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.
In a smart green home, there is the option to make use of the sun to generate free electricity. With a grid-tied system, there is a back-up power supply in the event of a shortfall.
Using a heat pump, combined with a linked-loop hotwater system, hot water is immediately available in the home. Heat pumps are very efficient and need little energy to heat water. Costs are therefore reduced.
In a green home, air-conditioners and heaters are not required. With Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling, the home is fully temperature controlled at minimal cost.
Using rainwater for watering the garden, for the washing machine and to flush the toilets also saves on the monthly water bill.
And using low-flow shower heads and taps saves on water consumption, resulting in great savings for the homeowner.
In a green smart home, one is able to monitor and control every aspect.
At a glance, we see what our electricity usage is and take steps to reduce usage without sacrificing convenience or comfort.
Hot water is always on tap.
With water tanks being used to collect and store rainwater, the water level is checked at a glance, using the smart monitoring system.
The green smart home works with the environment. A full weather report including the temperature and humidity levels is always available on the app.
And with hydronics radiant heating and cooling, and with comprehensive insulation being in place, one walks barefoot and in a t-shirt in winter.
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.
Through complex under-floor water pipe systems, your home can maintain a steady temperature without high running expenses being added to our utility bill.
The key to the ingenuity of this system is in the installation. A network of pipes is installed throughout the house and connected to two separate tanks—one hot, and one cold. These main pipes form part of a larger network of smaller pipes which are placed between the floor’s foundation and the surface.
Hot or cold water is pumped throughout this network of pipes depending on the temperature selected.
This practical system is laid out over multiple zones throughout the home. Each zone’s temperature is adjusted according to the preference of each family member.
Is the only thing holding you back from investing in a green home the fear that you simply can’t afford it? It’s a common misconception that living off the grid is only possible for the rich. While other’s think that converting their existing home will result in over-capitalization. By the end of this article you’ll come to realise that green homes are not just affordable, but actually add more value to your biggest investment.
Starting from scratch
If you’re in the market for a new home, it makes sense to look for one that already has many green features. Although there are not many of these homes available yet, these homes boast several innovative features that are not only eco-friendly, but contribute significant savings to the running of your household.
Knowing what to look for in a green home is the first step to evaluating whether it will be a good investment. Here are some pointers that you can use:
- It makes the best use of the location: An eco-friendly home should work with the environment to achieve maximum efficiency. If it’s correctly orientated, a green home can use natural sunlight to ensure that it’s easier to heat in winter, and just as easy to cool in summer. Taking advantage of natural sunlight and shadow means you spend less money keeping your living space at a comfortable temperature throughout the year.
- It is properly insulated:Most regular homes aren’t well insulated at all. This means that any money you spend trying to make your home comfortable just goes to waste. A green home is not just well-insulated; it also makes use of eco-friendly materials to ensure comfort and sustainability. The floors, walls and roof of your green home should all be insulated.
- It uses efficient heating and cooling systems:Underfloor heating and cooling may sound like an expensive luxury, but in a green home it provides a more efficient method of keeping your home at the right temperature. Use the innovative hydronics heating and cooling system to achieve this. Pipes laid throughout the house enables hot and cold water to be pumped under the flooring. This is far more efficient and affordable than using heaters in winter or air conditioners in summer to adjust the temperature of your interior spaces.
- It relies on solar energy:This may seem to be the most obvious feature of green homes. At the very least, a solar water heater provides free energy for heating the water that you use on a daily basis. If you instead add different panels and batteries, you can generate enough power to run your entire home without relying only on the grid.
- It’s water-wise:Clean water is rapidly becoming one of the most precious resources on the planet. And as time goes on, accessing water will become even more expensive. That’s why most green homes make use of water tanks to collect rainwater which can be used for everything from washing your car to flushing your toilet, and importantly to irrigate your garden. And the good news is that this doesn’t have to take the form of an unsightly tank in your garden. Instead, they are buried underground and fitted with energy efficient pumps to make the water available where you need it.
While these are just some of the basic features that any good green home should have, look out for those that offer little extras. Double-glazed windows, a garden with indigenous plants and bamboo flooring or counter tops all go a long way to making your home efficient and sustainable.
Counting the cost
Understanding the true cost of a green home requires you to do some serious calculations. While it’s true that you initial investment is higher than normal, you should factor in your future costs to see how much you’ll save in the long term.
To do this, you’ll need to calculate how much energy and water you currently consume and what it costs you every month. You can do this by monitoring your consumption and bills for a month or two. Then, you’ll need to estimate how much your expenses will increase as the cost of these resources continues to rise. Finally, you can offset this against the initial costs of buying a green home.
You’ll realise, as others have, that investing in a green home offers you substantial future savings. On average, you’ll find that it takes between 8 – 10 years to recoup your green investment. And, you’ll have many years of future savings to look forward to. As the costs of electricity rises, you’ll actually end up saving even more with each passing year.
Buying a green home is a serious commitment though. To really appreciate the savings you can enjoy, you’ll remain in your home longer—and when moving, you’ll move to another eco-friendly home of course.
The good news doesn’t end there. Should you ever sell your green home, you’ll find that you can command a higher price for your property. And because green homes require less maintenance, you won’t have to spend a lot of money preparing your home for resale.
Retrofitting your existing home
Even if you’re not in a position to buy a ready-fitted green home, there are several things you can do to make your existing home more energy-efficient. Retro-fitting an existing home with green features is often considered expensive. But once again, you need to take into account your future savings to determine how cost-effective these measures are.
Aside from cost, most people are unsure of where to start greening an existing home. However, it’s always a good idea to start small and build-up to bigger projects. Very often, some serious research is required to determine just what the final cost and savings may be. If you need help, consult with experts who will be able to give you the right advice. Some of these projects require specific knowledge and tools, so don’t be tempted to take the DIY route if you don’t have the necessary skills.
There’s more to owning a green home than just enjoying the cost savings. It requires a mind-shift to start living in a different way. So if you think that you’re ready to embrace a new way of living, try out some small projects before committing to the bigger ones.
- Be aware of how much energy you use: Simply turning off the lights as you leave a room is a good habit to develop. If you do eventually install photo-voltaic solar panels to power your home, you’ll need to be conscious of your energy consumption. That way, if you do make the switch to solar power, you’ll use it wisely and not waste it.
- Use energy efficient products: Light bulbs, dishwashers and fridges all consume electricity. If you ever get to the point where you generate your own electricity, you’ll want to make sure your household appliances are energy efficient.
- Monitor your water usage: Cutting down on your time in the shower can be difficult. But ultimately, it will help you save money on both your water and energy consumption. If you’re going to install a solar water heater, you’ll appreciate just what it takes to have a hot shower in the morning.
- Get water-wise: It’s so easy to just turn on a tap and have access to fresh water that we tend to take it for granted. So start thinking about all the water you use during the day and what steps you can take to cut down. Plant indigenous in your garden, pop a brick in your toilet and re-use your grey water for washing your car.
Once you’re aware of your consumption habits, it will become easier for you to see the value in investing in the bigger projects. When you’re ready to make the change, here are some of the ways you can retro-fit your home:
- Solar water heaters: Installing a solar water heater can knock a good 30% off your monthly electricity bill. When measured against the installation costs, it means you can re-coup your investment within 4 – 5 years. Most solar water heaters come with a five year guarantee and last between 15 – 20 years. As they don’t require much maintenance, this makes them one of the easiest green features you can use in an existing home.
- Insulation:An energy-efficient home is one that is well insulated. With existing homes it may be difficult or costly to add more insulation, but the investment is well worth it. Often your roof is the best place to start as it’s quite easy to add a layer of insulation here. But be sure to use environmentally-friendly material for this project. You can also check your windows and doors for air leaks and use insulating strips or caulk to seal them from draughts.
- Rainwater harvesting tanks:This very much depends on the space you have available on your property. However, there are plenty of options available on the market; your bound to find one that suits your requirements. These tanks can also be buried underground so they won’t detract from the appearance of your property. And they can be fitted to work with the existing municipal supply so you’ll never have to worry that you won’t have access to water when you need it.
- Photo-voltaic solar panels:Living off the grid is possible, but for existing homes it requires a significant investment. However, you can easily start with some panels and add to them as you save on your monthly bills. As with the rainwater tanks, you can supplement your solar panel with the municipal electricity supply.
Once you start investigating the options available for retro-fitting an existing home, you’ll see just how easy and affordable it can be. Not only will you enjoy considerable savings on your monthly running costs, you’ll also be adding significant value to your home. And should you ever want to sell your home, you’ll be able to command a higher price.
What’s more affordable?
The answer to this question will depend on your current situation. If you’re considering buying a new home, it would make sense to find one that has all the green features you want. And while this may mean that you spend more money initially, you will end up saving immediately and continuously.
If moving is not an option, then this article should prove to you that it’s still possible to go green without spending a fortune. Researching various green features will help you make a decision on where to start. And you’ll find that once you have implemented some of these suggestions, you’ll save money which you can put towards your next project.
It’s safe to say that being environmentally conscious isn’t just for the rich. With proper planning and dedication, anyone can change their home into green home. Are you ready to make the change?
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.