Environmentally friendly homes are not the norm in South Africa. Homeowners are however slowly realising that green homes are sound investments. They have significant advantages over traditional homes that will become important as the years go by. If you’re unaware or unconvinced that investing in eco-friendly homes is a wise move, here are some reasons why greener living is a smart move.
Eco-friendly homes have a longer lifespan
Would it surprise you to learn that green homes age better than traditional homes? That’s because eco-friendly building materials are tougher. For example, steel beams equip a home with a solid frame that is much stronger than wood. As a result, green homes can withstand high winds without damage. And steel beams aren’t at risk from rot or termites.
Even natural, sustainable construction materials are treated so that they last as long. In order to minimise waste, green living demands that every element of a home is used to maximum effect.
Green homes are healthier
Paints, adhesives, upholstery, carpets and other materials all emit Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs) into your home environment. You may not be aware of it, that breathing in these dangerous chemicals can affect your health. They are responsible for a variety of conditions that range from mild to serious. One thing is certain; being exposed to these VOCs for long periods of time result in being more susceptible to illness.
On the other hand, green living focuses on using products that are non-toxic and not harmful to the environment or people. Low VOC paints, varnishes and adhesives are available and used in the construction of eco-friendly houses. Wooden flooring is an alternative to carpets. Even tiles made from recycled materials are available to ensure that green living principles are followed throughout the construction of a home.
The result is that green homes have a better air quality. And good air quality reduces risk of illness and allergies. It’s difficult to imagine that a home could be a source of becoming sick, though those living in eco-friendly homes know that being environmentally conscious makes a difference to their health.
Eco-friendly houses are more valuable
Should the time ever come to sell, green homes command more money. As the trend towards greener living gains popularity, buyers will be on the look-out for eco-friendly homes. Features such as photovoltaic solar panels, comprehensive insulation and a rainwater harvesting system make such homes attractive to eco-conscious buyers.
It’s these features that make green homes comfortable. Green living is about modern conveniences, about luxury living. Photovoltaic solar power and rainwater harvesting means efficient access and use of two important resources. Why be solely dependent on the grid for electricity when it’s easy to generate electricity. And the same with water, why be solely dependent on municipal water, when it’s easy to harvest rainwater.
When compared to traditional homes, taking the benefits of the aforementioned translated into monthly savings, and that green homes are fully temperature controlled throughout the year, and that the temperature of each zone is individually adjustable, it stands to reason that eco-friendly homes are valuable assets.
Green homes are cheaper to run
One of the noteworthy points of eco-friendly houses is their low running costs. Other points are their convenience and benefits to the environment. In fact, living green saves a substantial amount of money. In comprehensive tests, calculated savings of up to 65% can be achieved – that is – including the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling – registering better than optimal temperatures during the tests in summer and winter.
Harvesting rainwater reduces monthly water costs by as much as 60% averaged over the year. Installing a solar water heater reduces water usage slightly and saves electricity based on usage patterns. Using photovoltaic solar electricity to power a home reduces electricity costs by almost by 100%.
Even small actions result in big savings over time. For example, switching to Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) reduces electricity consumption immediately. Green living is about finding efficient ways to achieve things.
And with costs of basic services such as electricity, water and refuse removal continuously increasing, living in a green home makes solid economic sense.
Eco-friendly homes are attractive
Homes fitted with green technology is not unattractive. When building eco-friendly homes from scratch, designers and developers find ways to incorporate green features so they don’t stand out. Photovoltaic solar panels are indeed visible. And large rainwater harvesting tanks are usually installed underground and out of sight. It’s even possible that an eco-friendly home isn’t distinguishable unless told.
Very often, the natural materials used to decorate eco-friendly homes are as beautiful as traditional materials. Bamboo floors and countertops add a touch of luxury to any home. Recycled materials that have been re-purposed have a charm of their own. Finding eco-friendly tiles, paints or finishing’s to decorate interior spaces are easy to find. More suppliers are recognising the demand for green living alternatives.
All that is needed is educating about these choices and asking manufacturers the right questions. Take into account how products are sourced and handled and to decide whether they match green living principles.
Green homes keep working during shortages
There’s nothing worse than arriving home after a long day to discover a power or water outage. With a green home, this won’t be the case often. Even during rolling black-outs, cooking, having a hot shower and lighting the home continues. Investing in back-up batteries to store the power generated by the photovoltaic solar panels, though expensive, provides power when needed.
Likewise, rainwater harvesting tanks supply water as designed even when the municipal supply is turned off. Or, if water restrictions are instituted, rainwater is likely available from the previous rains for flushing the toilets and irrigation.
These are examples of how green living make life easier. Being self-sufficient enables the use of resources as implemented for the home. And reduces the impact of price increases for power and water. In a green smart home, it is easy to monitor and manage usage to retain basic comforts.
Eco-friendly homes are the future
The idea of building sustainable homes has already taken off in many parts of the world. Designers and builders are constantly coming up with innovative ways to build homes that work with the environment and use limited resources efficiently.
At the same time, more homeowners are becoming aware of how green living saves money. Swapping out old lightbulbs for more cost-efficient CFLs or buying a geyser blanket, is beneficial to our pockets and the environment. These are small aspects of being eco-friendly. Image implementing green features comprehensively.
If you’re in a position to buy a purpose-built eco-friendly home, don’t hesitate. It’s worth the investment. Not only will you save on your monthly costs, you’ll be investing in the future. An eco-friendly home is a home for life. You’re investing in a home that will last you well into your retirement, a home that you can leave to your children.
Green homes are better for the environment
It’s worth stating this advantage again. The benefits of eco-friendly homes extend well beyond the construction phase. As time goes on, green homes continue to reduce impact on the planet: Using less resources and releasing fewer toxins into the environment.
Although the full impact of current habits is yet to be felt, by adopting green living habits, we’re contributing to an improved environment. Few people appreciate how uncomfortable life would become if steps aren’t taken to stop pollution or reduce the consumption of precious resources.
Greener living doesn’t require much. It requires changing just a few habits, and we stand to benefit as much as the planet does. Being committed to leaving our children and grand-children with a bright future, we’ll need to take action, rather sooner than later.
As is evident, there are many reasons to invest in a green home. In the future, eco-friendly homes will be in demand. Be an early adopter. Start saving money and reducing your impact on the environment.
What to look for in a green home?
If you’ve already decided that your next home should be a green home, here are some features to look out for when you go house hunting:
One important feature of eco-friendly houses is how well they’re insulated. Retrofitting an existing home with ceiling insulation is not enough. An eco-friendly home will have:
- Ceiling insulation
- Floor insulation
- Exterior wall insulation
- Double-glazed windows
- Water pipe insulation
A home that is properly insulated will significantly reduce your cooling and heating costs. An underfloor Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system will eliminate your need for heaters and air-conditioners. You’ll be able to control the temperature in separate zones for maximum comfort all year round without using much electricity.
Being well insulated contributes to sound proofing the home.
- Rainwater harvesting tanks and a water-wise garden
All eco-friendly homes have some kind of rainwater harvesting system. Whether tanks are installed underground or above ground, a pump and filter enables using harvested rainwater inside and outside.
Combined with a garden that features indigenous plants, water usage is minimal. And the harvested rainwater is available to flush your toilets and supply the washing machine.
- Heat pump or solar geyser
Both options provide you with hot water. Not only does this make eco-friendly homes more comfortable and convenient, it saves on water and electricity. With a linked-loop system, hot water is immediately on tap, reducing the need to run the water until it reaches the right temperature.
- Photovoltaic solar panels and backup batteries
For the full green living experience, include photovoltaic electricity. Reducing dependence on the grid provides massive savings on monthly bills. Backup batteries ensure that electricity is available during the evening when the sun is down.
Bamboo countertops, reclaimed wooden floors and tiles and efficient use of building materials are all features of eco-friendly homes. The environmental impact of every material used in the home needs to be investigated. It’s the only way to ensure that building a green home creates the least possible impact on the environment.
Speak to the builders and designers and ask them about the various features they include in their eco-friendly houses. Work out how much you can save by living in a green home and compare it to the cost of living in a traditional home. You’ll discover how well-designed and efficient they are. Once you understand how greener living can make a difference to your life, you’ll realise that buying an eco-friendly home will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
You may have heard of green homes. Eco-friendly houses that are built using green principles to conserve resources and reduce running costs are slowly gaining traction in South Africa and around the world. As the green trend develops, smart technologies are being incorporated into green homes to enhance their efficiency. The two work well together to enable monitoring and efficiently managing power and water resources. What does this mean for homeowners?
Green homes are desirable because they use resources efficiently. This is particularly important when it comes to power consumption. An ordinary home relies on the municipal electricity supply. As the price of electricity continues to rise, homeowners are looking for ways to reduce their consumption and to save money. And become less dependent of the resource providers. Investing in a green smart home maximises the conservation of precious energy and saves money in the process.
The smart technology continuously collects consumption data. The information is available on an app, on a laptop, desktop, and smart devices for any period. Up to the minute, hour, day, over weeks, months and years the information is available and enables extensive monitoring of the resources to track and immediately identify patterns. This information is invaluable to efficiently manage resource usage. Thereby providing facts to make important decisions about how the home is run.
Let’s use an example to illustrate this. As the weather cools down at the start of winter, we’d want to increase the temperature inside the home. The Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system takes 24-48 hours to reach the newly required temperature. Almost immediately after adjusting to the newly required temperature, by monitoring the electricity usage it is possible to see how much more electricity it would use. By adjusting the temperature by a half to one degree or so while maintaining the comfort level within the home, it is possible to save on electricity costs. Without such a system, we’d need to wait for the next bill to see the cost of raising the temperature.
Bear in mind that green homes also make use of superior insulation to protect the home from temperature fluctuations. The comprehensive insulation prevents the loss of warm air in winter, and cool air during summer. This increases the efficiency of the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system. Thus, the heat pump does not use excessive electricity to retain the home’s temperature as the seasonal outside temperature cools down or rises.
Being able to monitor and adjust the temperature of the home might be considered a luxury. Ultimately though, it’s the ideal way to maintain the comfort level without resorting to drastically increase energy consumption. The smart technology provides the easy monitoring and efficient managing and to fine tune every element of the home. Thus, comfort and luxury at momentous saving of monthly running cost.
Heat pumps generates hot and cold water. Heated water is used by the Hydronics and in the bathrooms and kitchen; cold water is used by the Hydronics. Heating and cooling of water accounts for a large portion of the total electricity bill. Having the ability to manage the temperature by half or a single degree presents yet another good opportunity for reducing the monthly running costs. Once again, the real advantage of the smart technology lies in its ability to collect data. Over time trends and patterns are visible. This allows for planning future needs, budgets and expenses.
The water temperature and temperatures throughout the home is adjusted from a laptop or smart device app which means there is no need to climb up into the ceiling, as with traditional houses, to manually adjust the geyser’s thermostat. These are some of the reasons why smart technology is used. It offers an added level of convenience for running a green home efficiently.
Making every drop count
It is essential to use water efficiently. Therefore, many green homes usually include a rainwater harvesting system. Untreated rainwater is used for garden irrigation, flushing the toilets and for the washing machine. There are two significant benefits to using rainwater for these purposes. Firstly, it helps to conserve one of our most precious resources by making efficient use of water which would otherwise be lost. Secondly, it presents homeowners with the opportunity to reduce the effects of water restrictions and price hikes.
Rainwater is free and green Homes shoul have rainwater tanks to capture and store rainwater. The rainwater harvesting system should be connected to the municipal supply, so the home always has access to water. Without the necessary sensors, it is cumbersome to monitor the water levels in an underground tank.
A rainwater level sensor needs to be installed in the tank that connects to the smart technology system. This enables the monitoring of the level and usage of the harvested rainwater in the tank simply by logging in and checking the data. This information is stored and enables seeing how the levels fluctuate over a period of days, weeks, months, and years. This information is used to adjust and manage rainwater usage. This is up to the minute data and is an accurate picture of how much rainwater is used. Calculating how much water is required for a water-wise indigenous garden then enables adjusting the irrigation exactly according its water requirements. Usually saving multiple times the water used for the garden when based on guesswork.
Efficiently managing resource usage
Until we have experience of green homes and smart home technologies, it’s difficult to understand how practical and convenient it is, how empowering it is, how efficiently resources are managed to maximise saving of monthly running costs. The aim of using smart-home technology features helps to increase the effectiveness of the green features. Smart technology with the green home features is based on an easily extendable smart technology infrastructure which in turn enables home automation capabilities, in addition to the green smart home monitoring and management.
For example, it is possible to use the smart technology for added security. It’s simply a matter of adding the relevant interior and exterior movement sensors and connecting them to the system. When the sensors are triggered, in addition to setting off an alarm that alerts us to an intruder, the following alerts are also possible.
Triggering the lights to come on, the blinds to open, and loud music to start playing: Thus, alerting anyone in the home and the neighbours, to a potential break in and has the potential to severely startle and repel the intruder.
Yet another way in which smart technology adds value to our homes. When we sell on our green smart home, this is a feature that is sure to appeal to future buyers.
Added convenience with an app
Smartphones, smart devices and personal computers have dramatically altered the way we stay in touch and access information. It’s therefore not surprising that smart home technology includes an app. This allows us to access the system from anywhere in the world through our smartphone, tablet or laptop. That means we could be away on holiday, or on the other side of the world, and still be able to monitor and manage our home.
We are able to adjust the various green features from the app. For example, adjust the temperature of a room simply by logging in and tapping away on our smartphone. The system is easy to use, and user friendly and doesn’t require any additional software. It’s simply a matter of downloading the app and logging into our account.
We have access to all the information that is being collected by the system from the beginning. Smart home technology isn’t complicated or time-consuming. In fact, every effort has been made to ensure it makes running our home simpler and convenient. When we’re familiar with social media, or the Internet we’ll have no trouble using the app to monitor and manage our home remotely from our laptop, smart phone and smart device.
Enhancing our green home
Ordinarily, smart home technology and automation may be seen as a luxury. We might think that it’s not necessary to adjust the temperature of the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system when we’re not physically at home
The true intention of the smart system is to increase the efficiency of the green features. The real power of the smart system lies in its ability to collect data on the way we use electricity and water in our home. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of green living, it’s easy to imagine that it’s all about saving money. In fact, there are real environmental benefits to conserving these resources.
Those who embrace these new green smart home technologies to monitor and manage their homes are able to enjoy the benefits of authentic green living. Although investing in a green smart home requires a larger investment initially, it is possible to recoup this through the momentous monthly savings. The green features and the smart home technology also adds value to our properties. Not only do we start saving money immediately, we’re able to command a higher price should we sell on our home. Future buyers will be on the lookout for green smart homes as the trend develops.
From the aforementioned it is fair to conclude that a smart green home offers more than the ability to save on monthly running costs. It gives us the opportunity to understand exactly how we use resources such as water and electricity to maintain our standard of living and lifestyle. We monitor and efficiently manage our home which allows us to adapt it to suit our needs.
Being able to create a comfortable, efficient home is a true luxury. While green homes offer us the ability to save money and resources, smart home technology takes it one step further. We maximise the efficiency of the green features included in the design and construction of our home. In the future, this will be the standard by which all homes are measured. Why merely invest in a green home? Rather invest in a green smart home!
Another winter has passed and it’s time to pack away the heaters and electric blankets. For next year’s winter, during this summer, let’s investigate living the green smart home way to keep our home warm and comfortable next winter. And, cool next summer. And the same for future winters and summers. Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling is a cost-effective way to manage our homes at a comfortable temperature all year round.
What is Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling?
Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling works by circulating warm or cold water through a network of pipes laid in the floor. The system is popular in eco-friendly homes. The heat or cold spreads gently throughout the house and eliminates the need for heaters in winter and air-conditioners in summer. It’s a closed system, thus the water is re-used.
The hot and cold water is ideally obtained from a heat pump which is able to produce water at the required temperature, hot and cold water simultaneously, during the year.
Why choose Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling?
Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling is a cost effective method for heating and cooling our homes. When we’re ready to adopt green living, and combine a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system with a heat pump and photovoltaic solar power, the cost savings are momentous.
This method allows for an even distribution of the required temperature, making it more effective than heaters and air-condition. As the warm or cold air rises from the floor it spreads the temperature throughout, keeping it comfortable.
Imagine waking up on chilly winter mornings, putting our bare feet directly onto a tiled floor. Without Hydronis Radiant heating we’d immediately remove our feet and slide them back under the covers. Instead, we’d get up right away and walk on the tiled floors feeling their warmth. People are surprised to discover that living green makes our lives simpler, comfortable and reducing monthly running costs.
What are the advantages of the Hydronics Radiant system?
When compared with conventional heating and cooling methods, the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system offers a number of benefits to homeowners:
As mentioned above, Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling distributes heating and cooling evenly throughout the space. We don’t have to limit ourselves to a warm area during the cold months. We work, play and relax in any room without first switching on a heater to warm up the area. Greener living is about comfort at reduced running costs.
Unlike heaters, the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling doesn’t dry out the air. In certain parts of the country, winter is a dry season. The dry air takes a toll on our skin, hair and mucous membranes. Relying on a heater to keep warm only dries out the air more which impacts on us. Instead, Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling retains the moisture levels present in the air which means our health isn’t impacted.
Finally, a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system is clean and quiet. The pipes are laid under the floor and no need to pack away or drag out the appliances as the seasons change. The system doesn’t blow hot or cold air around so there’s no noise at all. We merely snuggle up on the couch in winter and listen to music or watch television without having to turn the sound up. Same in summer, no sound to contend with, just enjoy the comfort.
- Energy efficient and environmentally friendly
Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling saves us between 60% to 95% on our monthly electricity costs. Think about the electricy we use to heat or cool our homes. Living in this comfort while reducing this cost multiple times is what the ideal Hydronics system enables throughout the year.
When combining Hydronics with the heat pump and photovoltaic solar power, we live in comfort while saving 95% electricity.
At the same time while we’re saving resources, we’re reducing our carbon footprint. Eco-friendly homes are about using resources wisely and efficiently, and living in comfort – and it’s not a passing fad. It’s a win-win for home owners, the environment and the planet – we’re reducing the increasing costs and the strain on resources.
- Clean, safe and easy to maintain
Floors that are warm and dry inhibit the growth of mold and house mites. And think of how our heaters gather dust in the winter. As soon as we turn them on, they blow dust and other pathogens into the air we breathe. Studies have proven that eco-friendly homes are cleaner and healthier and have better air quality than traditional homes.
A Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system improves the air quality in our home and our health. When we suffer from allergies or asthma, Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling helps us manage our symptoms and cut down on visits to the doctor.
There’s no risk of tripping over a heater or fan either which makes an Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system ideal for families with small children or elderly parents.
Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling systems have few moving and mechanical parts and require periodical and minor servicing or maintenance.
We adjust the temperature for individual zones easy via a smartphone app or computer.
Because the Hydronics system is laid under the floor, there are no air ducts to consider when designing the home. The pipes are enclosed within a screed, thus out of sight. They cannot be tampered with and provide a secure heating and cooling solution.
The whole floor is used to radiate heat and cold water in the pipes and need to be heated or cooled to a temperature of between 21° to 23° depending on the season. Green living is as cost-effective as it resource-effective.
Whilst most eco-friendly houses include a Hydronic Radiant heating and cooling system as part of their design, this type of system cannot be economically retrofitted to existing houses. It would require that the floor be removed from the finishes all the way to the foundation slab (unless wooden structure and floor.) To accommodate the Hydronics system, the system takes up 15cm containing a vapour barrier, floor insulation, varioprofile water pipes, the screed and tiled floor finish – and a few other intricate modifications.
Instead, when in the market for a new home, look for an eco-friendly home that has the features and advantages of green living. While eco-friendly homes are more expensive, we reap the benefits from when we move in. and years down the road when the time comes to sell the property on.
A word about insulation
Whether keen to invest in an eco-friendly home with a Hydronic Radiant heating and cooling system, be aware of the importance of comprehensive insulation. Without floor-, ceiling-, exterior wall-, double glazing and water pipe insulation, a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system will not be as efficient.
Purpose built eco-friendly houses are designed to include insulation at every stage of the building project. It is worth asking the developer about the methods used to ensure that they are efficient and in keeping with green living principles. Wherever possible, insulation would be made from recycled or recyclable material. This is especially important for ceiling insulation; there are various products on the market that cater for this.
Most existing homes aren’t insulated. That’s why we need to do an audit of our home insulation before we retrofit a Hydronics system. Poor insulation adds to the viability of whether to retrofit Hydronics. Though not impossible, it’ll be pricey. And moving out of the residence and placing all furniture in storage during the retrofitting are further costs.
Here are some tips for insulating a home:
- Check for air leaks: Window and door frames are the most obvious areas where drafts slip through. Ensure all windows and doors close tightly and if they don’t, use weather strips and caulk to seal up any gaps. Just taking care of these small air leaks will make a difference to the temperature of our homes in winter and summer.
- Insulated floors: With a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system, the pipes are on top of the floor insulation and covered by an extra thick screed. A vapour barrier is below the insulation, keeping moist out. The insulation is part of enclosing the space, the screed is a good conductor of the radiant temperature to maximize the system’s efficiency all your round.
- Ceiling insulation: The insulation is essential to prevent heat from escaping during the winter and the cold during summer.
- Double-glazing: Investing in double-glazing adds to insulating the space
- Water pipes: Insulating the regular hot and cold water pipes throughout the home completes the insulation.
When combining a comprehensively insulated home with a Hydronics system, they complement each other and provide a comfortable home while significantly reducing power usage.
Dreaming of living in a home that doesn’t need heaters in winter or air-conditioners in summer? The answer is a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system. With such a home an even temperature is achieved all year round and we’re able to manage the temperature in individual rooms. Greener living makes a lot of sense. If in the market to buy a new home, or looking for ways to add real value to our home, consider investing in a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system. And start reaping rewards immediately; with big savings on the monthly energy bill and as a sound investment.