Affordable and eco-friendly ways to keep your home cool this summer

Affordable and eco-friendly ways to keep your home cool this summer

Are you getting bored with your winter wardrobe? Tired of having hearty winter stews and soups for dinner every night? Well, it won’t be long before you’re complaining about the heat and searching for ways to cool down. This summer, instead of turning on the air-conditioner for instant relief from the heat, try some of these green living tricks instead.

  • Keep your curtains and blinds closed.

Did you know that up to 30% of unwanted heat comes from your windows? If you keep your blinds and curtains closed, you can stop the heat coming in and turning your home into a mini-greenhouse. It’s a simple tip that can lower the indoor temperature by a few degrees.

  • Make an eco-friendly air-conditioner.

Just because you decided to try living green doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Fans don’t use as much electricity as air-conditioners, so try this handy tip. Fill a mixing bowl with ice (you could also us an ice-pack) and position it at an angle in front of your fan. When you switch the fan on, you’ll be hit with a blast of super-cooled air. It works like a charm!

  • Get a breeze going.

This is essential for hot summer nights when you’re battling to fall asleep. Open windows on opposite sides of your room, or house to let the cool air flow through. As the earth cools down during the night, the air gets cooler too. With a gentle breeze wafting over you as you drift off, you’ll drop off in no time.

  • Sleep on a buckwheat pillow.

Another tip to help you get a good night’s sleep in the hot summer months is to invest in a buckwheat pillow. Unlike synthetic fibres, buckwheat hulls allow the air to flow through the pillow. They don’t trap your body heat and you won’t wake up with a sweaty head in the morning.

  • Set your ceiling fan to rotate counter-clockwise.

You don’t have to abandon all your creature comforts for the sake of greener living. Make the most of your ceiling fan by adjusting it every season to achieve the effect you want. By setting the blades to rotate counter-clockwise in summer, warm air that accumulates near the ceiling will be blown away. You’ll have the benefit of cooling breeze to help you beat the heat.

  • Keep your cool.

It’s easier to lower your body temperature than trying to cool your whole house. So keep a supply of ice-cold drinks, ice lollies and cold cloths on hand. Add ice to your drinks and dress in loose-fitting, cotton clothes. Water helps you regulate your body temperature, so keep hydrated.

  • Turn on your bathroom fan.

By pulling the hot air out of your bathroom after a steamy bath or shower, you can stop that heat from seeping out into the rest of your home. The exhaust fan in your kitchen is used the same way.

  • Change your incandescent bulbs for CFLs.

Incandescent bulbs are energy hungry and spill almost 90% of their energy in the form of heat. On the other hand, CFLs use less power to generate light and they don’t spill as much energy. You’ll be saving money and living greener if you make the switch.

  • Have a braai.

South Africans need little encouragement to heed this suggestion. When using your oven it sends the temperature in your kitchen soaring. Make a fire outside and enjoy some al fresco dining in your garden. A different way to enjoy a beautiful summer’s evening?

  • Experiment with no-cook recipes.

If you really want to save electricity, money and keep your home cool, try out some no-cook recipes. There are plenty of tasty dishes to concoct without ever turning your oven on. If you’re rather cook, how about using a slow cooker. Prepare your meal in the morning and return to a delicious meal at night without the heat.

These little tips helps beat the heat. And if you’re prepared to spend a bit of time and money, there are some bigger projects to cool your house down for the many summers to come.

How to heat-proof your entire home for summer

Eco-friendly houses use green technology to keep cool in summer and warm in winter. Before the foundation is laid, carefully planning ensures that the house is orientated correctly. In the Southern Hemisphere, homes that face north are naturally cooler in summer and warmer in winter. The orientation of the house makes the most of the natural sunlight that falls as the earth rotates.

And eco-friendly homes are insulated. Insulation prevents warm air escaping in winter and hot air from entering the home in summer. To help maintain an even temperature indoors, a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system is ideal. It uses little energy and allows for the management of individual temperature zones. Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling systems comprise of a network of pipes to pump warm and cool water under the floor. That means walking bare feet on a tiled floor in the middle of winter without discomfort.

With this technology, eco-friendly houses are expensive. Though you recoup your costs with excellent savings on electricity, water and maintenance. If you’re not ready to invest in an eco-friendly home, there are some things you can do to embrace greener living and keep your home cool.

  • Insulate your ceiling.

It’s one of the best investments you can make. Use an environmentally-friendly material. Reap the benefits of ceiling insulation. It makes your home cooler in summer and warmer in winter. You’ll save electricity and have a comfortable indoor environment to enjoy for years.

  • Insulate the rest of your home.

Take a weekend, grab some caulk and weather stripping and set to work patching up gaps in your window and door frames. You’d be surprised what a difference it will make to the temperature in your home throughout the year.

  • Get a blanket for your geyser.

By insulating your geyser you’ll stop the heat it radiates from escaping into your home. And, your geyser will be more energy efficient so you’ll save on electricity every month. Another financial benefits of living green.

  • Add awnings to your windows.

Not only do awnings make your home attractive to potential buyers, they’ll also stop the sun from shining right into the room in summer. Cooling and attractive, awnings are a great additional to your arsenal to contain high temperatures.

  • Plant trees and shrubs.

What could be a better example of green living than planting some carbon-dioxide loving shrubbery? And if you plant them in the right place, you’ll keep your home cooler too. Planting just three trees in strategic positions helps reduce your heating and cooling costs. Place them in front of windows that get the sun in summer, or use them as wind breaks to protect your home from icy wind in winter.

  • Paint your roof a light colour.

A light coloured roof reflects the heat of the sun and reduces the temperature inside your home. You could also paint your terrace in a lighter colour to increase the effect.

  • Go for double-glazed windows.

Double-glazing refers to a window made of two panes of glass with a space in-between. This space could be filled with gas, or left empty. Double-glazed windows help to insulate your home. As with other forms of insulation, these types of windows help keep eco-friendly homes cool in summer and warm in winter.

  • Install a solar attic fan.

As the name implies, these fans run on solar energy which makes them perfect for living green. They run quietly, require virtually no maintenance and help to cool your home down. Plus, they’re not that difficult to install.

  • Add a roof vent.

Add a roof vent to help with the airflow and reduce the amount of heat that accumulates in your ceiling space. You could have a go at installing it yourself to save money.

Implementing one or more of these tips will go a long way to make your home cooler in summer without adding to your carbon footprint. Living green does not mean you have to sacrifice modern conveniences. It’s about thinking differently to benefit your quality of life while saving.

Turning traditional homes into eco-friendly homes does require spending quite a bit of money. However, the expenses are recouped via savings on future running costs and maintenance. You’ll discover there are other benefits when adopting eco-friendly habits.

Green living hot water tips

Green living hot water tips

When our electricity bill is high, and we don’t know why, it helps to take a closer look at the way we use hot water. We might think of our morning shower as a necessity and not a luxury, though when it lasts more than say, 5 minutes, we’re literally pouring money down the drain. The good news is, we can stop the flood and adopt green living principles that will reduce our electricity bill. And we won’t have to give up our morning ablutions.


How much can we save on hot water?

It really depends on how far we’re willing to go and what our budget is. Without spending any extra money we can cut our water-heating costs by 10%. If we have a modest budget we can save 30% on hot water. And if we’re willing to invest substantially in green technology, there’s no limit to how much we can save.

Change small habits to save 10% on our electricity bill

When ready to start saving money on our electricity bill right now, all we need do is change some habits. That’s all that green living really means—being aware of the way we use limited resources and using them carefully. Here are four things we can do right now that won’t cost us a penny:

Turning the geyser down to 55°-60°

Check the thermostat on the geyser. Most geysers are set to 65° or higher. That’s hot enough to scald us. Turn it down at least 5° or 10° and we won’t even notice the difference. For every 5° we reduce the temperature, we save up to 10% on our heating costs. Proof that living green helps us save money.

Turning our geyser’s temperature down has other benefits. We’ll protect our family from burning themselves (essential with small children) and we’ll increase the lifespan of our geyser. Don’t get carried away, though. The temperature needs to be at least 55° to stop bacteria from breeding.

We might get a bit dirty climbing about in the attic, nevertheless, that is the start of savings each month.

Cutting down on shower time

A 10-minute shower can use as much as 65 litres of hot water. By reducing our shower time by two minutes we’ll need about 12 litres of hot water less. A family of four would save thousands of Rands on electricity and water every year by spending a little less time in the shower. And don’t be tempted to bath instead. A bath uses more water than a shower.

Another little trick; is taking a bucket into the shower. Use it to collect the grey water that normally disappears down the drain and use it to water the garden. It won’t help save on electricity though; it’s a way of living green and to save another precious resource.

Switch off the geyser when away for prolonged periods

Going on holiday this summer? Stop at the DB board and flip the geyser switch to the off position. If nobody is around to use hot water, why let the element heat up a few times every day? This is the easiest way to save on electricity and with a geyser timer, why not switch the geyser off during peak periods even when not on holiday. Just don’t forget to switch the geyser on again when back, then give it a few hours to heat up again. Eco-friendly homes enable everyone to enjoy the benefits of modern conveniences while reducing costs and reducing strain on the national supply.

Use cold water for the laundry

Unless our clothes are heavily soiled, we can wash them in cold water to clean them. While our washing machine doesn’t draw hot water from the geyser, this little tip helps reduce our electricity bill. Green living is all about the small habits that make a big difference.

Waiting until we have a full load of clothes or dirty dishes before switching on the washing machine or dishwasher are further savings. The more efficiently we use these appliances, the more we save.

Spend less than R1000 to save 30%

With spare cash, investing in these tips and boost our hot water savings by as much as 30%. Imagine such savings on electricity every month. Here are some ideas to get started on the road to living green:

Installing low-flow shower heads

They really aren’t that difficult to install and won’t need the services of a professional plumber. Doing the ‘Bucket Test’ to determine the efficiency of our current shower heads, is even easier. Hold a bucket under the shower spray for 12 seconds and see if we collect more than 2 litres. By installing a low-flow shower head we save a lot of money (and water and electricity). As low-flow shower heads aerates the water we still get the same blast of water so our morning ablutions are as luxurious.

Put a timer on the geyser

Though this tip costs a bit more, the savings we’ll enjoy is worth every penny. Installing a programmable timer on our geyser and setting it to switch off during peak periods, such as 6am – 8am and 5pm-9pm, creates another saving. Living green means we are conscious of our consumption, and looking at creating saving of our month costs, while incidentally conserving resources of the planet.

We’ll need to call out an electrician to install the timer, and, at the same time adding the geyser thermostat control. That save us from climbing into the roof every time we want to adjust the temperature of our geyser. And when having such handy features it’s easy to manage the geyser: Being able to monitor and adjust our hot water usage to save electricity costs. More convenience with our hot water.

Invest in insulation

A geyser blanket will cost between R200 and R400 and pipe insulation won’t cost much more than R100. Every penny is worth it because it stops the heat escaping from the tank. That means using less electricity to heat the water in the tank to the desired temperature. Eco-friendly homes make comprehensive use of available resources such as insulation. (Ceiling, exterior walls, floor, double-glazing, water pipes.)

Buy energy-efficient appliances

When in the market for a new dishwasher or washing machine, check the Energy Star ratings. Modern appliances are designed to use less water and less electricity. We’ll save on two fronts and be implementing further green living features.

Go big and save up to 50% or more on hot water costs

When taking full advantage of reducing the costs of our hot water bill, and decide to take up green living technologies we’ll have a huge impact on the monthly running costs of our homes. And reap the benefits from right away as well as adding value to our home.

Installing a heat pump – water heating and cooling

Heat pumps are remarkably efficient and use only a small amount of electricity. They’re about the size of a medium to large air-conditioning unit.

A fan draws hot air into the heat pump and passes it over a refrigerant. Because the refrigerant boils at low temperatures, it transfers this heat to a condenser coil – which in turn heats up water. The hot water continuously replaces the cooled down water in the hot water tank.

Dual function heat pumps are particularly versatile because they have three different modes. They heat water, cool water down, or they cool and heat water at the same time. This means twice as much efficiency is achieved. By installing this type of heat pump it easily produces the required water temperature, either separately or simultaneously.

Because heat pumps use electricity, they work just as well on cloudy and rainy days. Installing a heat pump is viable indoors and outdoors, as long as the unit has space around it for the air to circulate. Heat pumps don’t require much maintenance. A heat pump that is properly maintained will last more than 15 years. This makes them an ideal choice for those who want to strike a balance between greener living and convenience.

Go with a solar water heater

Though solar water heaters are expensive, consider their savings in monthly electricity costs. With a solar water heater we aren’t subjected to increasing electricity costs. A family of four would recoup their investment in a solar water heater in 4-6 years. When looking at it like that, the idea of a solar water heater is a sound investment. And they form part of green living.

Enough roof space is needed to accommodate the solar collector. The tank is either fitted on the roof alongside the collector or, inside the roof. A pump circulates water between the collector and the tank.

A solar water heater provides free hot water all year round. We’re not affected by power cuts or load shedding. This system doesn’t produce any kind of pollution. In fact, we’ll be reducing our carbon footprint and embracing greener living. To top it, solar water heaters require little maintenance and last as long as 15-20 years before they need repairs or components.

When a roof gets sufficient sunlight during the year, is big enough to house the collector and the tank there’s every reason to go ahead with installing a solar water heater. As an alternative to the favoured heat pump system, solar water heaters provide and alternative water heating system to eco-friendly houses.

Whether opting for a heat pump or a solar water heater, with a substantial investment we’ll have access to hot water while saving electricity costs each month.

How many of these ideas should we use? One option is to start small, no-cost changes to see an immediate difference to our monthly electricity bill. Putting the saved money aside or invest in some insulation for the conventional geyser. That way we save until able to afford a solar water heater. The other option, though pricey is, a purpose built green smart home.