Examples of low maintenance, eco-friendly materials are:
- Bamboo counter-tops
- Stainless steel
- Face brick and naturally coloured roof tiles
Imagine a home that requires minimum attention. Materials that stand up to wear and tear, and which are easily cleaned are the best to look out for. Along with helping to preserve the environment, making use of such material will leave us with more time and less costs.
And when it comes to eco-awareness, there is no time like the present. As fresh water supplies are being depleted; greenhouse gas emissions and pollution are on the rise, what was once a bountiful Earth is now struggling. These are constructive steps into our future.
Your home is the biggest investment you’ll ever make. And with the rising cost of electricity and the vulnerability of South Africa’s water supply, green living is becoming a more attractive option for many home owners. But can you afford it now? The last thing you want to do is over-capitalise on your property.
Another option would be selling your current home and buying a ‘green’ home instead. But how would a home that’s designed to be environmentally friendly save you money? While it’s true that sustainably built homes cost more initially, the long term benefits extend beyond saving on your electricity bill. So with that in mind, here are four reasons why investing in a green home makes financial sense.
- A green home costs less to maintain
Do you have a list of things to do around the home? Perhaps you need to paint the exterior, tend to your gutters and downpipes or maintain a large garden? There always seems to be something that needs repairing or re-decorating.
And it all costs money, time and effort. A green home simply doesn’t have these issues to begin with. That’s because a good developer makes sure that the materials used to construct a green home are durable. In a green home you should find the following low-maintenance features:
- Naturally coloured roof tiles
That’s right, you’ll never have to spend money or put your back out painting your roof. The colour of these tiles won’t fade from exposure to the harsh South African sun. And they’re tough as nails too. They can withstand rain, wind and hail and aren’t easily damaged. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever have to spend money replacing them due to damage.
- Self-cleaning rainwater tanks
Most rainwater harvesting tanks require some form of maintenance to remove the plant material, waste and sediment that build up over time. This can be a tedious job if you undertake it yourself, or expensive if you call in a professional cleaning service.
Rather choose tanks that are self-cleaning. So you’ll never have to incur the hassle or expense that normally comes with such a feature.
- Aluminium and stainless steel
Aluminium is the ideal material for window and door frames. They add to the look and style of any home and the material itself offers homeowners several benefits over wood or uPVC frames, including:
- Low maintenance: Resistant to all weather conditions and corrosion, aluminium frames won’t warp, crack, split or swell.
- Environmentally friendly:Aluminium is one of the most highly recycled materials in the world which makes it extremely sustainable.
- Thermally efficient:Frames made from aluminium outperform other materials when it comes to adapting to heat gain and loss.
- Inexpensive:Although prices vary between manufacturers, aluminium doesn’t cost as much as you might think. And because the material is so energy efficient, you’ll quickly recoup the initial costs.
- Design flexibility:You can customise aluminium frames to suit any shape or size making it particularly suitable for unusual openings.
Steel is another material that’s both cost-effective and sustainable. It offers strength and durability to the frame of a home and requires little or no maintenance. Best of all, it can be completely recycled so it never goes to waste.
Keen gardeners will already appreciate the fact that maintaining a green lawn and lush shrubbery takes a lot of time and effort. Create gardens that still look appealing without the hassle or cost by including these elements:
- Indigenous trees and shrubs: These require less water as they have adapted to the South African climate. You won’t have to water them as often as foreign plants so you’ll spend less time working on your garden, and more time enjoying it.
- Smaller lawns: This is the part of any garden that requires the most maintenance and incurs the most costs. Constantly watering your lawn to keep it looking at its best comes at a cost. Instead, make smaller lawns and use pots and decorations to make your garden a beautiful space.
- Rainwater tanks: Rainwater doesn’t cost you anything and is perfectly safe for using to water your plants and clean your car. Even in times of drought, supplementing with rainwater saves on costs and helps preserve this precious resource.
A green home normally makes use of alternative energy sources to reduce your reliance on the grid. And these features will reduce your monthly costs. But by taking into consideration every aspect of your living space, you can reduce your costs even further by reducing the need for expensive maintenance.
- A green home is healthier
An advantage of green homes that is often overlooked is the fact that they are healthier than regular homes. In other words, all the materials and methods used in a green home tend to emit less harmful chemicals and toxins into your living space.
There are a few ways in which green building practices contribute to the health of a home:
- Better air quality: Because green homes use paints and adhesives that emit less volatile organic compounds, the air in the home is safer and cleaner. Without constantly breathing in dangerous chemicals there’s less chance of the inhabitants suffering from eye, nose and throat irritations and headaches.
- Elimination of mould: A home that is properly sealed and ventilated doesn’t give mould the chance to grow. Mould and damp can cause respiratory problems and infections, allergies or asthma. They can also affect the immune system.
- Less temperature variations: Proper insulation in green homes reduces the fluctuation in temperature inside the home between seasons. Green homes are a comfortable temperature all year round which means you’re less likely to get sick. You may not get ill from being cold, but it does affect the immune system, making you more susceptible to any kind of infection or illness.
- Cleaner water: the filtration systems used on green homes are effective at removing up to 99% of dangerous contaminants, including chlorine, metal and pesticides. And cleaner water means there’s less chance of you picking up an opportunistic infection.
But what does all of this mean for your pocket? Quite simply, it means you’ll be spending less time at the doctor’s rooms and less money on treatments and medicines. Healthcare is expensive and as the old saying goes—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Many studies have shown the health benefits that green building provide to the people who live and work in them. A healthier living space also makes people happier and more productive. These benefits make investing in a green home a smart decision for your pocket and your future health.
- A green home has a higher resale value
Your initial costs may be high, but if you ever need to sell your green home you’ll be pleased to hear that it can command a higher resale value than ordinary homes. Even retro-fitting an existing home with green features can increase your asking price when you sell it.
Energy efficient homes are becoming more attractive to homeowners because of the continual and long-tern savings they represent. And in current and future economic times, the ability to reduce your monthly running costs will be an important consideration when shopping for a home.
Scarcity of natural resources will also be a concern for future homeowners. So choosing a property that has been designed to make the most of natural energy sources will be more attractive. While green homes are still the exception, rather than the norm, many new developments are starting to incorporate green features. And in the future, tax rebates may be offered for those who make use of green technologies when building new homes.
How quickly you can expect a return on your investment in a green home depends on several factors. Your initial costs versus the savings on monthly utility bills, reduction in maintenance costs and the savings on your healthcare all contribute to the final figure. Within reason, you can expect to have recouped your costs within 10 years or less.
- Green homes reduce the strain on local infrastructure
Even those who do not live in an energy efficient home can benefit from living in an area where there are green homes available.
Because green homes don’t rely solely on the electricity grid to run their homes, this makes it much easier for local suppliers of electricity to cope with the demand. As a result, the cost of supplying these services will stabilise and make them more affordable and reliable for everyone.
Unfortunately there are not enough green homes to make this a reality yet. But with the movement becoming more popular it could mean that in the future, electricity will be more affordable for everyone. And that way, even if you do need to use the grid to supplement your photo-voltaic solar electricity supply, it won’t cost you as much as it might have.
- Green homes have many other benefits
Besides those already mentioned above, green homes have a number of other benefits that can’t be measured in monetary value.
The benefit to environment is the most obvious. Even though these homes still use a variety of building materials, these are sourced and used in a sustainable way. Harvesting rainwater and using solar panels for generating your own energy reduce the strain on local resources. Green homes generate less pollution and reduce your carbon footprint substantially.
Green homes are stronger, sturdier and built to last. They have been designed to work with nature and not against it. A good developer will take all aspects of the construction into consideration when helping you plan your green home. This includes looking at factors such as the location and your requirements. They will know how to maximise the efficiency of systems and techniques to benefit you and the environment.
Once you’ve experienced a green home you won’t want to live any other way. The air and water quality are often much better than those in other homes. Double glazed windows reduce noise pollution and make green homes a haven of peace and tranquility.
If the cost of buying or building a green home is putting you off the idea, these benefits should convince you otherwise. It’s tempting to try and save money, but when buying a home one needs to consider the long-term costs involved in maintaining and running it. And this is where a green home can really make an impact on your future expenses. Your home should be an investment for the future. So take the time to research and calculate the real cost of a potential property. Once everything is on paper, you’ll clearly see the financial benefits of going green.
Finding the perfect home is hard work. As it’s the biggest investment we’ll ever make, it’s worth taking our time to consider the advantages and disadvantages of every property. We’d also need to consider how much maintenance our home requires. If our preference is to spend more time enjoying our home, and less time maintaining it, eco-friendly homes are ideal.
The importance of maintaining your home
It’s something that first time home buyers rarely consider—how much will it cost to maintain a dream home? It’s easy to fall in love with a property that we’ve only seen a few times. Only when living in the home will we realise the work it requires to keep it in tip-top shape and in perfect working order. Maintenance is essential to maintain or improve the value of our home for years to come.
A swimming pool or a large garden might be a pre-requisite: They both need a lot of work; to keep the pool clean and sparkling; and a lot of water is required to keep the garden. Maintenance requires time, effort and money. By adopting a greener living philosophy reduces the aforementioned multiple fold. Looking at purpose built eco-friendly homes thus becomes an attractive option.
Do eco-friendly homes require special maintenance?
Does green living features such as photovoltaic solar panels and a rainwater harvesting system require special maintenance with prohibitive costs? Although these are cutting-edge green technologies, they been designed to be simple and easy to maintain. Let’s look at each of the features typically found in eco-friendly homes and how much they cost to maintain:
- Photovoltaic solar panels
Photovoltaic solar panels are made of semiconductors, a material that absorbs energy from the sun and converts it into electric current to power appliances and devices in our homes. They’re a standard feature of eco-friendly homes and are often the first image that comes to mind when we hear the words ‘eco-friendly’. They help homeowners reduce their reliance on the grid for electricity.
While they look impressive, photovoltaic solar panels actually require very little maintenance. They’re built to last and to withstand hail and storms. Photovoltaic solar panels don’t have moving parts that rust or break. The only maintenance needed is cleaning.
Safety first! When working on the roof to clean the photovoltaic solar panels requires safety precautions.
Dirt, grime, bird droppings and debris block the sun from being absorbed efficiently by the panels. So cleaning is a key aspect of photovoltaic solar panel maintenance. Inspecting the photovoltaic solar panels periodically, around once per year. If they do need cleaning it’s as easy as using a garden hose to rinse off the worst of the dust and grime. If they need more attention, using a squeegee and some soapy water gives them a good clean. Then using a hose to rinse off the soapy water and they’ll be as good as new. This is an easy task for DIY enthusiasts. Or is easily done by a professional. Remember safety first!
Aside from a simple wash down, photovoltaic solar panels do not require any expensive, specialist maintenance.
- Rainwater harvesting tanks
Harvesting rainwater for use in the garden and home is an effective way to reduce our reliance on the municipal supply. Harvested rainwater reduces the use of municipal water over the year by around 60% and fits in with living green. Here are some preventative maintenance points to consider:
- Clear your roof and gutters
Remove leaves, debris and overhanging branches from the roof and gutters. That way, bird dropping won’t find their way into the tank and cause water discolouration, odours or bacterial growth.
Periodically check the inlet/s and outlet/s screens and filters for leaves and insects, any blockages and damage, and clean or repair the screens or filters. Some systems come with self-cleaning options.
Depending on the type of system, the pump needs regular checking to make sure it is working properly. Cleaning/replacing the filter is a necessity. This is another DIY job; by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Check the first-flush diverters and rain-heads
Regularly clean and empty the first-flush diverters and rain-head. This is necessary to prevent roof debris, insects and plant particles from getting into the system. Certain systems do this automatically.
- Check for cracks, holes and gaps
With some tanks it is necessary to ensure they are structurally sound. Repairing any gaps or holes stops animals and insects from getting into the tank and reduces the risk of algae and bacteria infecting the system.
- Taking care of the water filters
If the tank is used to provide water to toilets and the washing machine, it will have a water filter. These filters generally need to be rinsed and where required replaced. This is another small maintenance job for the DIY enthusiast.
- Inspect the tank for accumulated sludge
Sludge will accumulate in the tank and needs to be checked and cleaned professionally.
For all the added value and savings rainwater harvesting tanks provide, the maintenance they require is minimal. Most eco-friendly houses install water tanks underground to save on space and maintenance costs. Because these tanks aren’t exposed there’s minimal chance for them to crack or leak.
Although heat pumps may not be the most eco-friendly option for some scenarios, they are incredibly efficient. This makes them a popular choice for eco-friendly houses. They require professional servicing twice per year.
A popular choice for eco-friendly houses; bamboo is a material that’s renewable, solid and durable. It looks beautiful and doesn’t need too much maintenance. And it’s not limited to countertops. Bamboo can be used as flooring, furniture and in construction.
A professionally installed bamboo countertop gives many years of pleasure. Here are some pointers to keep bamboo countertops looking as good as the day they were fitted:
- Wipe the surface down on a regular basis with a damp cloth and an all-purpose, non-abrasive cleaning product. Avoid ammonia based cleaners as this may damage the surface.
- Never use harsh chemicals or thinners based products on the countertop.
- Don’t chop anything directly on the surface. Bamboo is tough, but knives and other sharp instruments will damage them.
- If the surface is damaged, a light sanding and re-sealing should restore it to its previous condition.
- If the bamboo countertop is severely damaged, it can be repaired and re-sealed by a professional.
- Avoid putting hot pots and pans directly on the bamboo countertops. The heat will damage the surface.
Bamboo is a beautiful material that is very easy to care for. Looking after the bamboo countertops will avoid any expense repairs. In fact, as part of green living, it’s easy to make a natural cleaning solution to clean the countertops safely.
- Aluminium and stainless steel
You cannot speak of durable building materials without mentioning stainless steel and aluminium. Green living is focused on using quality materials that last well and don’t have to be replaced often. Both of these metals live up to that philosophy.
As both of these materials are so easy to maintain, it’s worth investing in a home that utilises them.
Used to construct the frame of eco-friendly homes, stainless steel is one of the recyclable materials in the world. Every year, millions of tonnes of stainless steel is recycled and used in a variety of construction projects. It’s is durable and strong and doesn’t rust. Stainless steel is a first choice for balustrades.
Aluminium window and door frames requires far less maintenance than wooden or steel frames. They don’t need to be painted or varnished and are easy to clean. When powdercoated almost no maintenance is required.
- Face brick and naturally coloured roof tiles
There are few building materials requiring as low maintenance as face brick. With no plaster and paint, big maintenance projects are not required to keep the outside of the home looking neat. Eco-friendly houses favour face brick because it’s a durable material that doesn’t need any special care.
And when combined with naturally coloured roof tiles, maintenance is reduced even more. Naturally coloured tiles never fade and stand up well to hail, wind and other harsh weather conditions. Making smarter choices is a key element of green living.
A water-wise garden cleverly landscaped and combined with indigenous plants and natural pest care saves time and money on maintenance. And requires very little water.
Greener living focuses on preserving resources and making our lives comfortable and efficient. A water-wise garden is the perfect example of this philosophy. Indigenous plants are well suited to the local environment and will thrive with little attention.
First-time home buyers get caught up in the excitement of house-hunting and don’t stop to consider the amount of effort and expense it takes to maintain a home. Being aware of the maintenance and costs, and of eco-friendly homes, creates more options. Green living and eco-friendly homes bring about benefits now and in the future as a green home increases in value and remains attractive to future buyers who recognise the benefits of living green.