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A guide on fitting your current home with green features

A guide on fitting your current home with green features

To date, very few houses in South Africa use green building techniques. However, this does not mean that you can’t fit your current home with green features which will eventually give you a similar return on investment. To follow is a quick guide on how we can help you retro fit your home with green features.

Choose the right suppliers

Green home development is a growing industry in South Africa at the moment. Because it’s still relatively new, there are a number of companies out there that do not know how to fit these systems competently. Be very aware of who you choose as your supplier and installer of choice.

Consider researching the following green home suppliers:

  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Photo-voltaic panels, batteries and installation
  • Insulation factors for the walls, ceiling, doors, windows and floor
  • Hydronics radiant cooling & heating system
  • Low maintenance green components such as aluminium, bamboo, stainless steel, etc.

Consult with experts and do your research

After consulting with a number of experts, researching online and trial & error, the perfect formula can be found to construct the perfect green home. If you are planning on implementing one or two features to your current home, be sure to talk to the right people first. And if you plan to build your own green home, chat to our developers and allow us to give you some guidance.

Calculate your return on investment

It’s not always worth it to implement green features to an existing home. You already know you’ll be saving in the long run, but consider the initial amount that needs to be laid out. Calculate the amount you will initially invest compared to the following factors:

  • How long do you plan on living in that particular home?
  • Will the new green components act as selling points when you eventually sell?
  • Will you get your money back when you sell?
  • How much will you save monthly on utility costs?

You may find that it’s more worth your while buying a green home in South Africa than converting your current home into one.

Make green home features a buying imperative

Once you go green, stay green! If you’ve fitted a solar geyser into your current home, don’t settle for anything less in your next home. There isn’t currently much of a green trend in South Africa, but that will change over the next few years. If you want to protect your investment, insist on homes that are fitted with green features and grow the demand for such houses.

Going green is not as hard as you may think. Do your research, plan ahead and grab your calculator.

When is it the right time to invest in a green home?

When is it the right time to invest in a green home?

Ever heard the term ‘early adopter’? It’s used to describe people who are the first to use a new invention or technology before it becomes popular. A good example of this would be television. While some wrote it off as a passing fad, there were those who rushed out to buy their first set. But more often than not, the real reason more people aren’t early adopters of a new technology comes down to cost.

And that’s how many people feel about green homes. If you’re in the market for a new home, you may be wondering whether you should buy a green home now, or wait until they become more affordable. This article will try to help you make a decision about the biggest investment you’ll ever make.

How do you define a green home?

It’s easy to a label a home as ‘eco-friendly’ but before you part with your money you should spend a little time figuring out what ‘green’ means to you.

For some, it’s the fact that a home is energy-efficient. Whether or not you’re ready to go completely off the grid is matter of choice, but if saving on your monthly electricity bill is your main motivation for buying a green home, you’ll want it to have the following features:

–              Superior insulation

–              Double-glazed windows and doors

–              Photovoltaic solar panels

Another reason people are attracted to a green home has to do with health benefits they provide, especially for allergy suffers. That means they’re especially interested in the use of non-toxic building materials from paints and varnishes to carpeting. A green home provides:

–              Improved air quality

–              Superior ventilation

–              Reduced exposure to allergens

Finally, there are those who see green homes as having little impact on the environment. In this case, building materials that are locally sourced and / or sustainable become the main focus. This may take the form of:

–              Bamboo for flooring and countertops

–              Recycling existing materials such as concrete

–              Reclaimed bricks

The ultimate green home combines all of these features. Once you can define what ‘green’ means to you, you can eliminate potential properties that don’t fit your definition. You’ll also be able to work out how quickly you can expect a return on your investment.

How much more would a green home cost?

At present there are simply not enough green homes available in South Africa to provide the data needed to answer this question. But studies in the US show that green homes on average sell for 9% more than ordinary homes. However, when you’re working with a budget, even a figure below double-digits can be off-putting.

What you should really be looking at is how quickly you can recoup your initial outlay by the savings you’ll enjoy on your monthly running costs. Take for example the savings you’ll get from doing something as simple as installing a solar water heater. If you were to retro-fit an existing home with a 200l solar water heater it would cost you in the region of R20 000.

It is expensive, but bear in mind that electric heaters contribute between 30% and 50% of your monthly electricity bill. On a bill of R800 a month, and averaged out at 45%, that means just R360 a month goes towards heating water for bathing and washing. But using the power of the sun to heat your water is completely free which means that money stays in your pocket. And within just four to five years you’ll completely recoup the costs of installing a solar water heater.

That’s just one element of a green home. Imagine how much more you’ll save with a home that incorporates more energy-saving features. Proper insulation is a case in point. With the mild climate we enjoy in sunny South Africa, many homes have no form of insulation at all. You may think that double-glazed windows and doors and underfloor heating are only for homes in the northern hemisphere. But these features have advantages beyond just making the interior of your home more comfortable in winter.

They also help to keep it cooler in summer which means you save on air conditioning. And although you could go through a winter on the Highveld without ever switching on a heater in a green home, if you did, you wouldn’t need to use it for very long to achieve the temperature you want.

Some homeowners opt for roofing insulation for this very reason. But in a green home, even the exterior walls are insulated. The result is a home that maintains an even, comfortable temperature throughout the year without relying on energy-hungry heating and cooling appliances.

And it’s not just your energy costs that you should take into account. What about your water usage? As access to clean water becomes scarce, the price of supplying homes with this vital resource is bound to go up. In a green home you have several options for decreasing your reliance on the municipal supply.

The first method is to install low-flow showerheads and faucets to reduce the amount of water you use for everyday bathing and cleaning. You might also look at ways to re-use grey water for your garden or washing your car. But you can take it one step further by securing a water source for your own private use.

Rainwater tanks can be installed underground, keeping them out of sight where they won’t detract from the aesthetic of your property. Efficient pumps can be installed, along with filters, to make the rainwater you collect potable and safe for use throughout your home. It reduces your reliance on the municipal supply and ensures you always have access to water.

Green home developers take care to ensure your home and gutters are placed in an optimal position to maximise rainwater collection. Even in an area with little annual rainfall, you can ensure that your home has the ability to collect and store water.

Bear in mind that while many of these features ultimately add to the cost of a green home, the money you save on electricity and water will make it much easier to afford.

What are the other advantages of living in a green home?

If you’ve never experienced a ‘green’ home, it can be difficult to understand that there are benefits beyond saving money. But there are several:

  • Good for the environment

Green homes make a real difference to the environment in many different ways, and everyone benefits. Reduced energy consumption means less harmful greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. And by recycling or using sustainable materials they contribute less waste too. Everything from the design, to the materials used works in harmony with nature and not against it.

  • Good for the people

Non-toxic materials and better ventilation makes a green home a healthy place to live. Your immune system isn’t weakened by toxic chemicals or bombarded with dust or mildew so you simply don’t get sick as often. The temperature in a green home is moderated by features such as insulation and hydronics radiant heating and cooling. An even temperature reduces your reliance on air-conditioners and heaters which can spread bacteria and viruses.

Finally, they are simply quieter and more comfortable than regular homes. Double-glazed windows and doors reduce noise pollution and well-sealed doors stop drafts from getting in.

  • Good for your wallet

You don’t just save on your monthly running costs, you save on maintenance too. Green homes cost less to maintain because they use materials that last. Everything from the roof tiles to the flooring is made to withstand years of use without losing their looks.

And should you ever want to put your green home on the market, you’ll discover that it commands a better price for your property than a traditional house. As time goes by, these green features will become more desirable. If you home already has these, then you will be able to raise your price—and get it.

The cost of not going green

The real question is not whether you can afford a green home; the question is whether you can afford not to invest in one. The truth is the cost and availability of things we take for granted now will get even worse. Investing in a green home now allows you to face the future costs of living with confidence.

As costs continue to rise, you end up saving more every year which means you can recoup your costs at a faster rate. It’s a small but growing trend that will gather strength as more people come to realise how important going green is for the planet—and their pocket. While green technologies may become more affordable as time goes on, waiting for that to happen could cost you so much more in the meantime. Especially if you consider that the cost of electricity will rise even faster.

While retrofitting an existing home with some green features will help you to save money, these renovations can be prohibitively expensive. Which is why is makes more sense to invest in a ready-built green home. There are not many of these available in South Africa; if you’re willing and flexible with your location, you will find something suitable.

A green home is designed to reduce your reliance on municipal suppliers of power and water. And by reducing demand, you free up those resources for others. So in the end, everyone benefits from a green home—even those who don’t live in one. Any home is an investment in your future and you have to consider the long-term when making your decisions.

Green homes make considerable sense in the long-term. They are cheaper to run, cheaper to maintain and will be more valuable should you ever have to sell. Being an early adopter is a risk. There’s always the possibility that a new technology will not work out or that it will become so much cheaper that you’ll regret having paid so much to be among the first to have it. This will never happen with a green home. No matter how much you invest now, you will continue to increase your savings over time.

When an investment like that comes along you simply can’t ignore it. Along with all the other benefits of going green, making a solid investment in your future outweighs everything else. So if you’re ready to make the commitment— you’ll find there’s a green home out there for you.

Combining green features and smart technology in eco-friendly homes

Combining green features and smart technology in eco-friendly homes

More South Africans are starting to express an interest in living in eco-friendly homes. Once considered to be the preserve of the eco-conscious, more people are realising that green living has serious financial benefits. The same could be said about smart home automation systems. Although they’re not common in this country, as the technology develops, they are becoming more popular and have a number of benefits when used in green homes. In this article we’ll look at some of the ways smart home technology is used in eco-friendly houses.

Smart home automation for temperature control

The first thing to know about green homes is that they are properly insulated. Unlike traditional homes, green home developers understand that complete insulation makes it easier to manage the temperature inside the home. As the seasons change, homes that are well-insulated are easily adjusted to the temperature fluctuations. Insulation inside the walls, the floor and the ceiling, combined with double-glazing, in the winter keeps warm air from escaping and cold air from entering, and in summer, prevents cold air from escaping and hot air from entering.

In addition to insulation, many green homes use a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system. This consists of a network of pipes connected to the hot water tank and the heat pump. Warm or cold water is pumped through the pipes to change the temperature in different rooms. It’s an energy-efficient system that provides consistent results. And has the ability to have different temperatures set for different rooms. That means concentrating on rooms which are occupied without using energy on rooms that aren’t occupied.

The pipes used in the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system are covered by a thick screed which acts as a conductor of the required temperature from the network of water pipes. The entire construction of the system is designed to be energy efficient. And this is only one area where smart home automation increases the energy-efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the system.

Smart home automation systems make use of  apps that are accessible via a smartphone or computer: To monitor, manage and adjust the temperature settings for each area in the home. This smart home automation system certainly is convenient to adjust the temperature, though it’s not the main thing about the smart technology.

The real advantage of the smart home system lies in the amount of information it gathers regarding the heating and cooling energy consumption. At a glance it’s possible to know how much energy the system is using to maintain the required temperatures, and enables taking immediate steps to reduce the electricity consumption by adjusting the temperature by a degree this way or that way, without sacrificing comfort. Over time, patterns and trends are available to budget accordingly. Or, adding new technologies to further reduce power consumption and measuring their effectiveness.

The system enables supporting a number of handy home automation systems, and is used most effectively to maximise energy-efficiency in the areas that use the most power. Installing smart technology infrastructure enables the monitoring and managing of the home’s power consumption, and even to improve the energy-efficiency.

Smart home automation for smart lighting solutions

A sensor in each room detects movement and automatically switches the lights on and off. While committed to greener living, this type of automation does make life more luxurious. When waking during the night no need to fumble for the light switch while on the way to the kitchen or bathroom. Who wouldn’t want to move about their home with lights turning on and off like magic?

Once again, the benefits of the system go far beyond making life more comfortable and convenient. Though lighting is one area that uses energy, it’s one of the modern conveniences that’s impossible to live without. And it’s one of the easiest places to save energy.

With a smart home automation system, no need to remember switching lights off when leaving the room. The sensor responds to motion, and does it automatically. Even saving a small amount of energy by switching off the lights in unoccupied rooms saves money. And as the cost of electricity increases, so will the savings.

Once again, the power consumption is visible with the smart home app. At any time, over days, weeks and months. This helps to budget for monthly running costs and enables bringing costs down. Green living is a balance between comfort, luxury, saving on running costs, lowering our carbon footprint, saving on resources, the environment and the planet.

Smart home automation to monitor your heat pump

Heating the water for daily needs takes a significant amount of energy. Once again, eco-friendly homes use energy-efficient heat pumps or solar water heaters to reduce the costs of heating water. Also available are linked-loop systems, so hot water is available within seconds of turning on a tap. It’s one of the ways green living is more luxurious than living in a traditional home. No need to wait for the water to heat up before stepping into the shower, or when washing hands in winter.

And that luxury all comes at a reduced cost. Heat pumps take the heat out of the air and use it to heat water using less electricity than a conventional geyser. In a green home the pipes are insulated which helps to maintain the temperature of the hot water [and cold water] and saves more electricity. As with any green home, every element has been designed to maximise energy-efficiency.

The power consumption of the heat pump is included in the data gathered by the smart home automation system. Not only does this make it easier for homeowners to get a clear picture of their energy usage, it is possible to adjust the temperature of the water via the smartphone app or computer.

Turning down the temperature for the hot water tank, even by a few degrees, makes a big difference to the monthly electricity bill. It’s never been convenient to climb into your roof simply for the sake of turning down the thermostat. In a green smart home, everything is straightforward and easy to access, simply make the adjustment on the smartphone or computer.

And because it’s possible to monitor the effects of temperature changes, tweaking the temperature to find balance and efficiency is easy. Living greener does not require giving up a comfortable lifestyle. In fact, it makes running a home easier, more cost-effective and even fun. Hot water is one of moderns life’s necessities, and now it’s possible to contain energy and costs. By combining green technology with smart home automation, it easy to maximise the heat pump’s energy-efficiency.

Smart home automation to monitor rainwater tank levels

Electricity isn’t the only precious resource used in our homes. Water is essential for daily cooking, cleaning and bathing. Given our current drought situation, saving every drop is a habit we’ll all benefit from. That’s why many green homes include rainwater harvesting tanks. Collecting rainwater which is used for garden irrigation, flushing the toilets and for the washing machine is the ideal way to reduce the strain on the municipal water supply, oh, and our pockets.

In urban areas, most of the rainwater is lost. That’s why it makes sense to collect and store rainwater wherever possible. Rainwater tanks can be installed underground. This saves space and extends the lifespan of the tank as it’s not exposed to the elements. It also means that the system requires little maintenance. Yet more proof that green living is convenient.

The rainwater tank is connected to the municipal supply, so should the level in the tank be used to the lower threshold, the system automatically switches over to the municipal water. With new rains it automatically switches back to rainwater usage. One of the benefits of harvesting rainwater is that it reduces the monthly water bill. Monitoring the rainwater tank levels is useful. That’s why a sensor is installed in the rainwater tank, feeding information to the smart technology system. Once again, the level and water usage is accessible via the smartphone app and the computer.

This information is captured continuously to observe the levels over the course of days, weeks, months and years. This is where the real advantage of combining a green feature with smart home technology really shows itself. This data makes it easy to identify patterns and trends. Although it’s difficult to predict rainfall, the data provides a clear picture of how much rainwater is used in and around the home over a period of time.

With this information it’s easy to budget accordingly, or take steps to reduce water usage. The more aware we are of how much water we use, the easier it becomes to find ways to reduce our consumption. And the added benefit of living in eco-friendly homes is that savings are made without giving up the things that make modern living convenient.

Green homes are built to use resources such as power and water efficiently. All the green features that make these eco-friendly homes efficient are monitored and managed by using smart home technology. It’s not only because smart home systems make it easier to adjust settings of the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system, or automating the lights to respond to motion. It’s because of the information you have available about the home without any extra effort, which in turn enables monitoring and managing such a home efficiently. 

Information is power and when serious about living green, it makes sense to investigate adding smart home automation to a green home. It allows you to maximise the energy-efficiency of the home and gather valuable information that helps refine every element of their green designs. It’s clear that green smart homes are setting the standard for future home developments.

What’s greener? A solar geyser or a heat pump?

What’s greener? A solar geyser or a heat pump?

News of another hike in the electricity price may cause you concern. The increasing cost of living has prompted South Africans all over the country to look for alternative ways to meet their demands for energy. Heating water for your daily needs accounts for nearly 40% of your total electricity bill. A solar water heater or heat pump could slash costs and bring your monthly expenses down. Well how do you choose between a solar geyser and a heat pump? Which of these two options would save you the most on your electricity bill?

Understanding your options

Before you delve into the pros and cons of each one, here’s how they work. Of course either would be suitable for greener living.

Solar Geysers

A solar geyser consists of two elements: the solar collector and the tank. Solar panels are arranged on the roof of an eco-friendly home in a position where they are exposed to the maximum amount of sunlight. The collector itself comes in two different variations. Flat plate collectors are made up of hot water pipes that run through shallow metal boxes coated with thick black glass. The glass collects and traps the heat, transferring the water in the pipes which feed into your tank.

Evacuated tubes are a bit more complicated. They have the appearance of fluorescent lights, and are empty (hence ‘evacuated’).  The heat they collect is redirected to a manifold at one end that contains water or another fluid which carries the heat to the hot water tank. They are more efficient than flat plate collectors because they don’t allow the heat to escape. That improved efficiency comes at a higher cost.

The hot water tank or ‘geyser’ is where warm water is stored. It may be fitted alongside the collector on top of your roof. For aesthetic reasons, you may not want this so the tank can be placed inside your roof instead. You don’t have to sacrifice style for the sake of living green.

A heat exchanger is a separate circuit that transfers the heat collected from the solar panels to the water that you use in your kitchen or bathroom. It takes the form of a giant copper coil in the tank. The water in the tank is heated up and the cooled water (or fluid) is returned to the collector to start the process all over again.

A pump helps to circulate the water between the collector and the water tank. And finally, there’s the control switch. Although our South Africa climate is sunny, there are odd days when it’s overcast and the last thing you want is to let cold water into your tank. In which case, you can turn the system off completely or switch over to your municipal power supply. It’s a simple system that works well in South Africa due to the fact that we average about 3000 hours of sunshine per year.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps work off ambient air temperature and not direct sunlight. They use a small amount of electricity to transfer heat from one place to another. You have probably heard of heat pumps being described as an air-conditioner in reverse. And that’s exactly how they work.

A heat pump is about the same size as an air-conditioning unit and is mounted outside the house where it can come into contact with freely circulating air. A fan draws hot air into the heat pump and passes it over a refrigerant. The refrigerant boils and evaporates at low temperatures allowing it to heat up a condenser coil which in turn, heats the water in the tank. Warm water flows out to your taps and cold water fills up the tank again as the process continues.

Unlike a solar geyser, a heat pump does need electricity to work. The difference is that it requires substantially less electricity than your regular geyser. Remember, all it does is move heat from one area to another, it doesn’t generate heat. Think of this way, if a geyser uses three units of electrical energy to produce three units of heat energy, a heat pump converts one unit of electricity into four units of heat energy. Heat pumps are proof that greener living is possible without sacrificing convenience.

Now that you have some idea of how both solar geysers and heat pumps work, let’s move on to the specific advantages and disadvantages of each system.

The pros and cons of solar geysers

On paper, a solar geyser sounds like the ultimate solution to our need for affordable power for everyone. As a green living feature it would enable us to simultaneously provide more people with access to a reliable supply and reduce our consumption of polluting fossil fuels. Now, when it comes to your personal situation there are some things you should take into account.

Advantages:

  • Free hot water: With a solar geyser it costs you absolutely nothing to heat water for your daily use. The massive savings you’ll enjoy every month are reason enough to consider installing a solar water heater. And you’ll save more as the price of electricity rises. Residents of eco-friendly houses enjoy even greater cost savings with solar power.
  • Constant and reliable supply:You’ll never have to worry about load shedding or power cuts affecting your supply of hot water. When the grid goes down, you won’t be affected.
  • Renewable source of energy: The energy from the sun is an endless source of power that you can harness. Unlike coal and gas, there is no danger that the sun will stop producing energy we can use.
  • Non- polluting:Solar energy doesn’t produce any pollution. It’s the cleanest form of energy available. If you’re serious about green living, think how much a solar geyser would reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Low maintenance:Solar panels don’t have any moving parts so they’re unlikely to break or wear down even after years of use. They will easily last you 15 – 20 years.  With continuous use, only the pump and inverter may need some attention after 10 – 15 years.

Disadvantages:

  • Cost: Solar geysers are expensive. Aside from the cost of the technology you’ll have to factor in the cost of possibly altering your roof to accommodate the unit. It may not even be possible to retrofit an existing home with a solar geyser in which case you’ll have to consider buying a one of the purpose built eco-friendly houses if you want to pursue greener living.
  • Backup: Your solar water geyser may not be able to provide you with sufficient hot water during winter. In this case, you’ll have to ensure that you can still run your geyser on electricity when you need to.
  • Time:The less sunlight your area receives, the longer it will take for you to recoup the costs of installing a solar geyser.
  • Space: Your roof should be large enough to accommodate both the solar collector and the tank. If your roof is too small, you may not be able to fit a solar collector large enough to provide for your needs.

What to consider before opting for a solar geyser:

  • Do you have the space?Solar collectors should be placed facing north at an angle of 35° to collect enough sunlight to heat your water sufficiently.
  • When do you need hot water the most? A solar geyser will produce most of its hot water during the day between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • How much water do you need? A family of four will need more hot water per day than a retired couple. Work out your water consumption and figure out what size tank you’ll need to meet your requirements.
  • How much sunlight does your roof get?If you live in an area that experiences more overcast and rainy days than sunny ones, a solar geyser may not be a practical choice.
  • Will it detract from the appearance of your property? Solar geysers are sometimes considered unsightly. If you think that installing one would affect the look and style of your property you should consider alternative solutions.

The pros and cons of heat pumps

Heat pumps may not be as eco-friendly as solar geysers though they are energy efficient. They don’t need sunlight to work which means you’ll never go a day without hot water on tap. If you want to start living green and save money, a heat pump is ideal.

Advantages:

  • Tank size: You can choose a tank that holds the volume of water required by your household with no restrictions.
  • Wide temperature range:Heat pumps can work just as well on rainy and cloudy days, even at night. The operate efficiently in a temperature range from -10°c – 43°C regardless of the amount of sunshine available.
  • Easy installation: You can install a heat pump indoors or outdoors. Unlike solar water geysers with solar collectors, that are fixed to your roof. And modern units can be controlled remotely.
  • Long lifespan: A heat pump can work for 15 years or more provided you take proper care of it.
  • Low maintenance: Your heat pump won’t require much attention and there are many small things you can do yourself to ensure the unit runs smoothly and efficiently.

Disadvantages:

  • Cost: Heat pumps are not as expensive as solar geysers, though they aren’t cheap. You’ll need to work out how much hot water your household uses to determine the size of the tank you need. With the savings on your monthly electricity costs, you should be able to recoup your investment within a few years. It may take some time before you experience all the benefits of living green, it’s worth it though.
  • Professional installation: You need technical expertise and specialised tools to install a heat pump. Unless you have the skills, you’ll need to get a professional electrician, thus adding to the costs.

What to consider before opting for a heat pump:

  • What is your average air temperature?Heat pumps should not be installed where the average ambient air temperature is 5 degrees or below. Fortunately, this is rarely a problem in our mild climate. You may experience problems in winter when the temperature drops and the air cools down.
  • Do you have space?Heat pumps cannot be installed in confined spaces such as garages. You’ll have to install your heat pump outside or in an open area where it can get the air flow it needs to work.
  • Do you want to go off the grid?Heat pumps need electricity to work. Combining your heat pump with a photovoltaic system is ideal and are the first steps to go off the grid.
  • Can you put it close to your hot water tank?By installing your heat pump near your hot water tank, you can reduce the heat loss that occurs as water travels through the pipes to the tank. If you aren’t able to do this, merely insulate the pipes.

It is possible to embrace green living and save on your electricity costs. Heat pumps and solar geysers are a good alternative for eco-friendly homes.  You get to live a convenient lifestyle while reducing your costs and carbon footprint. Consider your needs before deciding on a solar geyser or a heat pump for your home.

Which features should we look for in a green smart home?

Which features should we look for in a green smart home?

A green smart home is one that combines both eco-friendly features and technologies with smart home technologies. The concept is still new to the South African market, and offers various benefits for savvy homebuyers. Not only is a green smart home energy efficient and cost-effective, the addition of a smart home technology system makes it easy to monitor and efficiently manage the green smart home feature’s resource consumption to maximise the monthly savings.

With only a few of these homes on the market, here are some cost-effective features making them sound investments.

Energy Efficiency

We would expect an eco-friendly home to be fitted with photovoltaic solar panels. Energy-efficiency is at the top of the list when shopping for a green home. It’s not essential for all of our power needs to be provided for by a photovoltaic solar system. Research concluded that a grid-tied system is the most practical solution. A grid-tied system provides the homeowner with a balance of energy-efficiency and energy-reliability.

Although the technology has come a long way, photovoltaic systems are still pricey. To install a fully off-the-grid system would require a hefty initial investment. That’s partly due to the fact that we would need to add either more photovoltaic panels or more batteries. Either of these require installation space. Batteries are used to store the power generated by the panels during the day to power the home at night. And also power the home when the sun is blocked out for extended periods. It’s these additional photovoltaic and specialised batteries that are pricey.

A grid-tied system is recommended. During the day, the photovoltaic solar panels provide free electricity. Once the sun sets, the system automatically switches over to the backup batteries. When the batteries reach the lower threshold, the system, again automatically switches over to the municipal supply. To make provision for when tiered electricity tariffs are introduced, the system design especially caters for using the home’s own energy during peak periods – approx. 05h00 to 08h00 and 17h30 to 19h30, so we enjoy an uninterrupted supply of power, for free, or at the lowest service provider tiered prices. Furthermore, another design feature is to feedback into the grid the excess self-generated power.

Combining a heat pump and the linked-loop hotwater system, enables you to have hot water throughout the home immediately on tap. Heat pumps are remarkably efficient. They require very little energy to heat up the water in the tank. Producing hot water is a large part of the electricity consumption. Using an alternative, such as a heat pump dramatically reduces energy consumption and thus the home’s monthly running costs.

Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling

Traditional homes rely on energy-hungry appliances to maintain the temperature inside the home at a comfortable level. In winter we drag out heaters and electric blankets while in summer we switch on air-conditioners to provide relief from the soaring temperatures. Or possibly use air-conditioners all year round. Installing a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system consists of a network of pipes which is used to take hot or cold water to maintain desired temperatures. [The heat pump also produces the cold water.]

We’re able to monitor and manage the system by setting a comfortable temperature, as and when required.. Each of the home’s zone’s temperature is individually adjustable to provide their required temperature and comfort. The system is energy-efficient and effective. In winter, it’s possible to walk barefoot on the warm tiles. This simply isn’t possible in a traditional home without resorting to expensive underfloor heating or air-conditioning that uses a significant amount of electricity.

Once again, this demonstrates luxurious green living, which focusses on comfort while using resource efficiently, thereby reducing monthly running costs. Eco-friendly homes are designed to use resources efficiently. Such homes are more expensive to purchase, though over the long-term, the benefit of momentous monthly savings on power make green smart homes sound investments. This is particularly attractive when considering that prices for these basic services will continue to rise.

Water saving

With South Africa currently experiencing its worst drought in 23 years, saving water ia a priority. Having access to fresh, clean water is a large part of what makes our modern lives comfortable. Take a moment to consider how many different ways we use water in our home every day; for drinking, cooking, bathing and cleaning.

Eco-friendly homes use a variety of methods to reduce water consumption. This includes the use of low-flow shower heads and taps to rainwater harvesting used to flush toilets, for the washing machine, and garden irrigation. These features improve comfort or convenience.

The rainwater harvesting tanks cab be installed underground so that it doesn’t take up valuable space. The tank is well-constructed and not prone to damage or leaking. The roof gutters and slab downpipes channel water to the tank. The design maximises the collection and storing of rainfall in the area. This is an example of how eco-friendly homes work with the environment.

The tank itself requires almost no maintenance as it is equipped with self-cleaning filters. The rainwater management system is connected to the municipal supply to ensure a constant supply of water. The rainwater management system switches over automatically, from rainwater to municipal water and vice versa..

It’s always a good idea to increase water savings by completing your home with a water-wise garden. A water-wise garden is one that uses indigenous plants that are accustomed to local weather conditions. These native plants are able to withstand dry periods and local insects as opposed to foreign plants. The garden has almost no lawn, instead it contains well designed walkways, reducing the amount of water needed to maintain the garden. Aforementioned makes for a garden that is easier to maintain and to care for.

Smart home technology

While the green features are effective on their own, the addition of a smart home technology system serves to enhance them. The Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system, the heat pump, the rainwater harvesting and the water pump can be connected to the software. This provides you with two important abilities:

  • The ability to monitor consumption

Information is a powerful tool and with smart technology we have instant access to the home’s data. The system constantly collects information about power consumption and the level in the water tank. These are available at a glance – how much electricity and water is being using. This is available for right now, and back over time, for the current day, weeks, months and years

Without a smart home technology system, it is impossible to gather this type of information manually. And it provides us with an accurate, up-to-minute picture of how much electricity and rainwater we’re using. With this information, we’re able to make important decisions.

For example, though the effects of adjusting the Hydronics temperature is completed within 24-72 hours, we’ll immediately see the effect that reducing or increasing the temperature inside the home has on the power consumption. This enables us to adjust the temperature with a half or full degree to balance the comfort with the power consumption, instead of waiting for 24 – 72 hours. Imagine how useful this is when working out how much energy and money it takes to run our home? Not only does it increase our monthly savings, it also makes our home energy-efficient.

  • The ability to manage our home remotely

The beauty of the smart home technology is that it comes with an app. With the ability  to monitor and manage your home from within the home and remotely. You are able to install and run the app from your smartphones, tablets, and computers.

In an age where we’re increasingly using our smart devices and laptops, it stands to reason this convenience is extended to our homes. And with further customisation, the green smart technology is able to provide other conveniences.

It is possible to extend the system to include some of the other features too which include security and convenience. It is flexible, powerful and focused on reducing the monthly running costs. Simply being able to monitor and manage adjusting various aspects of the home makes it easy for homeowners to efficiently manage their home. As aforementioned, like having the ability to balance electricity consumption comfort and cost.

It is best to seamlessly blend the best of both green technologies and smart home technology and work with the environment to create a space that is eco-friendly and luxurious.

The grid-tied solar panels with the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system and the underground rainwater harvesting tank maximises the use the available resources. And the smart home technology system adds an extra layer of monitoring, managing and customisation creating a home that is eco-friendly and ahead of its time.

Investing in a green smart home provides us with instant savings on our monthly running costs and additional savings in the future as costs rise. It’s a home that increases in value as more people realise the benefit of living in a green smart home.

Midrand Boreholes Podcast

Midrand Boreholes Podcast

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