If you are considering a greener home then a good place to start is by cutting down on your electricity consumption. Using less gas and electricity benefits the environment by helping to reduce harmful levels of CO2 produced and it also helps you cut down the costs of your utility bills.
The first step is to investigate and document your current electricity consumption levels. This will help you set goals and make comparisons once you have implemented certain measures to cut down on your consumption. Once done, there are various steps you can take towards achieving an energy saving, greener home.
Here are some ideas to consider:
Turn down the temperature of your geyser
Turning down the temperature of your geyser to 60oC will force it to use much less electricity. Take note however that dropping the temperature below 60oC is a health risk as it encourages the growth of harmful bacteria.
The first step of this exercise is to turn off the electricity circuit at the mains. As a safety measure, let all occupants in your home know that you are doing this. The next step is to locate the thermostat. You will most likely find it in a cover that is situated over the geyser’s electrical element. Once located, open the cover then use a screw driver to turn down the temperature of the thermostat. If you are still unsure, then it’s probably best to get your local plumber to do the job for you.Noise Insulation,
Avoid using additional heating or cooling systems in your home
Avoid using central heating systems in winter and air-conditioning systems in summer, as they chew up a lot of electricity and avoid under-floor heating as well. Consider installing carpets or wooden/laminate flooring instead of tiles to help with insulation.
Only heat up or cool down the rooms that are occupied with localised equipment. Oil and fan heaters are ideal if they have thermostats and it’s also better to use a fan in summer than an air-conditioning system. Always ensure that the variation in rooms versus outside temperature is no more than 10oCs (Celsius).
Control the temperature of your home without electricity
Ideally you should avoid using any heating or cooling appliances altogether if you want a greener home. It’s not as difficult as you think. In winter you can simply wear a few more layers of clothing, use more blankets and ensure windows and doors are properly insulated to prevent draughts. In summer, open windows and doors and create shaded areas outside with awnings and umbrellas, so you can spend more time outdoors. Tests have proven that it can be as much as 20oC cooler under an awning.
Retractable awnings will allow you to control the temperature of your home by managing the amount of sun entering through windows and glass doors.
Switch off lights in unoccupied rooms and if you are not using appliances, then switch them off at the wall plug. Did you know that by leaving them on standby can result in 20% more electricity usage? This includes TVs, computers, chargers, music systems, etc. Consider using power strips as well. It is much easier to remember to turn off your appliances if they are all plugged into the same area.
You can also save electricity by turning off your geyser if you are away from home for a long period of time.
Manage your fridge and freezer more efficiently
By defrosting your fridge and freezer on a regular basis they will be able to run more efficiently. If this sounds like too much work, then consider investing in appliances that self-defrost. The more items in your fridge and freezer, the better the insulation will be. So try keep them fully stocked, as this will lessen the amount of time needed for cooling.
Make sure the door seals on these appliances are in good condition and make sure they aren’t placed near the oven. Also avoid placing hot food in the fridge or freezer; rather allow it to cool down first.
Cook more efficiently
When cooking in an oven, try to keep its door closed. Opening the oven door unnecessarily will cause heat loss, which subsequently results in the oven having to use more electricity to maintain the predetermined cooking temperature. Also try not to use the oven on a regular basis. Use the microwave instead as it cooks quicker. It is a much better energy saving option, which makes it an ideal choice for a greener home.
When cooking on the hob, don’t use pots that are too large. Use a lid to help retain the heat, which in turn will reduce the cooking time. Investing in a stacked steamer is a great way to save on electricity as it allows you to cook a full meal, while only using the power of one hob. Also consider cutting food into smaller pieces as this will limit the cooking time.
Cut down on hot water
Consider showering instead of bathing, as it uses less water. Limit the time you spend in the shower as well, otherwise you are defeating the object of this exercise.
When making tea or coffee, don’t overfill the kettle. The more water there is in the kettle, the longer it will take to boil, so only fill it with the amount of water you need.
When washing dishes, rather fill the sink with water and wash all the dishes in one go. You will waste hot water if you only wash a few dishes at a time. If you have a dishwasher, then ensure that it is full before you switch it on. Select the economy wash setting if it is available. Otherwise see which option washes in the shortest time.
Washing machines use a lot of electricity to heat the water, so it’s advisable that you choose a washing machine that gives you a cold water wash option as well.
Manage your pool pump’s operating hours
If you have a pool then it’s a good idea to reduce your pool pump’s operating hours to its minimum. It doesn’t have to run all day and you can even turn it off completely at certain times in winter. Having a greener home, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a pool layered with leaves! You will find that using a pool cover is a great way to keep your pool clean. Cleaning the filters on a regular basis will also reduce the need to have the pool pump running consistently.
The energy savings options mentioned above can be performed at no cost. There are however some low cost options to consider as well:
Use a more efficient shower head
Ideally your shower flow rate shouldn’t be more than 10 litres per minute. You can test this by holding a bucket under the showerhead for about 12 seconds. Once done, use a measuring jug to determine the amount of water that has accumulated in the bucket. If this amount adds up to two litres or more, then you need to replace your showerhead. Modern showerheads are designed to support the greener home concept by helping to save water and electricity. Best of all, they don’t compromise your shower experience. If you aren’t sure which showerhead to purchase, simply chat to a bathroom specialist at your local home improvement store.
Insulate your geyser
Heat retention can be maximised when installing a geyser ‘blanket’. Before doing so, check to see how much heat loss there is by simply placing your hand on the geyser. If it is warm, then it is definitely losing heat so insulation is an option. This is especially common in older geysers. More modern geysers are generally designed to support today’s greener homes.
You can insulate the geyser yourself. Simply check the internet for guidelines. Otherwise if DIY is not your thing, then you can find a professional to do it. This process isn’t entirely foolproof however, so it may be a good idea to check the insulation a few days or weeks after installation to ensure that it is still in place. For extra insulation, considering insulating the first three metres of the water pipes that lead from the geyser as well.
Insulate other areas of your home
Good ceiling insulation is known to keep homes 10oC cooler in summer and 5 degrees warmer in winter, while enabling electricity savings of about 25%. This negates the need for electrical heating and cooling systems that chew up electricity.
Consider insulating other parts of your house as well to prevent heat from escaping in winter and entering your home in summer. Examples are lofts; cavity and solid wall insulation; doors and windows as well as under-floor insulation.
Replace old light bulbs with more energy efficient options
You are less likely to find old incandescent bulbs in a green home. Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) are more energy efficient as they not only use 75% less power, but also last much longer. Be cautious when handling these bulbs though, as they do contain harmful substances. There are certain measures you need to take if they are accidently dropped. Avoid throwing them in your household trash as well for the same reason. Some retailers have special bins you can use to dispose of them safely. You can find more information on the internet in this regard.
If you want to take your energy efficient lighting a step further, then consider Light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs). They use even less power than CFLs and last 130 times longer as well. They are not very popular yet though and are still quite costly because they are new technology. But they will definitely become available and affordable in the near future.
Consider installing a solar water heater
A solar water heater is probably one of the biggest energy savers and therefore one of the first investments you should make when aiming for a greener home. Once installed, you can generally save about two thirds of your water heating cost if done correctly. To achieve the best possible saving, ensure your solar water heater has a timer.
You can also save considerably by installing a heat pump as an alternative option to a solar water heater. This is a new technology for homes. Green homes in the near future will probably have them installed.
Remember it’s not only about investing in more energy saving equipment. You will also have to change some of your habits in return for a much more energy efficient, greener home. Be sure to measure and monitor your home electricity consumption and costs on a regular basis to see if and where you can cut down even more. If you have other people living or working in your home, then educate them accordingly as well to ensure they also contribute to your energy saving, green home environment.
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.
What springs to mind when you hear the words ‘green homes’? Does it conjure up images of solar panels on the roof, a large rainwater harvesting tank in the garden and double-glazed windows? You’re not wrong, but that’s only half the picture.
Sustainable living is so much more than just reducing your reliance on the grid for your energy needs. It’s really a lifestyle that embraces the philosophy of living in a way that reduces your impact on the environment. And this extends to the inside of your home too. Even if you aren’t in a position to install alternative technologies for running your home, there are other ways to go green.
Often considered the heart of the home, your kitchen is the perfect place to start adopting green habits:
- Cooking with gas: If you’re in the market for a new stove, you might want to think about investing in a gas cooker. LPG or Liquid Petroleum gas is an affordable, energy-efficient method of cooking that has become more popular. You’ll save time and money with a gas cooker because it heats up instantly.
- Bamboo counters: Remodelling your kitchen? Look at sustainable materials for your countertops. Bamboo is a good example because it grows so quickly and doesn’t need much water.
- Energy-efficient appliances: Check the energy star rating when you need to buy a new fridge, microwave oven, washing machine or dishwasher. Because these are the tools you use every day, it makes sense to make sure they’re energy efficiently.
- Make a full load: This advice applies to your dishwasher and your washing machine. Don’t waste time and energy washing a few items at a time. Rather wait until you have a full load of dishes or clothing and then hit the switch.
- Go with the flow: A low-flow aerator that is. Attached to your kitchen tap, this inexpensive little gadget can save you gallons of water.
- Waste not, want not: You’d be surprised just how much waste a kitchen generates. From plastic and cardboard packaging to food scraps, almost everything can be recycled. It just takes a little organisation. So set up different bins for each type of waste and get into the habit of separating your trash.
You don’t have to implement all of these tips in one go. Just start slowly and you’ll find that even the little changes will make a big impact.
Aside from installing a solar water heater for your ablutions, you’d be amazed at the clever (and inexpensive) things you can do to make your bathroom an eco-friendly place.
- The number one tip is to install a low-flow shower head. It can reduce your water consumption by up to 30%. And you’ll still get clean.
- It also pays to watch the clock while you’re in the shower. Perhaps this isn’t the easiest advice to follow, but for large families, a little discipline can go a long way to saving on your water bill. Besides, five minutes is really all the time you need to get squeaky clean.
- Solar water heaters can be pricey so opt for the next best thing—insulating your geyser with a blanket. Proper insulation enables your geyser to retain heat better and this means big savings on your power consumption.
- And speaking of geysers, why don’t you try turning the temperature on the thermostat down while you’re installing the geyser blanket? You won’t notice the difference, and it’ll prolong the life of your geyser.
- Putting a brick in your toilet tank sounds like an odd thing to do, but it’s one of the most popular ways to save water in your bathroom. But be careful as bricks may disintegrate over time and damage the toilets flushing mechanism. Try filling up a plastic bottle with sand and water instead.
- Reusing the water from your bath to water your plants is a great way to ensure that not a drop is wasted. Just be sure to use eco-friendly soap, shampoo or bubble bath to limit the amount of toxins you put into the soil.
- It goes without saying that you should check for any leaking taps and fix them.
For such a small space, bathrooms can use a surprising amount of electricity and water. And these are the two resources where going green really counts. You don’t have to completely remodel your bathroom to go green. Just use your common sense and put the environment first.
The Living Room
You might not think that there are many things you can do to make your living room a haven of eco-friendliness. But here are some ideas that you’ll find cheap and simple to implement:
- Reclaim the sofa: This doesn’t mean you get to kick your spouse out of the most comfortable seat in the house. It means browsing the second-hand furniture shops for a bargain and using a bit of elbow grease to turn it into a one-of-a-kind original. You’d be surprised what you might find and it’ll give the chance to put your own stamp on it.
- Play a game of drafts: Check the spaces around your doors and windows for any air leaks. Then patch them up with silicone caulk or insulation strips. A well-insulated home is warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
- Unplug and unwind: How many electronics do you have in your living room? A TV, PVR and DVD player? What about your music system or laptop? Well if you’re not using them, get into the habit of switching them off at the plug. Even on standby mode, these gadgets can drain power.
- Go natural: When it comes to flooring, most carpets (with the exception of wool) are made from petroleum and treated with chemicals. So opt for natural flooring such as timber or even bamboo. You can always add a stylish pure wool rug to add a cosy feel in the colder months.
If you use your imagination you’ll find plenty of ways to add a green touch to your living areas. And when you decide to do some redecorating, keep your eye out for natural, eco-friendly paints and fabrics. Green can be trendy too.
You can use many of the green tips suggested for your living room in your bedroom too. Reclaiming small tables and transforming them into nightstands, switching off an electronic devices at the plug (except for your alarm clock, of course) and ensuring that the space is properly insulated all apply. But here are some extra ideas for you to try out:
- Cotton bedding: Organic cotton, bamboo, wool and other natural textiles are comfortable and eco-friendly. Skip the polyester pillows and treat yourself to buckwheat pillow instead. You’ll sleep like baby!
- Ditch the air-conditioner: Opt for a ceiling fan instead and open your windows slightly in the hot summer months. Air-conditioners consume a lot of electricity and there are better ways to cool your bedroom down.
- Choose non-VOC paint: Traditional paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These are harmful chemicals that leak into the air and may irritate the skin and mucus membranes. Thankfully there are eco-friendly alternatives available. This is a perfect example of how going green is good for people and the environment.
- Keep warm the old-fashioned way in winter by using a hot water bottle rather than an electric blanket. Although an electric blanket can be energy efficient, this only works if you can resist the temptation not to switch it off after you get into a bed. A hot water bottle on the other hand, will keep you warm into the night without drawing power.
Make your bedroom an eco-friendly space and you’ll sleep even better in the knowledge that you’re doing your bit to save the planet.
Then there are the little things that you can do for every room in the home to reduce you’re your impact on the planet such as:
- Switching from regular, incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and Light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs). They use much less energy (up to 75% less) and they last longer too.
- Let ‘reduce, reuse, and recycle’ become your new mantra. Look for ways to cut down on the waste, find a new purpose for an old item and recycle paper, plastic, glass and tin whenever you can.
- When it comes to redecorating or remodeling areas of your home, look for organic products that are free of toxins. They’re not just better for the environment, they’re better for the health of your family too.
- Switch to organic cleaning products to keep your home looking at its best. They are slightly more expensive but often they work better so you don’t need to use as much. Or better still, try making your own. You’d be surprised how far you can get with simple things like baking soda and lemon juice.
- The same goes for your personal products. Soaps, creams and make-ups are available in eco-friendly alternatives. And they can be gentler on sensitive skins.
- Start a composting pile and grow your own vegetables. Remember those table scraps? Well this is the perfect way to put them to good use. And you can cut down on your grocery bill at the same time.
- Support local businesses, especially those that offer eco-friendly alternatives. Buying local is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Of course the ultimate green home incorporates features that enable you to live almost entirely off the grid. Retrofitting an existing home with these features is possible, can be difficult and more expensive. It is possible to buy a new home that has all the eco bells and whistles you could possibly want—even in South Africa.
Green home builders should specialize in photo-voltaic solar panels, underground rainwater harvesting tanks and a hydronics radiant heating and cooling system. Also insulation and use of natural materials to create a truly green home is of utmost importance.
Going green is really about changing the way you think. Once you become aware of how much waste a home can generate, it gets easier to find ways to avoid contributing to the problem. For example, taking your own bags to the grocery and car-pooling to work. And you’ll find that adopting green habits helps you cut down on your monthly expenses.
So if you haven’t already started, use this guide to help you turn your home into a green haven. You’ll feel better and you’ll have more money at the end of every month. That means you’ll be able to start saving towards something bigger such as a solar water heater or photo-voltaic solar panels that will help you save even more. Any home can be a green home, you just have use your imagination.
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.
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.
Sustainable living is more than just a trend. There are real benefits to adopting eco-friendly practices in our daily routine. The main goals of green living is to ensure our health, peace of mind and to sustain the planet for future generations. It’s surprising to learn how much we stand to gain when we become aware of resource usage and the impact we have on our environment.
Greener living means being aware of how we improve our life by living differently and how that affects our environment. Adopting practices that are healthier for our home is essential for our long-term health, that of the planet—and its people.
Let’s look at five ways of embracing the concept of living green, makes a difference in our life:
A healthier home
Many harmful chemicals are in our homes right now? From the paint that covers the walls to the cleaning materials we use, toxins are found everywhere. Even our carpets release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the air we breathe.
They can be avoided or even eliminated by choosing greener living principles. As a result, we’ll find that our indoor air quality improves and with it, our overall health. These chemicals become concentrated in the home and cause unpleasant side-effects. For example, eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches and damage to the central nervous system.
We improve our health by living differently. Here are some suggestions to detox our homes:
- Ditch the chemicals: Replacing our regular cleaning products with green alternatives. These natural solutions are a good alternative to chemicals: white vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda and corn starch. They work just as well and don’t cost as much as commercial cleaning solutions.
- Replace old carpets: Newer carpets have been designed to emit lower levels of VOC’s into the atmosphere. Our best option though is to avoid carpeting altogether. Rather opt for natural wooden floors made of sustainable materials such as bamboo. Though wooden floors are an expensive investment to make; they are durable and well worth the money spent.
- Choose eco-friendly paints and adhesives:When re-decorating, look for paints, varnishes and adhesives that are non-toxic and safe for the environment. These days green alternatives are readily available and don’t cost much more than regular products.
The air in eco-friendly homes contains fewer pollutants and toxins. People living in green homes are healthier and happier because of the air quality.
More space and less clutter
When considering for a moment what we own, like clothes, gadgets, furniture, toys. All the belongings that we’ve accumulated over the years. Is it all necessary? Could we live with less? Green living is about keeping things simple.
By adopting green living principles and eliminating the clutter from our life, we’ll have more time and room for the things that are important. Teaching our children to use or play with what they have, and they’ll grow up to value people over material things. Rather than spending money on our family, spend time with them.
Our consumer-driven lifestyles are often the reason for having things we hardly use. We work hard to afford things we don’t need or don’t have the time to enjoy. It also means that we’re stretching the planet’s precious resources and filling landfills with things that are no longer wanted or useful.
Rather embrace the idea of living green.
We also find it easier to navigate our day-to-day life when we’re not wading through the clutter. It will be effortless to clean and maintain our homes. And as mentioned we’ll have more time for other things.
How much paper, plastic, glass and tin land up in the rubbish bin over the course of a year? Is it surprising to learn that the average South African generates 0.7kg of waste per day? In one year, over 42 billion cubic metres of waste is generated across the country. Imagine the effect this has on the environment? And it places additional strain to manage the dumping grounds.
The good news is that there are alternatives. We just need to look differently at our options. Here are some ways to cut down on waste:
- Use cloth bags for grocery shopping.Buying plastic bags doesn’t help the environment, even when recycling them. And it costs us too. Rather make a habit of taking sturdy bags made from material and leaving them in the car. That way they’ll always be there when needed.
- Buy foods and snacks in bulk, and then pack individual portions into reusable containers. Individually wrapped items create more waste. Buying in bulk cuts down on the amount of packaging we throw away.
- Buy dish soap and laundry detergent in concentrated forms. We get the same amount of product once diluted, and we’ll throw away fewer containers. Be on the lookout for eco-friendly products while at it.
- Getting our bills, statements and other mail sent via email. It’s more convenient to file and store important documents on our computers. Apart from the convenience, we’ll cut down on paper wastage at the same time.
- Turn our food scraps and garden waste into compost.If we have a garden, we can set up a composting bin, and other alternatives, with little effort. Fertilise our plants for free and take the green living concept further by growing our own vegetables.
There are many ways to start living green. All it takes is being mindful of how we use things and not take packaging for granted. It needs resources to produce and just ends up in landfills. Be sure to recycle paper, plastic, glass and metal instead of throwing those away. Separating our waste will become a habit. When we see just how little we send to the landfill, we’ll realise the benefits and ease to recycle. Part of the habit is knowing where we take the recycling items conveniently. More and more convenient collection points are popping up.
An eco-friendly home is one that runs efficiently. We’re living green when we take into account all the ways we use resources in our homes. Small actions such as switching off the light when leaving a room, and using both sides of writing paper, all contribute to saving resources and costs.
Learning new skills
An essential part of greener living is learning new skills. For instance, making our own cleaning products? Or started a compost heap outside or with an interior compost container? Small and big projects require a little awareness and imagination.
It may be difficult when we start out, then over time we’ll find plenty of resources on the internet to get us going. We learn as we go along and keep thinking of how to do things in an eco-conscious manner. Even come up with our own unique ideas.
Whether it’s organising a lift club or investigating green flooring options, we’ll discover that there is much to learn. We’ll develop skills that will allow us to become more self-sufficient. For example, we may realise that installing a rainwater tank will give us a supply of free water. We’ll use the harvested rainwater for washing our cars and watering our gardens. Not only will this cut down on our monthly utility bill, we’ll learn how to use water wisely.
Once we know how to use resources such as water and electricity wisely, we’ll realise how much we’ll save. When we start developing green habits, we’ll see how easy it is to set up and run a green home. A little effort goes a long way, and we’ll reap many rewards.
Save money every month
Yes, some green technologies are expensive to implement. Photovoltaic solar panels, solar water heaters and underground rainwater harvesting tanks require extensive alterations to our homes. We’ll recoup our invest with the monthly savings we enjoy from these green features. That’s why purpose built eco-friendly houses are more expensive. Over time, as utility costs rise, we save even more money on our monthly electricity and water when living in an eco-friendly home.
Even if we don’t take the concept of green living that far, we’ll still save money by making small changes. Installing low-flow shower heads and taps in the bathroom and kitchen cuts down on the water we use. Sealing the gaps in our windows and door frames stops warm air escaping in winter. It will make a significant difference to our heating costs.
Buy in bulk to cut down on the packaging that ends up in the rubbish bin over the course of a week. Walk or cycle instead of using the car. These help us save money for other things. Swap our commercial cleaning products for homemade solutions. These small actions all contribute towards reducing our costs, health and impact on the planet. And they’re the perfect example of greener living habits anyone can adopt.
Few people realise just how much creating an eco-friendly home affects our finances. It’s easy to forget that the modern conveniences we enjoy come at a price. Green living is not about depriving ourselves of the things we enjoy. In fact, we’ll end up saving while improving our quality of life and by not paying for things that’ll only end up in the landfill.
And then invest our savings in advanced green features. What about insulating the ceiling? With recycled insulation material, of course. That helps reduce our energy costs even further, saving more money.
Become aware of the monetary benefits of green living. It’s easy to implement a few small changes and see a return almost immediately. And realising why eco-friendly houses are the way of the future.
To experience the benefits of green living, start right away. Think about the way you live now and what ideas you can implement today. There’s no reason to wait before you make the change to a more sustainable mindset. The sooner you begin, the sooner you’ll understand that green living is a lot of fun. You’ll save money, learn new skills and streamline your life for the better.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finding ways to save water around the home has never been more important as South Africa is currently facing its worst drought in 23 years. It’s a heart-breaking situation as the demand for access to clean water continues to increase. Our existing infrastructure is simply not up to the job and as a result we are over-exploiting our existing water sources.
Pressure is being placed on government to improve the management of our rivers and dams. But ordinary citizens will have to make real lifestyle changes too, if we are going to reverse this situation. Rainwater harvesting tanks can be used to take advantage of harvesting all the rainfall,
And you can apply some of these to your existing home if you want to contribute towards the solution. So let’s look at all the areas in your home where you can start saving water.
In the kitchen
Do you know how many times a day you turn your kitchen tap on? Try to keep track of it for one day and you may be surprised. Kitchen appliances require water to run, and to be kept clean. So it’s the perfect place to start looking for ways to cut down on your water usage. This is how you can do it:
- Purchase water-efficient devices: Dishwashers and washing machines make our lives so much easier. Some can use more water than they need to. If you’re looking to replace your existing machines, research before you buy. Look for machines that are not just energy-efficient, but water-efficient too.
- Make a full load before you switch on: Don’t be tempted to run your dishwasher if you only have a few dishes to wash. Although using a machine can save more water than washing by hand, it only works if you fill the machine up before you switch it on. The same goes for your washing machine. Wait until you have a few more clothes to wash and then make a full load to get the most out of the water you’re using.
- Plug your sink: Whether you’re washing dishes, rinsing your hands of washing your vegetables, don’t let water just drain away. Plug your sink and collect that water. It can still be used to water your plants or flush your toilet. Re-using water like this is the best way to get the maximum value from it.
- Don’t let the tap run: While you’re waiting for your hot water to come through, don’t let the cold water in the pipe go to waste. Collect it in a jug and use it to fill up kettle for your next cup of coffee.
- Install and aerator: A simple fitting with a mesh screen when attached to the end of your kitchen tap, provides a steady stream of air and water. You’ll still get a steady stream but use less water to achieve the same effect. They’re inexpensive, easy to install and effective.
A little thought goes a long way. Just being mindful of how you use water in the kitchen can help you see ways to save it. So think before you turn on that tap and make the most of every drop of water.
In the bathroom
Another good place to look at saving water is in the bathroom. There are many things you can do to reduce the amount of water you use and still stay clean. Try these simple tips:
- Don’t bath, shower instead: A bath uses far more water than a shower. Although, when you do shower, try to keep it under five minutes. It really shouldn’t take you much longer to get clean. If you want to bath, don’t overfill the bath. You can also re-use your bath water for flushing the toilet or watering your garden.
- Install a low-flow shower head: You can find them at your local hardware store and it doesn’t take much to install one. Your shower won’t feel any different and it will save you a lot of water.
- Put a brick in your cistern: It sounds crazy, but it really does work. By displacing some of the water in your cistern you won’t use as much when you flush. It’s a cheap but effective way to stop good water going down the drain.
- Don’t leave the tap running: When you’re shaving or brushing your teeth, turn off the tap. You’re letting good water go to waste; so leave it off until you need to rinse your razor or your mouth.
In the garden
Maintaining a beautiful garden takes lots of effort and lots of water. While these tips won’t make gardening any easier, they will help you to save water. Adopt these habits and your garden will still be beautiful:
- Water your plants in the evening: If you water your plants in the heat of the day most of the water will simply evaporate. But watering later in the evening, when the ground is cooler allows it to absorb and maintain the water. Your plants will benefit and you may find you don’t have to water them as often.
- Watch where you put your sprinkler: Don’t water your pavement. Make sure your sprinkler is placed where water is really needed—next to your plants. Letting water go to waste like this does nothing for your garden and is a complete waste of water.
- Use natural and organic garden products: The water you use in your garden may eventually make its way back into the system. If it’s loaded with dangerous chemicals recycling is hampered. Use natural and organic products which break down quickly.
- Plant indigenous: They don’t need as much water as aliens. They’re much easier to care for and much appreciated by the local insects and bird life. Group plants with similar water requirements together. You’ll be able to water those that need more water without drowning species that don’t need as much.
Cars and swimming pools
Taking care of your home extends to your car and swimming pool and offer you the opportunity to use water as wisely as possible. This is how to keep them in top condition without wasting water:
- Wash your car using a bucket: preferably a bucket of grey water that you’ve collected from around your home. There’s no need to spray every speck of dust off your car with a hose. It’s better to use a bit of elbow grease than send a river running down your driveway.
- Don’t overfill your swimming pool either: If you’re not using it all the time, it’s not necessary to fill it to the top. You can also use a gutter pipe to fill your pool up, rather than water from a tap. Just slide an old pair of pantyhose over the end to catch any debris from going into the pool.
Check for leaks
An important part of saving water involves checking your home for any leaks. It may seem like a small thing but over time a steady drip can lead to a lot of wasted water. This can also cost you money so it’s worth finding and fixing a leak quickly. Here’s how to do it:
- Watch your water meter: It’s the easiest way to check for a leak. Read your meter and take note of the figure. Then don’t use any water for at least two hours and check the meter again. If there’s a change in the meter reading it’s certain that you have a leak.
- Use food colouring to check your toilet tank: Add a few drops of food safe dye to your toilet tank and if the colour appears in the bowl within 30 minutes, you know there’s a leak.
- Check the toilet handle: Another sign that you’re toilet is leaking is when the handle doesn’t return to its original position. That means the water keeps running and you should attend to it immediately.
Did you know that if a tap is dripping at a rate of 1 drop a second it adds up to 10,220 litres in a year! Usually all that’s required is installing a new washer to solve the problem. So never underestimate a leaking tap—and don’t wait to get it fixed.
The ultimate water saving tip—a rainwater harvesting tank
If you have the space for one, it’s well worth investing in a rainwater harvesting tank. They can easily be installed in your garden and allow you to collect and store rainwater for free. In green homes they can be installed underground. Connected directly to the gutters, they collect rainwater which can be filtered and pumped into the home for use in the washing machine and toilets.
Not only do they supply free water, they help to reduce the burden on the municipal system. And when there’s a water shortage, you’ll always have access to your own supply. Even ordinary rainwater harvesting tanks can make a big difference. Simply being able to water your plants, wash your car or fill your pool without turning on a tap helps to save water resources.
These are all simple tips, and if everyone used them in their homes, the water crisis facing the country could be reduced. Using water carefully also makes financial sense. As our demand for electricity increases, so does the price and the same is true for water. Finding ways to save on your water costs means you’ll have money to invest in bigger projects such as rainwater harvesting tank.
While the problem with outdated and inefficient infrastructure still remains to be resolved, reducing the demand for water will make things a bit easier for everyone. All that we really need to overcome is the way we take water for granted. Being water-wise isn’t just for the eco-conscious; it’s an attitude everyone should adopt if we want to avoid an even bigger water crisis in the future.
Your garden is the ideal place to start practicing greener living. Working in your garden is satisfying. Whether you grow prize roses, or vegetables to feed your family, sustainable gardening makes your efforts more rewarding. With a focus on preserving the soil and using resources wisely, eco-friendly gardening is cost-effective and easy to do. Here are some sustainable gardening principles you can start using in your garden right now.
Eco-friendly homes take advantage of available resources and make the most of them. Recycle your food scraps, used coffee grounds, vegetable peeling and plant cuttings. By making your own compost you’re able to fertilise your garden for free. And you’ll provide your plants with a rich source of nutrients. Composting is a perfect example of green living.
To make your own composter, start by picking out a shady spot in your garden. Your compost heap should be larger than a cubic metre, but smaller than 5 cubic metres. The compost heap should be large enough to generate sufficient heat to break down the material.
Start with a layer of course material such as thin sticks or twigs. Then add a mixture of grass clipping and green and dried leaves. Then add some soil. You can also add manure to your compost heap, make sure it’s well-rotted. You don’t want to be inundated with flies or a subject your neighbours to the potent smell. Keep adding more layers to your heap in this order until it’s a about a metre high. Over time, the material will turn to compost.
These are typical items you’re able to add to your compost heap:
- Fruit and vegetable peelings
- Coffee grounds
- Tea bags
- Egg shells
- Lawn cuttings
- Nut shells
- Cardboard and eggs cartons
Composting ticks two greener living habits off your checklist in one go. You end up sending less waste to the landfill, and you recycle organic materials at the same time. A third is, you feed your garden without it costing anything.
Any gardener knows that a beautiful garden needs water. This is one of our most precious resources. When experiencing a drought, harvesting rainwater is the ideal way to start living green. A sound investment in the future.
Rainwater is used for watering your garden, washing your car and even flushing your toilets. It’s not suitable for human consumption unless you filter it, using rainwater for general purpose jobs reduces the strain on the municipal supply. And, you’ll save money on your water bill at the same time.
While purpose-built eco-friendly homes have water tanks installed below ground, with existing homes if not possible to install underground, they are easily installed above ground. You’ll need to take into account how much water you need, the collection area of your roof and the rainfall pattern in your area to determine what size water tank you need. Water tanks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you’re bound to find one that works best for your garden.
If you haven’t got the room for a water tank, there are other ways to keep your plants hydrated the green living way:
- Use mulch and ground cover to prevent water from evaporating.
- Create raised beds to collect water and let it soak into the ground.
- Use a watering can to water your garden instead of a hose pipe. That way you’ll use less water.
- Swap your direct irrigation system for a drip irrigation system. This is an efficient way of watering your plants.
Using water wisely is the cornerstone of greener living. Water tanks are a great addition to eco-friendly homes. And in times of drought and water restrictions, you’ll prolong your supply of water to keep your garden blooming.
Choose native plants that are hardy and drought resistant. Not only do they contribute to greener living, they require less maintenance. You’ll spend less time working on your garden, and more time enjoying it.
Native plants are well-adapted to local conditions so they don’t need as much water as foreign species. Indigenous trees, shrubs and flowers are more resistant to local pests and diseases. When planting trees consider their position and type to reduce your home’s heating and cooling costs.
Evergreen trees are green all year round so use them to form a windbreak and protect your home from chilly winds in winter. In summer, they’ll keep your home cool and comfortable. While deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter making them ideal for protecting the areas of your home that get the full sun in summer. Come winter, when the leaves fall off to let the sun in to warm the room.
Using plants to control the temperature of your home means you won’t have to rely as much on air-conditioners and heaters. If you adopt this green living trick you can make your home more comfortable and save on electricity. These natural methods are something that eco-friendly houses incorporate into their design from the start. And there’s no reason why you can’t do the same in your garden.
- Controlling pests organically
Gardens attract insects and while eco-friendly gardeners recognise that some are beneficial, others are just pests. There’s no need to abandon your green living principles with them. From home-made insecticides to encouraging natural predators, there are organic ways to stop pests from ruining your garden:
- Natural solutions: Save your eggshells from breakfast, crush them up and spread them around the base of your plants. That will keep slugs and cut worms away. Sprinkle salt around on the soil to stop snails from taking over. Don’t go overboard though, too much salt in the soil isn’t good for your plants.
- Clean and tidy: Pests prefer untidy gardens. It gives them the chance to settle in and start breeding. So keep your lawn manicured and your beds tidy. Remove fruits and vegetables before they start rotting and become a food source for pests; and good for the compost heap.
- Install barriers. Physical barriers such as mesh and nets protect plants from pests. Loosely woven material protects plants while they get enough water and sunlight to grow.
- Insect-repelling plants. Citronella, marigolds, thyme, lemongrass and spearmint are all plants with insect-repelling properties. When planted in-between your shrubs they naturally repel pests – no need for chemicals.
- Encourage birds. Hanging a feeder gets birds to visit your garden. Birds are fond of snacking on bugs and will help control the pest population in your garden. Lizards and frogs are another natural form of pest control.
Save on expensive and damaging chemicals and use natural, greener living methods to manage pests in your garden. You’ll discover that once you start working with nature, you’ll achieve the results you want with less effort, and costs.
- Old-fashioned garden maintenance
To maintain a garden you rely on a number of tools to keep it looking tidy. Lawn mowers, leaf blowers and hedge trimmers are an essential part of any gardener’s kit. Where possible, choose electric-powered equipment. You could invest in cordless tools to make your job easier.
Electric-powered lawn equipment creates less noise and air pollution than the gas-powered models. Electricity is also cheaper than fuel and another way of saving on costs of keeping your garden in tip-top shape. Alternatively, using a traditional push mower and get a workout while attending to your garden.
An alternative to leaf-blowers, is sweeping the driveways and sidewalks the old-fashioned way – and getting in a workout. Though it may take longer, it saves on fuel and noise pollution. Green living, though by working differently, saves costs in various ways.
And did you know that using a hoe to cultivate between your plants suppresses weeds and aerates the soil? Spending a few minutes in your garden every day and pulling weeds, by hand contains weeds and they won’t spread get out of control. Ten minutes daily beats hours of weeding once a month.
Working in your garden is as good for the garden as for your soul. By returning to greener living practices you re-discover the joy of spending time in nature.
- Designing eco-friendly gardens
Eco-friendly homes with eco-friendly gardens is a balanced eco-system. Compliment the indoors and outdoors, by following greener living through to your outdoor spaces too. Whether working with an existing garden, or starting one from scratch using these tips create a garden that’s eco-friendly:
- Recycle materials. If you want to build a deck or a patio, use recycled materials or a material that can be recycled such as wood or aluminium. Some manufacturers offer you a composite material made from a combination of plastic and wood particles. This type of decking is fade-resistant and easy to clean. It requires little maintenance and looks attractive.
- Plan your planting. Learn about native plants to make your garden attractive. The local nursery is able to help pick out indigenous plants that are ideal for our gardens. Native plants will help you to cut down on water usage, repel local pests. Have a beautiful garden. Use a combination of sun-loving and shade-loving plants appropriately. The more you know about the plants you want to use, the better your landscaping.
- Limit your lawn area. Lawns require frequently watering and care to keep them looking at their best. Consider whether you need a large lawn and if you don’t, experiment with other kinds or ground covers that don’t need as much water or maintenance. Natural grasses are just as attractive and are suited to droughts and our particular weather conditions.
- Make maintenance easy: Designing your garden in way that makes it easy to look after. Remember that green living is convenience. If you want to harvest rainwater for use in your garden, or start a composting heap, set aside space for these projects. Incorporate them from the start and make them part of your garden. Reduce the need for gas-guzzling or power-sapping garden tools. Working on your garden is a pleasure when approaching it differently.
When adopting green living gardening principles, changes the way you see your garden. Eco-friendly homes are about convenience, saving costs and being environmentally friendly. Everyone benefits when becoming mindful of how resources are used. Explore ways that you’ll enjoy and start a small project putting your ideas into practice.