which are the most important to you. Retrofitting an existing home with green features can be more difficult and costly. Do your research and work with a company that has expert knowledge to help you make the right decision for your family.

Think outside the box

Your home isn’t just about the building you live in. It’s also about your surroundings such as your garden and garage.

Wherever possible, you should look to reduce the maintenance costs of these often neglected areas. A water-wise garden doesn’t just make financial sense; it also makes a difference to the environment. Use indigenous plants to cut back on the water required to keep your garden looking good all year round. And you’ll appreciate how much less maintenance it requires too. Instead of spending hours tending to your garden, you’ll be able to just relax and enjoy the outdoors.

Even your garage should be planned using the principles you apply to your home. Consider its position and location and use green building materials for the construction. A garage can be a dark place, so look for ways to include natural lighting and use energy-efficient LED bulbs to light it up at night.

If your garage is attached to your home, it makes sense to factor it in to your plans. A cold concrete floor could result in an icy draft making its way into your home through a connecting door. So use insulation cleverly to complement the rest of your home.

All garages have a roof, which means they can be used to collect run-off water. This water can be stored in a tank and used for general cleaning purposes. At minimum it is efficient and eco-friendly to use run-off water from your garage to wash your car.

The benefits of green construction

Many people feel that investing in a green home is an unnecessary expense. Yes, they do cost more to build but in the long term the savings are substantial. Apart from that, there are many other benefits to green living:

  • Your impact on the environment is minimal: Green buildings reduce energy usage, CO2 emissions, waste output and water usage.
  • It’s healthier: Improved indoor air quality means you’re less likely to suffer from common respiratory ailments.
  • It increases the value of your home: If you should ever need to sell your property you’ll be pleased to discover that a green home commands a higher price.

And once you get down to planning your green home, you may be surprised to find that it doesn’t cost that much more than a traditional one. The key is to work with experts who are knowledgeable in the area of green construction. They’ll be able to give you good advice and know where to get the features and eco-friendly materials you need.

It’s not just how you build; it’s how you live

Building a green home doesn’t stop at using eco-friendly construction materials or adding green features to save you money, it’s about the way you live your life. You’re conscious of the impact you have on natural resources and extend this way of thinking into every area of your life, from how you use your car to recycling your waste whenever you can.

The many benefits of living in such a home should not be taken for granted. It can be at least as comfortable as living in a traditional home, even luxurious, and with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you’re treading as lightly as possible on our planet.

Your DIY home energy audit checklist

Your DIY home energy audit checklist

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
  • Dishwasher
  • Microwave
  • Kettle
  • Coffee maker
  • Toaster

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:

  • Computer
  • Laptop
  • Tablet
  • Cell phone
  • Printer
  • 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:

  • Heaters
  • Electric blankets

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.

Size (Litres) 25 50 75 100 150 200 250
Category Standing losses: kWh per day
A 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.7 0.9 1.0 1.0
B 0.6 0.8 0.9 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3
C 1.0 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.6 1.8 1.9
D 1.3 1.5 1.7 1.9 2.1 2.3 2.5
E 1.6 1.9 2.2 2.4 2.7 3.0 3.2
F 2.0 2.4 2.7 3.0 3.4 3.7 4.0
G 2.2 2.7 3.0 3.3 3.7 4.1 4.4

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! 

The top seven energy-guzzlers in your home—and how to tame them

The top seven energy-guzzlers in your home—and how to tame them

Do you know which of your appliances use the most electricity? With the rising cost of electricity, understanding how much energy your home consumes is a powerful tool. Using electricity wisely is the cornerstone of green living. It makes as much sense for your wallet as it does for the environment.

You wouldn’t be able to live a comfortable, modern life without your appliances. They account for a significant part of your electricity bill. Find out which of the devices in your home use the most electricity and how you can reduce the amount of power they use every month without losing out on the convenience they offer.

Televisions

It shouldn’t surprise you to find this popular appliance at the top of the list. Big TVs are a symbol of wealth and it’s rare to find any home that doesn’t have a TV in the living room. But large sets and plasma screens in particular, are one of the most energy-hungry appliances you can own.

The larger the TV, the more energy it uses. So you can always cut down on your bills by investing in a smaller screen. That’s easier said than done. If you’re really not willing to sacrifice size for savings, consider opting for an LCD over a plasma screen. LCD screens are much cheaper to run. Keep this in mind if you’re considering buying a new set in the near future.

Another way to reduce the costs of running your TV is to switch it off at the wall when you’re not watching. Even in standby mode, electronics use small amounts of electricity. It may seem negligible but over time it adds a substantial amount to your electricity bill.

Fridges and Freezers

These appliances work all day, every day to keep your food fresh. They are hardly ever turned off and consequently they use a lot of energy. But there are a few simple tricks you can employ to help keep running costs to a minimum:

  • Keep fridges and freezers away from heat sources such as your oven. They will have to work harder to maintain the right temperature for keeping food cold, and that uses energy.
  • Make sure the seals are intact and avoid overloading them.
  • Buy the right size for your needs. If you’re a small family, or just two people, it’s not necessary to have a large fridge.
  • Don’t hold the door open for long periods. Letting cold air escape while you decide what to make for lunch will just waste energy.
  • Increase the temperature in your fridge by 2°. It won’t make much difference to your food, but it will make a difference to your electricity bill.

Washing machines and dishwashers

Your life wouldn’t be the same without these handy appliances. Eliminating them from your life isn’t really an option but you can still reduce the amount of energy they consume if you use them differently. Here are some tips for living green while still enjoying the benefits of these machines:

  • Skip the pre-rinse cycle for your clothes and your cutlery. Unless your items are really dirty there’s no need for a pre-rinse cycle.
  • Wait until you have a full load. Once again, this applies to both. Don’t wash a few bits of dirty laundry or switch on the dishwasher when you only have a couple of dirty cups and saucers.
  • Lower the temperature. Washing your clothes in cold water will still get them clean and it could save you a whopping 90% of the electricity your machine normally uses to get the job done. The same applies to your dishwasher. The water shouldn’t be cold, but you can use a cycle with a lower temperature to get the same results while cutting down on the power required.

Electric heaters

Thankfully, in our warm climate you don’t have to rely on heaters to make your home comfortable all year round. But when winter rolls in, electricity bills tend to sky-rocket. What often makes this worse is the fact that our houses aren’t designed for the cold. And many heaters are not particularly energy-efficient.

Luckily there are simple things you can do to keep the chill at bay. They are often just as effective as and much cheaper than running a heater for several hours a day. So instead of flipping a switch, do this instead:

  • Put on a jersey. It’s easier (and more cost effective) to warm yourself up, than trying to warm a whole room.
  • Use hot water bottles. Fill the kettle and boil it once. You can make yourself a warm drink and fill up your hot water bottle with the rest. There couldn’t be a better way to keep cosy.
  • Insulate your home. Arm yourself with some caulk and sealing strips and seek out the areas in your home where cold air creeps in. Window frames and door frames are a good place to start.

Tumble dryers

You may not realise it, but a tumble dryer can use more electricity than your fridge. Thankfully, our sunny climate means you only need to use your tumble dryer for emergencies. Hang your clothes up to dry outside in the fresh air and sunshine. It may take a little longer in the winter, but it’s completely free.

Lighting

As much of 10 to 20% of your energy bill is spent on lighting up your home when the sun goes down. But energy saving light bulbs and LEDs can reduce that as they use up to 80% less electricity. They also last much longer than traditional bulbs. They may cost more than regular bulbs but the long term savings are worth it. And while it should be a habit by now, people still forget to turn off their lights when they leave the room. If you knew how much it would save you, you wouldn’t forget to turn off the lights.

Vampire devices

This refers to all the little electronic goods in your home that feed on small amounts of electricity. The average home has about 30 – 40 such devices and includes items such as your computer, cell phones, tablets, cordless phones, printers, DVD players and decoders. Individually they draw very little power, especially in standby mode. But when you consider that at any time you have several plugged in, the costs can multiply.

If you want to reduce the steady drip of power from these devices, try this:

  • Switch off and unplug. Stop letting the power drain by disconnecting the plug and see what a difference it will make to your bills.
  • Use a switchable power strip. That way you can switch off only the devices you aren’t using without everything else losing power.
  • Buy low standby products. They do exist, but you’ll need to ask about them or you won’t get them.

Overall, the big appliances count for around 13% of your total power bill. The ‘vampire devices’ make up about 10%. If you ever need to buy a new appliance, look out for one that has an excellent EnergyStar rating. That means it has been designed to use less energy while still delivering the results you want.

By implementing some of these tips you can reduce your electricity bills substantially over the course of a year. That money can be put to better use without you having to sacrifice any convenience. You may need to change some of your habits and consider a different approach, and if you do, the savings you’ll enjoy will make it all worthwhile.

If you want to take your energy savings to the next level, you may want to consider some more serious energy alternatives. These are the kinds of technologies you’ll find in eco-friendly homes. Green living is becoming more of a priority for South African home owners. Retrofitting an existing home is a possibility, and you’ll find more and more eco-friendly houses entering the mainstream.

Greener living and energy savings

Eco-friendly homes use new technology to reduce your reliance on the grid. As most of your energy bill comes from heating your home, this is a good place to start. Photovoltaic systems rely on solar panels and batteries to generate and store electricity for your home. If you understand your energy requirements you can start off with a smaller system to meet your needs and add on more panels as you require.

The idea of living off the grid is achievable. Most systems come with an automatic switch over that allows you to draw electricity from the grid if you need it. With the rising cost of electricity you’ll save even more money in the long term.

If you’re not ready to rely on solar for all your power needs you can still invest in a solar water heater. Hot water is essential for bathing, cooking and washing which is why it contributes so much to your power bill. A solar heater takes advantage of our sunny weather to ensure you always have hot water on tap. The energy used to heat the water is provided by the sun so you don’t have to pay for it. It’s a small step anyone can take on the journey to greener living.

Eco-friendly homes are better insulated. Double-glazed windows and insulated exterior walls help to keep the temperature inside your home even all year round. This means you’ll need to rely less on power guzzling heaters to make your home comfortable in winter, and energy-sapping air conditioners to keep cool in summer. Green living takes into account your comfort, as well as your impact on the environment.

And there’s much more to living green than just saving on your electricity bills. An eco-friendly home is one that saves on water too. With low flow shower heads, rainwater harvesting tanks and an eco-wise garden, there are plenty of ways for you to save this precious resource. Greener living benefits everyone, and the planet. As water and electricity become more and more expensive, living green will be a necessity and not just a fad.

Though you may not be ready to invest in an eco-friendly house, there are things you can do to start living green right now. Being aware of how your appliances consume energy is good start. There are lots of little things you can do to use energy more efficiently and save money. You could put that money towards getting a solar water heater which will help you save even more in the long run. It’s all a matter starting small and over time you can turn your traditional home into an eco-friendly home.