The ability to heat up or cool down any area within the home is a special feature. This is achieved through Hydronics radiant heating and cooling, which is a water-based method of temperature control that uses almost no electricity. This is also an eco-friendly method.
The water in this system won’t cost much as it is circulated through the system over and over.
The home is divided into areas called ‘zones’. These zones have temperature control options which are adjusted, meaning that each zone has a different temperature if required. And as the hydronics system is installed below the surface of the floor, any temperature adjustments are felt within a short period of time.
Rooms are insulated, in order to maintain the set temperatures. Double-bricked walls and Lambdaboard in between the walls create doubly-effective insulation, and this means a further saving on electricity.
Using harvested rainwater can make a major dent in the water bill. And when using insulation features, electricity usage is reduced to a large extent.
Hot water insulation reduces geyser/heat-pump costs. And room insulation maintains the room temperature. A radiant heating and cooling system throughout the floor of the home makes temperature control cheap.
All these savings result in a reduction in living costs and eventually, a great return on investment. Within about ten years or less, the extra amount that we paid for the green home is retrieved with these savings. We also gain a profit when we sell such a home.
To add to this, green homes have a low impact on the environment, making them even more valuable.
Green home prices may be higher than that of other houses on the market – however, there is a great return on investment.
Our water bill is reduced by up to 60% when rainwater harvesting is implemented. (Rainwater is used for washing machines, gardens and toilet flushing.)
Insulation of the home reduces the electricity bill. Room insulation maintains room temperature and pipe insulation reduces the need to heat up water.
And using hydronics radiant heating and cooling makes temperature control inexpensive.
With all the above savings added up, there is a great reduction in monthly living costs, and this will give a return on investment. Within ten years or less, the extra that is paid for the home is recouped in this way.
A well-insulated home can lead to significant savings on monthly electricity costs. The types of insulation listed here could be used –
Wall insulation: ‘Lambdaboard’ is made from eco-friendly material and can be fitted between walls, so that less electricity will be needed to heat or cool the home.
Floor insulation: A thick concrete screed insulates the house from external elements.
Roof insulation: Most heat inside a home escapes through the ceiling and roof in winter. In summer, hot air comes in through the roof. This is why roof insulation is important.
Double-Glazing: Double-glazing is an excellent investment. It consists of a window or door made up of two layers of glass with a gap between the layers. The air trapped between the panes of glass acts as an insulation layer.
At the first sign of winter do you dust off your heaters and throw your electric blanket on the bed? Or maybe you stock up on gas and firewood to keep you warm through those dark, chilly nights? With a green home, you wouldn’t have to do any of these things.
And the reason for that lies in proper insulation. You may be surprised to hear that a well-insulated home not only reduces your electricity bill, but it takes all the hassle out of dealing with the change in seasons.
Yes, insulation does mean a significant reduction in your heating costs. But the real benefit is that it keeps your home at an even temperature throughout the year; cool in summer and warm in winter. Green homes combine a variety of insulation materials and techniques to keep your home at the perfect temperature all year round.
Not only are the materials and techniques they use environmentally friendly, but they’re also remarkably efficient and effective. Here’s a breakdown of how a home should be insulated against the elements.
Lambdaboard: Built in-between external and separating walls
Lambdaboard is a high-quality, environmentally friendly alternative which provides superior insulation for homes. Lamdaboard is a polyisocyanurate, which is another name for a thermoset plastic. Essentially, it is closed-cell, rigid foam board set between two facers. The facers are made of a various organic materials such as fibreglass or paper.
Lambdaboard is the ideal insulating material and provides several benefits to homeowners:
- The foam core resists moisture which reduces the risk of rising damp on walls.
- It is made from recycled materials and can also be recycled itself which makes it really environmentally friendly.
- It performs better than most other materials in fire tests. It will not melt, drip or spread the flame.
- It has a wide service temperature range from -30° to 140°.
- It has the highest thermal resistance (R-value) per 25mm of thickness which makes it the most thermally efficient insulation material available on the market.
By inserting this remarkable material in-between exterior and separating walls, the temperature of each individual room is contained and maintained. The result is that heating your home in winter is cheaper and easier.
The Lambdaboard helps to keep any heat generated within the room, which in turn makes you less dependent on other energy-hungry heat sources to keep warm in the colder months. And in summer, the board keeps the heat of the sun out, which makes interiors cool and comfortable.
Here again, you won’t have to rely on expensive and environmentally damaging air conditioners to keep the temperature down. It’s not hard to see how using this amazing material to insulate every room in a home would make it more comfortable to live in.
Hydronics radiant heating and cooling
Homes built using this method to help homeowners control and customise the temperature of their home to suit their individual preferences, makes it a versatile and economical way to heat or cool your home.
How does it work?
Hydronics radiant systems circulate water through tubing laid in the floor between the foundation slab and the surface of the floor. They are connected to a hot water tank and gets cold water directly from the heat pump system. The feeder pipes are well-insulated which helps to maintain a consistent temperature throughout a specific area.
The system is laid out over multiple zones in the home and you can adjust the temperature of each zone individually. That means each member of the family can adjust the temperature in their area to suit their preferences.
What are the benefits?
When compared to regular methods, using water to heat or cool your home has several benefits:
- The floor surface of the area is heated or cooled, rather than the air within it. This eliminates hot or cold spots and makes it more comfortable for the people living in the house.
- There is no need for messy ductwork or noisy fans which means a cleaner and quieter home.
- Dust particles aren’t circulated through the air so there’s less risk for those who suffer from allergies.
- It’s easier to control the temperature of the building and set the temperature to suit your comfort level.
The system is compatible with any type of flooring so you don’t need to avoid using tiles throughout your home for fear that it will be cold in winter. With a hydronics radiant heating and cooling system, you’ll be able to walk barefoot across your floors no matter what time of the year it is.
Combined with the use of Lambaboard in the walls, it’s easy to see why these homes are both more energy efficient and comfortable to live in. Being able to control the temperature within your home, and maintain it without relying on expensive electricity makes a green home particularly attractive to anyone looking to buy a new home.
Any costs involved in such a system will be quickly offset by the reduction in running costs, especially as the price of electricity continues to rise. But beyond this, the knowledge that these methods are also kinder to the environment provides a benefit that cannot be measured in economic terms.
Going green doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your comfort. In fact, a green home is easier to live in and maintain, despite the perception that reducing your reliance on electricity means missing out on the convenience of modern living.
Adding a layer of insulation to floors of every home, ensures that the hydronics radiant heating and cooling system is even more effective.
On its own, an extra thick screed will provide your home with insulation. It is also a good idea to insulate the pipes carrying water.
And not only in the bedrooms and living areas – the kitchen, bathrooms and domestic quarters should be fitted with these pipes and an extra thick screed. So no matter where you spend your time, the temperature of the area will always be just what you want it to be.
Innovative ceiling insulation
One popular method of insulation consists of laying a thick roll of fibre-glass or asbestos material in the roof of your home to trap the heat inside. Although it may be effective, it certainly isn’t environmentally friendly. And it makes it awkward to access your roof space should you need to install new lighting or lay any kind of wiring. But there is a far more efficient and sustainable way to insulate your ceiling.
So what should you use in place of this? If you’re concerned about safety, you’ll be delighted to know that there is an entirely green technology to insulate the roof of your home. Called Isotherm, this insulating material is completely made up of recycled plastic bottles. Not only is this material environmentally friendly, it can also be recycled. You can’t get greener than that.
And it still has some other benefits that all homeowners will appreciate:
- Dust and water resistant
- Non-toxic with no associated health risks
- Lasts longer than most other insulating materials
Choose a ceiling insulation product that is effective and gentle on the environment. Once again, you don’t have to sacrifice modern comforts for the sake of greener living. And you’ll be reaping the benefits of reduced electricity consumption and the costs associated with it for years to come.
The double benefit of insulated plumbing
Don’t let any opportunity go to waste when it comes to insulating your home. Even the water pipes should be insulated. First, cover with an insulation material which is wrapped with insulating tape. And then, benefit from the insulation in walls, floor and ceiling.
You might think this is too much, but this only adds to the savings you’ll enjoy. Obviously all this insulation means that your hot water won’t cool down in winter or your cold water heat up in summer. Via a linked-loop system hot water is available a few moments after you turn on the tap.
So you won’t need to run your taps until the water reaches the desired temperature. This means you’re saving water too. And considering what a precious resource this is, it makes perfect sense to insulate your plumbing as much as possible.
Double glazing on windows and glass doors
You may think that this would be unnecessary considering how many other insulating methods are used to make green homes comfortable and energy efficient. But every technique available must be used to maximise the efficiency of green homes.
Double glazing refers to a window that consists of two panes of glass, an outer pane and an inner pane. Because the window is completely sealed, the air between them acts as a layer of insulation. This stops the warm air inside the home from escaping during chilly winters. And in summer it has the reverse effect; preventing unwanted heat from entering your space.
Once again, this reduces your need to keep heaters or air conditioners running constantly to maintain the temperature of your home. And there are some other benefits to double glazed windows that you may not be aware of:
- It reduces condensation which is the primary cause of mould in the home.
- It cuts down on medium to high-frequency noise, which makes for a quieter space.
- It’s harder to break through two panes of glass so double glazed windows and doors also act as a security measure.
Once again, a feature like this does tend to add to the cost of a home. But it’s easy to see how the benefits outweigh the initial costs.
It’s easy to see how much your energy costs will be slashed by taking advantage of these materials and techniques. Great care should be taken to ensure that every green home build conforms to the strictest safety standards. The materials and techniques used should not only be environmentally friendly, but also durable, effective and cost efficient.
A well-insulated home makes financial sense. Although it may affect the cost of your initial layout, your living costs will be significantly lower. And in less than 10 years the savings you’ll enjoy will more than make up for extra expense of buying a green home. With low maintenance costs, you’ll continue to enjoy modern comforts while also making a positive impact on the environment.
There’s more to green living than simply reducing your impact on the planet. You can actually save money by doing simple things that make a big difference. And where better to make a difference than in your own home?
Reducing your carbon footprint is all about having as little impact on the earth as possible. We all know that climate change is affected by some of the ways we live our daily lives. A large factory may be emitting harmful gasses into the atmosphere. A private person may own an automobile that’s way too large for what he or she needs.
All of these lifestyle choices have an impact on the environment. Reducing your carbon footprint is about making the right decisions in your everyday way of life.
In this article we will discuss small ways you can reduce your carbon footprint in the simple way you live your life at home. And best of all, these methods won’t cost you any extra to implement. It’s a great harmony of living well, living cheaply, and living responsibly towards the planet.
Insulate your home from draughts and air leaks
Insulation in-between external and separating walls helps to maintain the temperature inside the house. This reduces the cost of heating your home in winter and cooling it in summer. If you’re buying a new home, look for one that is expertly insulated.
But insulation goes a lot further than your walls. In summer, a lot of hot air comes into your home when the sun bakes your roof. Ceiling insulation is a must in these cases. A home that has ceiling insulation can be easily identified when the weather outside is uncomfortably hot or cold. You walk in and can immediately feel the difference.
Insulation is all about trapping air inside and preventing external air from coming in. A great way to do this is by insulating your windows and glass doors. Believe it or not, air does travel through glass. But preventing this from happening is easier than you think. Double glazed glass panes can be fitted to your window frames. This special glass can also be used in your glass doors.
So how does double glazing work? Simple. It’s two panes of glass with a cavity of air in between them. This air traps the hot or cold air and keeps your home at a consistent temperature—regardless of the climate outside.
Now if a home is TRULY green, it goes even further to ensure insulation. Floor insulation makes a big difference to ensure your comfort. Not only can air escape through your floor, but under floor heating and/or cooling is best maintained with a floor that contains some form of insulation.
So if you’re searching for a green home, ask your agent about these types of insulation. Having some is great, but having all of them is even better! The more insulation your home has, the more power you end up saving in the long run. And of course the environment will love you for it.
Replace incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs or LEDs
Compact Fluorescent Light and Light Emitting Diode bulbs are more energy efficient and last longer than regular incandescent bulbs. You won’t have to replace them as often, so you save in the long run. Even turning off the light when you’re not in the room will help to reduce your carbon footprint.
There’s been a lot of publicity about these light bulbs. Truth be told, not enough can be said about how great they are. Not only do they shine brighter, but electricity usage is minimal. These light bulbs are a bit more expensive, but they will last longer than regular bulbs and save you loads on your utility bill.
Use a low-flow showerhead
How can a low-flow showerhead help save the environment? Simply put, water is the earth’s most precious resource. So if you can save it, you’re doing a lot. You’ll still enjoy getting clean, but you’ll use a lot less water. And don’t forget to turn off the tap when you’re brushing your teeth. It’s a little thing that can make a big difference to your water bill.
You like shower pressure? No problem! Many of the low-flow showerheads on the market today can be adjusted in such a way that water pressure is focused and strong. This is done despite the fact that little water gets utilised.
When you think of the slightly higher cost for a showerhead like this, you will quickly see what a good return on investment this is for your pocket and the environment. You save a lot of water in the long run. The longer you have it, the more you get out by saving water. So be sure to include this in your home’s carbon footprint reduction strategy.
Replace old appliances with energy efficient ones
If you need to get a new fridge, freezer, dishwasher or microwave, check the energy star rating before you check the price tag. At the end of the day, an energy efficient appliance will save you more money.
Most people don’t even know that appliances have energy star ratings on the packaging. In short, the more stars such a rating has, the less electricity it uses. This is becoming an important factor to many shoppers all over the world. And yes, South Africans are starting to shop according to energy star ratings too.
The energy star ratings put a lot of responsibility on the manufacturers of these appliances. It adds an extra competitive element to products too. As more and more shoppers begin to recognise the energy star rating system, more and more manufacturers will start to produce appliances that run on less energy.
At the end of the day, the main reason for energy efficient appliances is not predominantly for money saving or better competitiveness. The main reason is to help the environment. You as a consumer and the manufacturing companies are both taking part in an important responsibility—reducing your carbon footprint on the planet.
A water-wise garden strategy
There are many small ways you can save energy and money around the home. But don’t forget your garden. Even if watering your garden doesn’t use energy, harvesting rainwater in tanks will also help you save money by saving you on your water bill.
As mentioned above, water is our most precious resource. It’s important to save as much of it as we can. Rainwater harvesting is an effective way of doing this. When certain parts of your home utilise rainwater instead of municipal water, your carbon footprint is reduced. That’s because using less water in general is beneficial to everyone around the globe.
Now there are various ways you can use rainwater in your home. But you will find that most of your water goes to maintaining your garden. South Africans are avid gardeners. And hey; there’s nothing wrong with that. However there are some simple ways to run your garden in a way that very little water is used.
The first is by planning indigenous plants, shrubs and trees. Plants that are accustomed to the South African climate need much less water than non-native plants. Another way is to fill your garden with lots of pebbles, pots, statues, birdbaths, rocks and pavers. These will negate the need for lots of watering and they will lend your garden an aesthetic quality that will never grow old.
But your biggest water saving method will be to not use municipal water to irrigate your garden in the first place. Now you may be saying that all water is originally rainwater anyway; so besides your water bill, what’s the difference? Well, remember that a lot of rainwater gets lost after it falls over your home. It sinks into the ground, washes down the street or gets soaked up by the sun.
Rainwater harvesting collects as much of this water as possible, and keeps it for when you need it! This puts you in control of when you use a resource that you obtained for free. It prevents waste and ensures a clean alternative to treated water from your municipality.
Can you buy a house like this?
You may be interested to know that many houses already have these strategies in place. But even more importantly, green home developers are building green homes that have ALL of these factors in place. Imagine living almost completely green!
People who live in these homes reduce their impact on the environment. It’s awesome to watch parents raise their children in this kind of lifestyle. Fortunately for us all, more and more South Africans will begin switching to a greener lifestyle—some quicker than others.
It takes no more than a little imagination and effort to make any home a green one. By doing so you are securing a future for future generations. You are also limiting the impact you and your family currently have on the environment. The wonderful truth about living green is that it all works out for the benefit of everyone. Yes, the planet will be smiling, but so will you. You’ll be healthier, happier, and financially better off for implementing these strategies.
Today, many developers use the term ‘green’ to describe their buildings. But what are the elements that really make a house environmentally friendly? Does it only refer to using solar power for heating your water? Or harvesting rainwater in a cleverly hidden tank? Seeing as the term gets thrown around so often, we decided to give you a better understanding of what makes a home green.
If you’re serious about green living, there are six general aspects you should consider when building or buying a home. Each of these aspects possesses other smaller elements that are optional. In the end, you will need to decide which ones you can afford, and which ones you don’t really need. Here are the six we have highlighted—with a brief description of each.
Photo-voltaic solar panels are the obvious answer to reducing your reliance on the grid. But you should consider your needs carefully. How much energy would you need, to generate power for all of your appliances? Be realistic and look at ways to reduce the amount of energy you require. Ask yourself whether it’s worth investing in energy efficient appliances. Finally, work with a developer that understands how to utilise orientation, shading devices and insulation to lower your requirements.
- How much energy will you need?
Measuring the amount of energy you need is step one. Step two is working out how much renewable energy you need to generate in order to maintain your household. It’s simple math and the answers are out there. Remember to do these sums thoroughly before you add this feature to your home—or purchase a home that has it already implemented.
- Should you also buy energy efficient appliances?
Appliances that are designed to use less power can be extremely helpful too. However, this is not an option for everybody. If you have to balance your comfort and convenience, then these appliances are not going to make your life better. Living cheaply, doesn’t mean you have to live less comfortably. Rather generate lots of free, renewable power than having to lower your lifestyle.
- Should you work with a green home developer?
Green home developers have already worked with green vendors. They’ve had their bad experiences with the dubious ones and finally found teams of individuals who deliver what they promise. That’s why it can be beneficial to work with these developers for advice. If you are looking for someone to help you get it right the first time, speak to someone who’s already made all the mistakes and come out on top.
After energy, a sustainable water supply is essential for any green home. Every effort must be made to make the collection of rainwater as efficient as possible. This requires expertise in the placement of pipes and catchments. Once again, developers need to have local knowledge of the rainfall patterns in your area to ensure maximum collection.
The most efficient rainwater harvesting methods are the cheapest. Finding a way to collect as much water as possible is the trick to maximising your efficiency and your savings. Remember, the more water you collect, the more you will benefit from your return on investment.
Once again, it’s important to use a proper expert to do this implementation in your home. Working with a green home developer who knows a good vendor, or finding a vendor with an excellent reputation is the key to getting the best system.
There are many important aspects to this green feature:
- Positioning of the catchments
- Installation of the pipes
- Choosing the right collection point
- Having high quality equipment all round
Only true experts will give full attention to detail with ALL of these aspects. So be sure to speak to the right people about installing your rainwater harvesting system.
A home that is truly green is one that takes every part of the building process into consideration. And that includes the materials that are used in its construction. Bamboo is an example of a sustainable alternative to wood. It has a much lower impact on the environment but is just as durable. It can be used for flooring, counter tops and in the construction of shaft covers.
Having a truly green home means using materials that have little impact on the environment. We’ll use bamboo as an example here. There are three questions to ask when choosing material:
- Does harvesting this material take a lot of energy?
In the case of bamboo, harvesting has a significantly lower impact on the environment than other methods. These include cutting down large trees, mining, farming, etc.
- Will the removal of this resource from nature negatively affect the planet?
Unlike trees, bamboo does not play that much of an important role in dissipating greenhouse gasses. Bamboo isn’t a huge oxygen producer either, so removing it has a very low impact on our planet.
- Does this resource grow or generate fast enough to sustain its demand?
Bamboo grows incredibly fast! If and when the demand for bamboo increases, growing more will be quick and simple. This makes it incredibly sustainable as a building material.
Insulating the rooms
Being green is not only about harvesting natural resources for living. It’s also about maintaining what you have without needing to continually generate more. This is especially true in the case of heating and cooling your home. That’s where insulation comes in.
There are many ways you can insulate a room. For now, let’s just look at five:
By insulating your home’s ceiling, you ensure that warm air cannot escape. Even though your ceiling is solid, air escapes through it much easier than you realise. This is an especially useful feature during winter. Warming up a room takes time, and that heat will not leave the room so easily.
Floor insulation is another way to keep the temperature in your home constant. But more importantly, floor insulation ensures that your under-floor heating or cooling system (hydronics radiant heating and cooling system) retains its effectiveness.
Probably the most effective way to retain a home’s desired temperature is through wall insulation. This is often done by using products such as Lambdaboard within a cavity in each exterior wall.
- Window & glass door insulation
So much air escapes through closed doors and windows. In the case of windows and glass doors, even sealing the sides will not prevent air from escaping through the glass itself! Double glazing offers the solution here. By trapping the air within a small cavity in the window pane, your rooms will retain the temperature you set for them.
A homeowner who has truly adopted a green lifestyle will always insist on pipe insulation. This has a number of benefits:
- Less electricity is needed to reheat water that would otherwise have cooled down faster
- Water within pipes retains its heat so that water is ultimately saved by not having to run the tap for long
- Pipe insulation also prevents your cold water pipes from reaching room temperature too quickly. This again saves you on having to run the tap longer when the water is required.
Consider your garden
Gardens take up a lot of time and effort to maintain. Even if you exclude the watering of a garden, there’s still the pruning, treating and mowing that goes into that maintenance. All of these things have an impact on the environment. So what’s the secret to owning a garden that’s as green as your home?
One of the biggest suggestions we put forth to our clients is the importance of planning indigenous trees and plants in a garden. Why do we see this as a green aspect? Because:
- Indigenous plants need very little maintenance
- They attract natural wildlife and birds to your garden
- These plants require very little watering
- They grow well together
- They stay green all year round—that means less replacement gardening for you
Learning about invasive plant species in South Africa is also something you can do to be a more responsible homeowner. There is tons of information on the Internet about this subject. Fortunately for the South African environment, this topic is getting a lot of attention at the moment.
As you can see, gardening is a major part of living green. If your garden isn’t green, time to get a revamp. Green, environmentally friendly gardens are an essential part to reducing your carbon footprint.
Thinking about the little things
Another truly green aspect of any home is how easy it is to maintain the little things. We’re talking about cleaning, repairing, treating, painting, polishing… all those things that require time, energy, and chemicals.
Living green means thinking ahead about small aspects of maintenance. Today there are countless options available to homeowners and developers. Let’s take a brief look at some of them:
- Low maintenance roof tiles
You can now purchase uncoloured roof tiles. This means that you will never have to paint them. It also means that they will never fade from the sun or rainfall. There are no side effects either. These tiles are durable, aesthetically pleasing and cost effective.
Something else to consider is that stainless steel is a great option for certain metal fittings within your home. Stainless steel is easy to clean. It’s also rust resistant and doesn’t require chemical treatment to maintain it.
Maintaining a large area of lawn can be very expensive. It also takes up loads of energy and machine power to do so. If you want to truly live as green as possible, why not consider replacing lawn space with garden decor? This can include pretty rocks & pebbles, pavers, stepping stones, ground cover plants, gravel areas.
Retrofitting existing homes with these features can be challenging. But green homes are becoming more popular in South Africa. Purchasing a brand new green home is already an option that is available to those who appreciate the benefits of green living.
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.
It’s one of the benefits of eco-friendly houses that few people are aware of. And while getting a good night’s sleep may not be the most obvious reason you should invest in a green home, it does have its advantages. When you’re well rested you perform better and that leads to an overall improvement in your quality of life.
But how do eco-friendly homes promote better sleep? The two important factors that influence sleep are noise pollution and air pollution. Green living promotes cleaner air and a quieter environment. Let’s look at how this can be achieved.
Insulation plays an important role in maintaining a comfortable temperature without consuming electricity. Such as:
Double-glazed windows are made up of two pieces of glass with a gap between them. The windows are tightly fitted to the frame to eliminate the possibility of air leaks. Not only does this prevent cold outside air from sneaking in through gaps, it also stops warm inside air from leaking out. It makes it much easier to control the temperature of the room which in turn keeps your room at a comfortable temperature for sleeping.
But the double-glazed windows also dampen the sound and keep the room quiet and peaceful. You’ll be able to drift off to sleep without flinching at every sound you hear.
This is another green living feature that has a dual purpose. First and foremost, it is best to use an eco-friendly insulating material called Lambdaboard. This material is completely recyclable which makes it ideal for use in eco-friendly houses. Lambdaboard is also highly resistant to chemicals used in adhesives during the building process. This makes it sturdy and durable and unlikely to sustain any damage.
Wall insulation not only helps eco-friendly houses to retain warmth in winter, it also provides sound insulation. Blocking out the noise of traffic and making your home a haven of peace and quiet.
It’s not uncommon for traditional houses to have some form of insulation in the roof. But this is often composed of harmful asbestos fibres which can be a health hazard. Once again, it is always best to employ an eco-friendly alternative.
Isotherm is a material made from recycled bottles, which means it’s sustainable and reduces your home’s carbon footprint. But it’s the addition of another insulating material that serves to protect your home from all forms of noise.
If you’ve never experienced a home that’s so well insulated it can be difficult to imagine how this could make a difference to your sleep. But light sleepers will appreciate the reduction in noise levels as a result of the thorough insulation offered by a greener living.
At the same time, all this insulation allows the kind of temperature control that ordinary home owners can only dream of. Eco-friendly homes remain warm in winter and cool in summer without needing to depend on heaters and air conditioners. If you do need to warm up or cool down a room this is achieved with the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system. A system of pipes laid under the floor that enables pumping hot or cold water to areas in the home where needed. The system is operated with little electricity and the temperature of each room can be adjusted independently.
It’s worth noting that the floors should also be insulated. The main reason for this is to make the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system as effective as possible. Once again it adds to the low levels of noise pollution experienced in a green home.
It’s this even temperature that also contributes to getting a good night’s sleep. You won’t have to worry about electric blankets and heaters in the winter or running a noisy air conditioner all night in the summer. You can walk barefoot on your tiled floors all year round without any discomfort. And when you wake up refreshed in the morning you’ll have the energy you need to get through the day with ease.
Pure, clean air
Greener living implies that every element of a home, from the foundation to the roof tiles, is chosen with care. Eco-friendly houses aren’t just good for the environment, they’re better for the people who live in them. Green living extends to the way you decorate and clean your home.
You may not be aware of this, but furnishings such as carpets and wooden furniture are manufactured and preserved using harmful chemicals. That new-carpet smell is merely a sign that your carpets are leaking dangerous VOCs into the air you breathe. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) include highly toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and benzene. Breathing in these chemicals can result in headaches, nausea and nerve problems.
Over time, these chemicals accumulate in your home, and older carpets are likely to leach even more of these toxic products into your air. On the other hand, eco-friendly houses and buildings use organic materials that aren’t treated with these poisonous products. Bamboo is an ideal material as it’s sustainable, non-toxic and durable. It adds to the clean and contemporary style of the home. Living green doesn’t have to mean unattractive! Bamboo is an excellent alternative to traditional carpeting. And if you would like to add carpets to your home, look for natural materials such as wool.
Paint and wood varnish are also prime sources of VOCs. There are eco-friendly alternatives available. If you’re re-decorating, do some research before you buy a product and make sure it doesn’t contain toxic chemicals that could damage the health of your family. Or consider natural alternatives that don’t require chemicals in the manufacturing process. Sometimes these aren’t readily available or practical, but minimising your exposure to toxic chemicals will help you save in the long run. A healthy home means fewer visits to the doctor.
Chemicals in the home
If living green is important to you, you’ll want to take a closer look at the products you use to keep your home clean. There are many non-toxic cleaners you can use to keep your home fresh and clean. And the good news is that they’re often much cheaper. Baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice can clean just as well as your regular brands, just without the dangerous side-effects. Get creative and make up your own cleaning solutions. Greener living can be a lot of fun and easier on your pocket!
Here are some other things you can do to make sure the air in your home is free of toxins:
- Vacuum your floors regularly with a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner. These filters trap even the smallest particles and keep them from circulating in the air you breathe.
- Add a few plants to your home. Plants are good at filtering the air keeping it clean and pure. Do some research to find out which plants are particularly suited to this task.
- Open your windows. For just a few minutes every day, you should open the windows in your home to allow the air to circulate. Stale air will be forced out and replaced with fresh, clean air.
- Take your shoes off at the door. Avoid dragging in dirt and toxic particles by removing your shoes as soon as you enter your home.
- Avoid storing paint and adhesives in your home or garage. Rather, keep these in an area with good ventilation to avoid the build-up of toxic airborne particles.
When you think of a green home you may only focus on the features that help you to save resources and money. Additionally, true green living requires you to go beyond that and examine every element in your home. Your furnishings can contribute to a negative impact on the environment in ways you may not be aware of. By understanding how items are produced you’ll realise just how many dangerous chemicals are involved.
Reducing these toxins in your home is not just kinder to the environment; it also makes your home a safer and healthier space. Whether you have a young family or about to retire, ensuring the air quality of your home is essential for a healthy and happy life.
The importance of good ventilation
There’s another reason why eco-friendly houses result in a better air quality—they’re properly ventilated. Ironically, it’s the insulation that has a big role to play in a properly ventilated home. By preventing air from flowing in and out of your home through gaps in windows and under doors, the air inside is less likely to become polluted from outside sources.
But, when it comes to bathrooms and kitchens, good ventilation can prevent mould and mildew from accumulating. Mould spores are always circulating in the air, but when they find an area with the right combination of damp and warmth, they multiply. That’s why bathrooms and kitchens are most at risk. You may not be aware of a mould problem until it gets too big to ignore. By then, the damage is already done and removing it can be costly.
In eco-friendly homes, good ventilation stops this from becoming a problem. And allergies are less likely to occur when green living principles are applied. Ensuring the purity of the air inside your home is an advantage of green living that few people appreciate. And it makes a real difference to your quality of life.
Studies have concluded that ‘sick-building syndrome’ does exist. It’s the reason behind poor productivity and an increase in opportunistic infections in the people who live and work in them every day. Eco-friendly houses and buildings promote better health, and it’s been proven. If that’s not enough to convince you to start living green, consider the effects a toxic home has on your quality of sleep.
Clean air and little noise are the best ways to get the rest your body needs. Eco-friendly homes provide these features for homeowners and the benefits are immediate. Families who live in a green home are healthier, happier and more productive. That all starts with a good night’s sleep and the best way to get that is to make sure your environment is clean and quiet.
Another benefit of greener living is the peace of mind it provides for eco-conscious homeowners. When you know that your home and way of life are not impacting the environment to its detriment, you can sleep easy at night.
What image do the words ‘green home’ conjure up for you? Do you see a home with solar panels on the roof and large rainwater harvesting tank in the garden? Or perhaps you think of a home filled with natural materials and energy-saving technology? Both of these answers would be correct—but there’s something you’re missing.
It’s not known benefits that gets top billing when you hear about green homes. The focus is usually put on how much money you can save on heating and running your home. After that it’s the fact the homes built using eco-friendly materials are kinder to the environment. Yes, not only do green homes save you money and use natural resources more efficiently, they’re also much healthier for the people who live in them. Let’s examine how that works.
It’s all about the indoor air quality
Just think about how much time you spend indoors. Whether it’s at home, at school, in the office or in your car, you probably spend about 90% of your day inside. You may not live in an area with a significant pollution problem, there’s no guarantee that the air you breathe is clean.
Some of the more common indoor air pollutants include:
- Pet dander (the minute scales from hair, feathers and skin)
- Dust mites and insects
- Bacteria and viruses
All of these contribute to poor indoor air quality and may affect the health of the people living in the home. The result of breathing this polluted air is an increase in infectious illnesses and allergies. It may also be the cause of respiratory illnesses or exacerbate existing conditions such as asthma.
Unfortunately, these biological organisms are impossible to avoid. They are constantly circulating through the air and practically invisible to the naked eye. So what are the features of a green home that result in a better indoor air quality?
Green homes are correctly insulated
While you may imagine that installing air filters is the only way to clean the air inside your home, this isn’t really a good idea. Filters will trap some of the pollutants, but they need to be cleaned regularly. If they aren’t, the problem can get worse.
A better idea is to make sure your home is properly insulated. Traditional homes, particularly in our moderate climate, don’t bother with insulation. After all it’s normal to have windows open to allow the fresh, cool air in during the summer months. But when the winter comes, dust and other pollutants sneak in through the gaps in windows and under doors. It also makes our homes chilly and this can weaken the immune system which increases your chances of catching the latest cold or flu virus doing the rounds.
Green homes, on the other hand, are very well insulated. Including ceiling, floor and wall insulation. Not only does this help keep the temperature even all year round, it also improves the indoor air quality.
Green homes use radiant heating and cooling
Aside from causing your electricity bill to increase during winter, using a blow heater can also decrease the quality of your air. Heaters tend to gather dust during the summer when they’re not in use. So when you first switch them on they release more pollutants into the air. And they continue to blow the pollutants around as you use them during the winter.
Green homes are heated differently. They make use of radiant heat to provide a comfortable indoor temperature during the winter months. For example Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling systems. It’s simply a network of pipes laid over the insulated floor of the home. Warm or cold water is pumped through the pipes to maintain the temperature according to your preference.
Not only does this system use very little electricity and water, it’s also extremely effective at keeping your home at a comfortable temperature all year round. And because it doesn’t produce the same kind of humidity as conventional heating systems do, it minimises the growth of mould and fungi. These organisms require damp and humid conditions to thrive, which radiant heating simply doesn’t create.
Green homes are virtually free of toxins
Although you may not even notice the toxins in traditional homes—they are there. These are referred to as VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds. Essentially they are carbon-based chemicals that evaporate at room temperature. Most of them have no odour, so you’re not aware that you’re breathing them in. However, inhaling even low levels of these chemicals can increase your risk of developing some serious health problems. They include substances such as: acetone, benzene, formaldehyde and xylene.
The source of these chemicals are found in the building materials used to construct traditional homes, for example:
- Carpets and adhesives
- Vinyl floors
- Air fresheners
- Cleaning materials
They are virtually everywhere and very difficult to avoid. Unless your home is well ventilated you’re likely to have a higher concentration of these toxins indoors. And considering that’s where you spend most of your time, it’s something that needs to be taken seriously.
It’s also why green buildings use more natural building materials and finishes. These toxins are just as harmful to the environment and a home cannot be considered green if it doesn’t cause minimal impact to the environment. Think of the smell you notice when a new carpet has been laid—that’s actually formaldehyde you smell, and it’s not a good thing.
What would be better and safer for your home is bamboo flooring. Not only is it durable and sustainable, it’s virtually VOC free. It creates a contemporary look in the home and can also be used for countertops and furniture. Paints and varnishes low in VOCs are also used to ensure the air quality within a green home remains as pure as possible.
Something that you can start doing now to reduce the VOCs in your home is to take a closer look at the materials you use to keep your home clean. Many disinfectants also contain these chemicals but there are natural alternatives available. Simple, natural substances such as baking soda, white vinegar and even corn starch can be just as effective at keeping your home clean as your regular products. And you’ll end up saving some money on your monthly cleaning bill too.
Green homes are well ventilated
You may think that maintaining a good indoor air quality means keeping your windows and door shut, but the opposite is true. While green homes are well insulated, and this helps to keep out dust and other pollutants, it’s just as important to make sure that fresh air circulates through your home.
A green home is one that recognises that and includes features that allow for the proper movement of air through its spaces. This actually helps to remove stale, polluted air out of the home and replaces it with cleaner, fresher air from outside. Pollutants will only build up if they have nowhere to go. This is particularly true in bathrooms where the added moisture and warmth provide the ideal breeding ground for organisms such as mould and mildew.
But just opening your windows may not be enough. That’s why green home include some form of mechanical ventilation. A balanced ventilation system that uses an exhaust fan to pull stale air from the house while a supply fan furnishes the fresh air required is the best way to ventilate a well-insulated home.
The benefits of good indoor air quality
So aside from eliminating potentially harmful pollutants from the air inside your home, what other benefits can you expect from a green home?
This may surprise you but because your breathing becomes deeper and steadier as you sleep, good air quality becomes essential for a proper nights rest. Respiratory irritations can make breathing as you sleep difficult and may contribute to conditions such as sleep apnea.
Clean indoor air means you’ll sleep soundly at night and wake up refreshed.
A Fresher smelling home
A well-ventilated home just smells better. Odours are quickly removed and don’t settle into soft furnishings and fabrics. Mould and mildew don’t get a chance to multiply and spread so there’s no damp, musty smell to worry about. And when your home smells clean and fresh you immediately feel better.
With a home that’s correctly ventilated and heated you’ll achieve balanced humidity. That means it’s not so humid that biological organisms have a chance to grow, but not so cold and dry that your sinuses suffer. Breathing becomes easier and your home feels comfortable.
Reduced energy costs
Insulation and Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling helps your home maintain an even temperature throughout the year. Without having to rely on energy hungry heaters and air-conditioners, you’ll save money on your monthly running costs.
Ultimately, green homes provide a superior indoor air quality that contributes to the health of the people who live in the home. When you stop breathing in dangerous pathogens and chemicals, the stress on your immune system is reduced. There’s less risk of you or your family developing serious respiratory problems such as asthma. And as a result you’ll spend less money on doctor’s bills too.
While it may not be the number one reason for choosing a green home, it could be one of the most important. Unfortunately green homes are often thought to be expensive and beyond the reach of ordinary people. But good health is priceless, and you should also take into consideration how much a green home saves you in running costs and maintenance.
You may have heard of ‘sick building syndrome’. The term was coined in the 1970s and referred to the symptoms people exhibited after spending time in a particular building. These could range from specific symptoms such as rashes and nasal allergies to vague symptoms such as fatigue and aches and pains.
What was most revealing was the fact that these symptoms would disappear when people spend time away from the building or with the seasons. It was initially thought that electronic equipment was responsible for this problem. Today we know that a range of pollutants and toxins are the cause of these symptoms.
However, it has taken us some time to realise that sick building syndrome is not limited to the workplace. Your home is just as likely to make you ill if it’s not correctly insulated, ventilated or furnished. If your health and the health of your family is important to you, you’ll want to seriously consider buying a green home.