These are 4 R’s to help one live greener.
Recycle: Paper, tins, magazines, glass and other items, when dropped off at recycling sites, is a contribution towards preserving the natural environment. The more we recycle, the less natural resources we use up to create more products.
Reuse: Reusing items such as plastic bags means less waste that needs to be gotten rid of. Tons of waste usually ends up in the ocean.
Reduce: E-versions of most reading materials are available today. This means less paper taking up space in our homes. Also avoid using disposable products.
Reducing electricity needs and water usage are also ways to follow this third ‘R’.
Repurpose: This means reusing old items instead of throwing them out. Before buying a new item, we consider whether something that we already have is useful for fulfilling the same purpose. For example, an old, refurbished ladder is used to display pot plants, instead of buying new tables.
Bamboo is a resource that is quickly renewable. And when bamboo is used for counter-tops and staircase treads, the home is given a warm look.
Chopping down trees is a big contributor to global warming. Bamboo is an alternative to tree wood because it grows incredibly quickly.
Also, bamboo doesn’t generate as much oxygen as large trees. And bamboo is easily cut down, without the need for a lot of machinery and excavation.
Bamboo is such an eco-friendly product that you can happily place it all over your home. In the kitchen, use solid bamboo counter-tops instead of melamine or granite tops, which are not environmentally friendly.
The surface of the internal stairs is another place where bamboo can be used – the staircases thus have a modern and finished look.
Here are some renewable resources that are used –
Bamboo: This material is sustainable and an alternative to wood. It has a lower impact on the environment but lasts just as long. Bamboo is used for flooring and counter tops, amongst other uses.
Rainwater: A green home requires a sustainable water supply. The cheapest rainwater harvesting methods are actually the most efficient, but the advice of an expert is recommended when installing such a system. A vendor with an excellent reputation provides us with the best rainwater harvesting system.
Solar energy: We’ll need to consider our needs carefully. Photo-voltaic solar panels are the most obvious method for reducing reliance on the grid – we’ll need to ask ourselves how much energy is needed for all our appliances. There are also ways to reduce the amount of energy that we’ve been using.
Expert advice is recommended here, when looking at ways to lower our requirements.
Harvesting rainwater achieves many green living principles. We’re saving potable water which is a valuable resource. And we’re reducing our carbon footprint.
Harvested rainwater is used for garden irrigation, flushing the toilets and for the washing machine.
By installing a smart device app, or navigating to the monitoring website of the smart home, green features are easily monitored and can be adjusted where applicable.
These metrics can be monitored:
- Rainwater tank level.
- Rainwater usage.
Rainwater harvesting reduces utility water usage by up to 60%, thereby saving water utility costs.
When establishing an indigenous garden, installing a rainwater sensor, and being able to measure rainwater usage, the irrigation cycles can be adjusted to closely align the rainfall with the water required by the garden, thereby using the harvested rainwater most efficiently, maximising savings and tending to a lovely garden at the same time.
If we’re willing to invest in green technology, we can save substantially when it comes to using natural resources. It depends on how far we want to go with it and how much we’re willing to spend.
Small changes can make a difference. For example, we can install a timer on our geyser so that it can be set to switch off automatically during peak periods.
When solar panels are used, our home can run on solar energy during the day. Batteries can be used to store solar power for the night.
Another investment in green living would be to use rainwater for cleaning, and for watering our gardens. Rainwater is completely free and can be harvested in large quantities.
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.
The trend towards green living is growing as people are becoming conscious about the environment. Conserving resources is always a good place to start. The first step is to change your own habits in your home, which will not only help save the environment but also costs. You will probably be surprised at how much unnecessary stuff accumulates in your home and ultimately ends up on a landfill.
So, let’s look at ways you can reduce consumption in your home:
Use less paper
Avoid using paper cups and plates: There is no need for paper cups and paper plates if you have a fully stocked kitchen. If you don’t feel like doing dishes, then rather eat out. It’s more costly producing these items and then having them end up on a landfill. You do have to make small lifestyle changes sometimes in return for a greener home. And really, in this case some soap, water and a few minutes of your time is definitely worth it.
Eliminate paper napkins and paper towels: Paper in the home doesn’t only include magazines, newspapers and postage. Think about how many times you have wiped your hands or mouth with a paper napkin or tended to spillage with a paper towel. What’s worse is that paper towels and napkins are not recyclable, so they are definitely items you should scratch off your green home shopping list.
This doesn’t mean you now have to walk around with a dirty mouth or dirty hands after consuming a plate of vegs at dinner. It simply means you should choose an alternative, which in this case could be a cloth napkin, which you can simply wash and reuse.
Magazines and newspapers: It’s not uncommon to find a stack of magazines and/or newspapers in many households, unless it’s a green home of course. But these days, technology allows us to enjoy the same reading experience on a digital device, as electronic versions of most reading material is now available.
Paper receipts: Most businesses, including retailers are making the shift towards a paperless environment. Email receipts are fast replacing their paper counterparts. Help move this paperless process along by simply requesting that an electronic version of your receipt be emailed to you instead, next time you do your grocery shopping.
Audit your mailbox: We all know how annoying ‘junk’ mail can be and as a result, it either ends up being stashed into a drawer or cabinet or thrown in the trash. This means more unnecessary paper either accumulating in your home or unfortunately ending up in the landfills. Avoid this by contacting the advertisers and asking them to remove your name from their mailing list.
Get your bills and statements online: There is obviously mail that you are expecting and wanting to receive, such as your statements and bills. In this case you can contact your service providers and request that they send you digital versions instead. These days most businesses offer paperless alternatives anyway.
Avoid using disposable products: Don’t use plastic shopping bags, but if you already have them in your home then simply reuse them instead of getting more from the retailer when you do your grocery shopping. You can also purchase permanent shopping bags made from cloth or canvas that you can re-use every time you shop.
Also, when doing your shopping check the labels on all the products you wish to purchase and only select products with recyclable packaging.
Reduce your home energy consumption
Choose energy efficient appliances: Select appliances with a good energy rating. This is usually indicated by stars. The more stars, the better the rating.
However don’t be fooled by larger appliances, as their energy efficiency is determined by size versus consumption. Because they are bigger, they will still use more electricity than the smaller ones.
Your fridge and freezer consumes massive amounts of electricity because it operates 24/7, 7 days a week. When looking for a more energy efficient model, consider one that has butane or pentane for insulation.
Some countries are even implementing minimum energy performance standards on all new refrigeration appliances. It’s better to consider these options (if available), rather than those that are “CFC free,” as this is no reflection of their energy consumption.
Be sure to unplug your appliances once you have switched them off. Many appliances have a stand-by mode, which means they still draw electricity even when they are switched off.
Consider insulation for heating and cooling your home: In summer you want to keep your home cool, whereas in winter we want to keep your home warm. Unfortunately this means more electricity consumption, which is not ideal when you are striving to conserve resources in your quest for a greener home. The solution is simple. Insulation. Insulating your roof or ceiling will naturally block out heat in summer and trap warmth in winter.
Prevent Draughts: Draught proofing your home is simple and cost effective. All you need to do is make sure your windows and doors are closed and sealed properly. You can seal doors with draught excluders and get special seals for your windows.
If you have a chimney then get a damper to prevent heat from escaping in winter when your fireplace is dormant and also from entering your home in summer.
Don’t use down lights: Not only do these lights chew up a lot of electricity, but they also cause heat loss by interfering with the ceiling and insulation. A good alternative is Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) or light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs).
Use shading on your windows: A lot of heat enters your home through your windows in summer, especially if they are big and face west, east or north. Blocking the sun’s heat means you don’t have to use extra energy via cooling systems to cool down the interior of your home. In winter, simply close curtains or blinds to help retain the heat inside your home.
Manage your air conditioner effectively: Ideally, if you want an authentic green home, you should avoid using an air conditioner altogether. Consider ceiling fans as an alternative as they are more cost effective and use less energy. However, if you feel you can’t do without an air conditioning system, then use it sparingly.
It helps conserve energy if you keep windows and doors closed while your air conditioning system is active. Remember to switch it on before the heat of the day has already penetrated your home, as this will allow it to cool the interior a lot quicker.
It also helps to invest in a unit that has a thermostat and/or a timer as it will allow you to manage the unit more efficiently by setting the temperature accordingly and enabling it to switch off automatically. Avoid setting the temperature too low, as it will use more energy to maintain it.
Reduce water consumption
Water is a valuable resource and so, saving water is an obvious choice if you want a greener home.
Look out for water-efficiency labels and standards (WELS): This scheme allows various water-dependant appliances, as well as showers, taps and toilets to be rated in terms of water efficiency, which is determined by their number of stars.
Cut down on shower time: If you shorten your shower by just a minute, you could save 150 gallons of water every month. If you prefer to bath, then make an effort to use less water and spend less time in the bath so you aren’t tempted to top up with more hot water when the water cools down.
Harvest rainwater: Save water by watering your garden with collected rain water. This can be done by installing a rainwater tank.
Use recycled greywater: This is used water from your basin, sink, tubs, shower and washing machines. Even though it may contain various household waste material, it can still be used to water your garden. Take note that sewerage water is not greywater.
Invest in a water saving showerhead: Water saving shower heads fully compliment green homes, as they not only help save water but are also great energy and cost savers.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
These activities fully support a greener home environment. Not only do they help you conserve energy, they also reduce the amount of toxic gas emissions which are released into the atmosphere during extraction, manufacturing and disposal of various resources. Take advantage of recycling programs. Simply gather all the recyclable material in your home, such as paper, tins, magazines and other items and drop them off at designated recycling sites.
Go green in your yard
Composting is also a great way to limit the amount of garbage that ultimately ends up on landfills and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. You can use food, as well as garden waste to produce compost which can then be safely fed back into the soil to help nourish your lawn as well as your plants.
Limit your fuel consumption
Transportation is a big contributor to your carbon footprint and so this is a great area where you can make a big difference. Reduce the number of errands so you use your car less. Instead of doing your shopping weekly, draw up a comprehensive shopping list and do your groceries fortnightly or monthly. If you are going on a long journey to an area you are not familiar with, avoid getting lost and clocking up additional miles by using a GPS.
Ultimately you want to try avoid driving where possible. If you are close enough to your destination, then rather walk or ride there on a bicycle. Not only will this help save fuel and the environment, but it will also have a positive impact on your health.
Avoid entertainment that uses energy: Consider spending more time reading and playing games to reduce the demand on electricity and natural resources.
Consider downsizing: Smaller homes are just easier to manage, especially if you want to reduce your consumption of resources. Smaller homes consume less energy for lighting, heating and cooling. So if you are aiming for a greener home then consider downsizing. There will also be less space to accumulate paper and other unnecessary materials and you won’t need as much furniture or furnishings. If you intend to build your green home from scratch, then be sure to consider green building ideas and techniques as well.
Reducing your overall consumption of various resources contributes to a greener home, as well as a more sustainable living. Furthermore, you will also end up cutting costs significantly which is a great reward when choosing to go green. Remember to share these tips with family and friends. The more people that chooses greener living, the better it will be for the environment and for us all.
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.
Finding ways to save water around the home has never been more important as South Africa is currently facing its worst drought in 23 years. It’s a heart-breaking situation as the demand for access to clean water continues to increase. Our existing infrastructure is simply not up to the job and as a result we are over-exploiting our existing water sources.
Pressure is being placed on government to improve the management of our rivers and dams. But ordinary citizens will have to make real lifestyle changes too, if we are going to reverse this situation. Rainwater harvesting tanks can be used to take advantage of harvesting all the rainfall,
And you can apply some of these to your existing home if you want to contribute towards the solution. So let’s look at all the areas in your home where you can start saving water.
In the kitchen
Do you know how many times a day you turn your kitchen tap on? Try to keep track of it for one day and you may be surprised. Kitchen appliances require water to run, and to be kept clean. So it’s the perfect place to start looking for ways to cut down on your water usage. This is how you can do it:
- Purchase water-efficient devices: Dishwashers and washing machines make our lives so much easier. Some can use more water than they need to. If you’re looking to replace your existing machines, research before you buy. Look for machines that are not just energy-efficient, but water-efficient too.
- Make a full load before you switch on: Don’t be tempted to run your dishwasher if you only have a few dishes to wash. Although using a machine can save more water than washing by hand, it only works if you fill the machine up before you switch it on. The same goes for your washing machine. Wait until you have a few more clothes to wash and then make a full load to get the most out of the water you’re using.
- Plug your sink: Whether you’re washing dishes, rinsing your hands of washing your vegetables, don’t let water just drain away. Plug your sink and collect that water. It can still be used to water your plants or flush your toilet. Re-using water like this is the best way to get the maximum value from it.
- Don’t let the tap run: While you’re waiting for your hot water to come through, don’t let the cold water in the pipe go to waste. Collect it in a jug and use it to fill up kettle for your next cup of coffee.
- Install and aerator: A simple fitting with a mesh screen when attached to the end of your kitchen tap, provides a steady stream of air and water. You’ll still get a steady stream but use less water to achieve the same effect. They’re inexpensive, easy to install and effective.
A little thought goes a long way. Just being mindful of how you use water in the kitchen can help you see ways to save it. So think before you turn on that tap and make the most of every drop of water.
In the bathroom
Another good place to look at saving water is in the bathroom. There are many things you can do to reduce the amount of water you use and still stay clean. Try these simple tips:
- Don’t bath, shower instead: A bath uses far more water than a shower. Although, when you do shower, try to keep it under five minutes. It really shouldn’t take you much longer to get clean. If you want to bath, don’t overfill the bath. You can also re-use your bath water for flushing the toilet or watering your garden.
- Install a low-flow shower head: You can find them at your local hardware store and it doesn’t take much to install one. Your shower won’t feel any different and it will save you a lot of water.
- Put a brick in your cistern: It sounds crazy, but it really does work. By displacing some of the water in your cistern you won’t use as much when you flush. It’s a cheap but effective way to stop good water going down the drain.
- Don’t leave the tap running: When you’re shaving or brushing your teeth, turn off the tap. You’re letting good water go to waste; so leave it off until you need to rinse your razor or your mouth.
In the garden
Maintaining a beautiful garden takes lots of effort and lots of water. While these tips won’t make gardening any easier, they will help you to save water. Adopt these habits and your garden will still be beautiful:
- Water your plants in the evening: If you water your plants in the heat of the day most of the water will simply evaporate. But watering later in the evening, when the ground is cooler allows it to absorb and maintain the water. Your plants will benefit and you may find you don’t have to water them as often.
- Watch where you put your sprinkler: Don’t water your pavement. Make sure your sprinkler is placed where water is really needed—next to your plants. Letting water go to waste like this does nothing for your garden and is a complete waste of water.
- Use natural and organic garden products: The water you use in your garden may eventually make its way back into the system. If it’s loaded with dangerous chemicals recycling is hampered. Use natural and organic products which break down quickly.
- Plant indigenous: They don’t need as much water as aliens. They’re much easier to care for and much appreciated by the local insects and bird life. Group plants with similar water requirements together. You’ll be able to water those that need more water without drowning species that don’t need as much.
Cars and swimming pools
Taking care of your home extends to your car and swimming pool and offer you the opportunity to use water as wisely as possible. This is how to keep them in top condition without wasting water:
- Wash your car using a bucket: preferably a bucket of grey water that you’ve collected from around your home. There’s no need to spray every speck of dust off your car with a hose. It’s better to use a bit of elbow grease than send a river running down your driveway.
- Don’t overfill your swimming pool either: If you’re not using it all the time, it’s not necessary to fill it to the top. You can also use a gutter pipe to fill your pool up, rather than water from a tap. Just slide an old pair of pantyhose over the end to catch any debris from going into the pool.
Check for leaks
An important part of saving water involves checking your home for any leaks. It may seem like a small thing but over time a steady drip can lead to a lot of wasted water. This can also cost you money so it’s worth finding and fixing a leak quickly. Here’s how to do it:
- Watch your water meter: It’s the easiest way to check for a leak. Read your meter and take note of the figure. Then don’t use any water for at least two hours and check the meter again. If there’s a change in the meter reading it’s certain that you have a leak.
- Use food colouring to check your toilet tank: Add a few drops of food safe dye to your toilet tank and if the colour appears in the bowl within 30 minutes, you know there’s a leak.
- Check the toilet handle: Another sign that you’re toilet is leaking is when the handle doesn’t return to its original position. That means the water keeps running and you should attend to it immediately.
Did you know that if a tap is dripping at a rate of 1 drop a second it adds up to 10,220 litres in a year! Usually all that’s required is installing a new washer to solve the problem. So never underestimate a leaking tap—and don’t wait to get it fixed.
The ultimate water saving tip—a rainwater harvesting tank
If you have the space for one, it’s well worth investing in a rainwater harvesting tank. They can easily be installed in your garden and allow you to collect and store rainwater for free. In green homes they can be installed underground. Connected directly to the gutters, they collect rainwater which can be filtered and pumped into the home for use in the washing machine and toilets.
Not only do they supply free water, they help to reduce the burden on the municipal system. And when there’s a water shortage, you’ll always have access to your own supply. Even ordinary rainwater harvesting tanks can make a big difference. Simply being able to water your plants, wash your car or fill your pool without turning on a tap helps to save water resources.
These are all simple tips, and if everyone used them in their homes, the water crisis facing the country could be reduced. Using water carefully also makes financial sense. As our demand for electricity increases, so does the price and the same is true for water. Finding ways to save on your water costs means you’ll have money to invest in bigger projects such as rainwater harvesting tank.
While the problem with outdated and inefficient infrastructure still remains to be resolved, reducing the demand for water will make things a bit easier for everyone. All that we really need to overcome is the way we take water for granted. Being water-wise isn’t just for the eco-conscious; it’s an attitude everyone should adopt if we want to avoid an even bigger water crisis in the future.
What is a green smart home? It’s a home that combines green features with smart home technologies to maximise energy- and water-efficiency and comfort. You may already be aware of the benefits of greener living, however, people don’t generally know that smart home technologies are used to manage and maximise the efficiency and costs of running the green features while making our lives simpler, easier and cheaper. Let’s explore how living in a green smart home makes a difference to our lives.
Green smart homes enable us to monitor and efficiently manage the green features
Smart home technology has moved with the times and most systems include an app that provides access from our smartphone or computer. This means that we easily manage all the green features of our eco-friendly home from wherever we are. That could be anything from monitoring the water level of the rainwater harvesting tank to adjusting a zone temperature of the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system.
Imagine how much simpler it is to manage our home when all we need do is log in to the program, adjust the particular settings and let the system carry out those adjustments. When it’s time to turn down the temperature of the heat pump, thats done in a matter of minutes. And while at it, changing the temperature of individual zones in the house, in fact, even setting up schedules to take care of everything.
This provides us with capabilities to monitor and manage our home, our energy, rainwater consumption, all with our comfort in mind. Thereby maximising the energy- and rainwater-efficiency of our green home with ease. And because we’re able to access the app from our smartphone, changing settings even while on the go. This is ideal where we’re short on time. It’s all at our fingertips. This is especially handy to make finer adjustments to our home.
We save money every month with our green smart home
Eco-friendly homes are designed to be energy- and water-efficient. They include features such as Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling systems, heat pump solutions that use less power. The green features save us money by reducing the amount of energy and water our homes use. By connecting these elements to the smart home technology, we’re able to use the information collected by the system to reduce your energy and water consumption.
Here’s an example of how that would work. With the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system being connected to the smart home technology, and with the arrival of summer, we’ll want to lower the temperature in our home so it’s comfortable. And we adjust the relevant settings to the required temperature, say 21°. The system goes into action to make those adjustments and its done between 24 and 72 hours for the rooms throughout the home to reach the new temperatures we’ve set. Finer adjustments to the temperature works in the same way.
As the smart home technology collects information of our energy consumption, we’re able to monitor data and see the effect of our changes. At a glance, we’ll note whether lowering the temperature on the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system made a big or small difference to the electricity used immediately after the adjustment. If the electricity used to adjust the home to the newly set temperature is too high, changing the temperature by half or a full degree, again immediately shows up in the electricity consumption. Repeating such minor adjustments enables us to determine the balance between comfort and electricity efficiency. The energy consumption data is available to see the patterns immediately and over the past month or year. Interesting to note, that cooling our home uses more energy than heating our home.
This information is empowering. Homeowners that make the move from traditional homes to eco-friendly homes know that they’ll save on their monthly running costs. They see the difference in their monthly utility bills, and they’re able to calculate how much they’ve saved by living green. And until we’re able to monitor and efficiently manage our home we’ll not be able to balance comfort with cost efficiency.
When we have a clear picture of the costs involved in running our home it’s easier to budget and plan. We’re able to budget accurately, save more money and introduce new methods to increase our savings. We might discover that with the extra money we’re saving to add further photovoltaic solar panels. Or further invest in backup batteries to run our home longer at night. Green smart homes don’t just make our life easier, they provide us with valuable information enabling us to save money while living a luxurious lifestyle.
Green smart home luxury
Imagine it’s the dead of winter and as the alarm goes off we slide our bare feet out of bed onto the tiled floor. It’s still dark out and as we turn on the shower hot water tap, hot water comes out almost immediately, well in 3 – 5 seconds. Once ready for work, taking a look out of the double-glazed windows we see there’s an icy wind whipping the trees in the garden; we make a mental note to grab our jacket before heading out the door.
If that sounds like luxury and expensive, it’s surprisingly affordable to live this way. The Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system in eco-friendly houses works so well that we would place our bare feet directly on the tiled floor in the middle of winter finding the tiles warm. Smart home technology enables the use of sensors to detect movement and turn the lights in our home on and off without us having to reach for the switch. A linked-loop system provides us with hot water on tap saving both electricity and water. The double-glazed windows prevents cold air in during winter and warm air in during summer. In fact, they’re a small part of all the insulation used in the design of green smart homes that make our living comfortable all year round.
Eco-friendly homes are designed to use energy efficiently and that’s why, in the long term, investing in a green smart home is affordable. Giving us these creature comforts without the continuous rising costs of basic services. And because we’re able to monitor our energy consumption, we’re able to manage the costs efficiently. The information the system gathers on a continuous basis empowers homeowners to maximise the energy-efficiency of the home while they live in comfort and convenience.
Green smart homes grow with us
Technology improves all the time. A perfect example of this is the smartphone market, where new and improved models are released every year. With green smart home technology our home gets smarter too, we’re able to download new software and keep our system up to date.
We’ll be able to add on features as we need them, or as we budget to. For example, we could add an alarm system that works with our smart home technology. Adding sensors to detect movement and set off the alarm. What about combining the alarm with the blinds and lights so that the moment the alarm is triggered, our blinds open and our lights switch on as an immediate alert. By adding an alarm to our smart home system we’re also increasing our property value.
With more sensors we’re able to set schedules for the lights. While away on holiday we could set the curtains to open and close and lights to turn on and off as if someone was at home. There are many ways that smart home technology as the foundation has the capability to make our green home a smarter and safer place. Like, setting schedules to manage our blinds and lights according to our routine. Like, waking up with the sun, and setting the lights to come on every evening without doing it manually, by programming the system from the laptop.
The technology is in place so these are possible by adapting your home to suit your needs. Smart home technology allows you to manage many elements of your home and doing it remotely with the app on your smartphone or laptop.
Green smart homes are valuable
The truth is that eco-friendly homes are more expensive. Investing in property always pays dividends. And green smart homes will only become more desirable with time. Both the concepts of green living and smart technology taking off as more people come to realise the potential savings they offer.
In the future, new home buyers will be looking for properties that are energy- and water-efficient, comfortable and don’t require significant maintenance. Due to the nature of green smart homes, most of the features included in green smart homes are built to last. They need little maintenance and don’t require regular repairs. Photovoltaic solar panels last up to 20 years and don’t have moving parts that would easily break. And underground rainwater harvesting tanks are mostly self-cleaning; they require periodic rinsing if the finer filters.
As mentioned earlier, green smart home technology software is easy to upgrade, we’re thus able to access new features as they’re made available. We’re able too, to start with the basics and add extra functions to the system whenever needed. All of this adds value to our homes which means we’re in a position to command a higher price, when selling the green smart home on.
It’s no exaggeration to say that green smart homes are the future. The initial costs of investing in a green smart home are completely outweighed by the future savings and immediate comfort and convenience they offer their owners. As both developers and home owners come to realise this, more green smart homes will be built. With monitoring, managing, more knowledge and greater comfort, a green smart home gives us the kind of lifestyle we’ve always unknowingly dreamed of.