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.
While we may think that installing photovoltaic solar panels is expensive, they are actually quite affordable. The cost has come down considerably as the demand for alternative energy sources has increased. Today, they cost half as much as they did in 2008 and the solar market has increased substantially.
When solar panels are fitted onto the roof, they are positioned in such a way as to maximise the harvesting of solar energy. Throughout the day, this photovoltaic system will harvest as much solar power as is needed for the home. Anything over and above what is used will be stored in batteries. These batteries, if full, are able to supply the home’s power needs for approximately one whole day.
The sun will run your home’s power while it is shining. But any excess power will be stored. This allows your home to continue running off the grid at night or during thick cloud cover.
As a failover mechanism, the home isn’t physically taken off the grid, and instead the home’s photovoltaic off-the-grid system is tied into the utility electrical grid.
Today, many developers use the term ‘green’ to describe their buildings. But what are the elements that really make a house environmentally friendly? Does it only refer to using solar power for heating your water? Or harvesting rainwater in a cleverly hidden tank? Seeing as the term gets thrown around so often, we decided to give you a better understanding of what makes a home green.
If you’re serious about green living, there are six general aspects you should consider when building or buying a home. Each of these aspects possesses other smaller elements that are optional. In the end, you will need to decide which ones you can afford, and which ones you don’t really need. Here are the six we have highlighted—with a brief description of each.
Photo-voltaic solar panels are the obvious answer to reducing your reliance on the grid. But you should consider your needs carefully. How much energy would you need, to generate power for all of your appliances? Be realistic and look at ways to reduce the amount of energy you require. Ask yourself whether it’s worth investing in energy efficient appliances. Finally, work with a developer that understands how to utilise orientation, shading devices and insulation to lower your requirements.
- How much energy will you need?
Measuring the amount of energy you need is step one. Step two is working out how much renewable energy you need to generate in order to maintain your household. It’s simple math and the answers are out there. Remember to do these sums thoroughly before you add this feature to your home—or purchase a home that has it already implemented.
- Should you also buy energy efficient appliances?
Appliances that are designed to use less power can be extremely helpful too. However, this is not an option for everybody. If you have to balance your comfort and convenience, then these appliances are not going to make your life better. Living cheaply, doesn’t mean you have to live less comfortably. Rather generate lots of free, renewable power than having to lower your lifestyle.
- Should you work with a green home developer?
Green home developers have already worked with green vendors. They’ve had their bad experiences with the dubious ones and finally found teams of individuals who deliver what they promise. That’s why it can be beneficial to work with these developers for advice. If you are looking for someone to help you get it right the first time, speak to someone who’s already made all the mistakes and come out on top.
After energy, a sustainable water supply is essential for any green home. Every effort must be made to make the collection of rainwater as efficient as possible. This requires expertise in the placement of pipes and catchments. Once again, developers need to have local knowledge of the rainfall patterns in your area to ensure maximum collection.
The most efficient rainwater harvesting methods are the cheapest. Finding a way to collect as much water as possible is the trick to maximising your efficiency and your savings. Remember, the more water you collect, the more you will benefit from your return on investment.
Once again, it’s important to use a proper expert to do this implementation in your home. Working with a green home developer who knows a good vendor, or finding a vendor with an excellent reputation is the key to getting the best system.
There are many important aspects to this green feature:
- Positioning of the catchments
- Installation of the pipes
- Choosing the right collection point
- Having high quality equipment all round
Only true experts will give full attention to detail with ALL of these aspects. So be sure to speak to the right people about installing your rainwater harvesting system.
A home that is truly green is one that takes every part of the building process into consideration. And that includes the materials that are used in its construction. Bamboo is an example of a sustainable alternative to wood. It has a much lower impact on the environment but is just as durable. It can be used for flooring, counter tops and in the construction of shaft covers.
Having a truly green home means using materials that have little impact on the environment. We’ll use bamboo as an example here. There are three questions to ask when choosing material:
- Does harvesting this material take a lot of energy?
In the case of bamboo, harvesting has a significantly lower impact on the environment than other methods. These include cutting down large trees, mining, farming, etc.
- Will the removal of this resource from nature negatively affect the planet?
Unlike trees, bamboo does not play that much of an important role in dissipating greenhouse gasses. Bamboo isn’t a huge oxygen producer either, so removing it has a very low impact on our planet.
- Does this resource grow or generate fast enough to sustain its demand?
Bamboo grows incredibly fast! If and when the demand for bamboo increases, growing more will be quick and simple. This makes it incredibly sustainable as a building material.
Insulating the rooms
Being green is not only about harvesting natural resources for living. It’s also about maintaining what you have without needing to continually generate more. This is especially true in the case of heating and cooling your home. That’s where insulation comes in.
There are many ways you can insulate a room. For now, let’s just look at five:
By insulating your home’s ceiling, you ensure that warm air cannot escape. Even though your ceiling is solid, air escapes through it much easier than you realise. This is an especially useful feature during winter. Warming up a room takes time, and that heat will not leave the room so easily.
Floor insulation is another way to keep the temperature in your home constant. But more importantly, floor insulation ensures that your under-floor heating or cooling system (hydronics radiant heating and cooling system) retains its effectiveness.
Probably the most effective way to retain a home’s desired temperature is through wall insulation. This is often done by using products such as Lambdaboard within a cavity in each exterior wall.
- Window & glass door insulation
So much air escapes through closed doors and windows. In the case of windows and glass doors, even sealing the sides will not prevent air from escaping through the glass itself! Double glazing offers the solution here. By trapping the air within a small cavity in the window pane, your rooms will retain the temperature you set for them.
A homeowner who has truly adopted a green lifestyle will always insist on pipe insulation. This has a number of benefits:
- Less electricity is needed to reheat water that would otherwise have cooled down faster
- Water within pipes retains its heat so that water is ultimately saved by not having to run the tap for long
- Pipe insulation also prevents your cold water pipes from reaching room temperature too quickly. This again saves you on having to run the tap longer when the water is required.
Consider your garden
Gardens take up a lot of time and effort to maintain. Even if you exclude the watering of a garden, there’s still the pruning, treating and mowing that goes into that maintenance. All of these things have an impact on the environment. So what’s the secret to owning a garden that’s as green as your home?
One of the biggest suggestions we put forth to our clients is the importance of planning indigenous trees and plants in a garden. Why do we see this as a green aspect? Because:
- Indigenous plants need very little maintenance
- They attract natural wildlife and birds to your garden
- These plants require very little watering
- They grow well together
- They stay green all year round—that means less replacement gardening for you
Learning about invasive plant species in South Africa is also something you can do to be a more responsible homeowner. There is tons of information on the Internet about this subject. Fortunately for the South African environment, this topic is getting a lot of attention at the moment.
As you can see, gardening is a major part of living green. If your garden isn’t green, time to get a revamp. Green, environmentally friendly gardens are an essential part to reducing your carbon footprint.
Thinking about the little things
Another truly green aspect of any home is how easy it is to maintain the little things. We’re talking about cleaning, repairing, treating, painting, polishing… all those things that require time, energy, and chemicals.
Living green means thinking ahead about small aspects of maintenance. Today there are countless options available to homeowners and developers. Let’s take a brief look at some of them:
- Low maintenance roof tiles
You can now purchase uncoloured roof tiles. This means that you will never have to paint them. It also means that they will never fade from the sun or rainfall. There are no side effects either. These tiles are durable, aesthetically pleasing and cost effective.
Something else to consider is that stainless steel is a great option for certain metal fittings within your home. Stainless steel is easy to clean. It’s also rust resistant and doesn’t require chemical treatment to maintain it.
Maintaining a large area of lawn can be very expensive. It also takes up loads of energy and machine power to do so. If you want to truly live as green as possible, why not consider replacing lawn space with garden decor? This can include pretty rocks & pebbles, pavers, stepping stones, ground cover plants, gravel areas.
Retrofitting existing homes with these features can be challenging. But green homes are becoming more popular in South Africa. Purchasing a brand new green home is already an option that is available to those who appreciate the benefits of green living.
What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you hear the words ‘solar power’? Do you picture an eco-friendly home with solar panels on the roof? You’re not wrong, though there are some other ways to harness the power of the sun for your home. Using solar power can help you reduce your reliance on the grid and put cash back in your pocket.
Solar power is a versatile and sustainable source of energy. Here are some unusual ways you can use it to power your home:
Solar water heaters
Heating water for your home accounts for a significant portion of your monthly energy bills. A family of four needs a lot of hot water for their daily cleaning, bathing and cooking needs. Installing a solar water heater can reduce the cost of generating hot water by as much as 80%. Solar heaters use either evacuated tubes or solar thermal panels to heat the water directly. The heat is then used to warm up water for your household needs.
Apart from saving on costs, a solar water heater can also save water and time. With green homes, during building by installing a linked-loop throughout the home, enables that as soon as you turn on the tap, hot water is available. You don’t have to let the tap run and wait for the water to reach your desired temperature. Few people realise that greener living can actually be more convenient.
Keeping the lights turned on in a dark area of your home is a sure way to run up your energy bill. Installing a skylight in a poorly lit area is a cheaper and better way to bring light into your home. Sunlight is healthier and completely free. If you install a skylight that opens, you can use it to release warm air and keep your home cooler during the hot summer months.
You don’t always need a large skylight either. Tubular skylights are a good option for smaller areas and allow you to funnel daylight into the areas where you need it. They’re inexpensive and relatively easy to install.
Solar garden lights are the perfect way to light up your outdoor areas without flipping the switch. With a tiny solar panel, battery and LED lamp, you can set your garden lights to turn on automatically when the sun goes down. They come in a variety of forms: string lighting, fairy lighting, tube lighting and even Christmas lights. You can get creative and make your garden look even more beautiful without spending a cent on electricity.
Solar chargers for electronic devices
Although they aren’t common, you can find solar charges available in South Africa. These handy devices can be used to charge small electronic devices such as your cell phone or tablet. Depending on your needs, they are inexpensive and portable. Essentially they consist of a small solar panel and some models may include a battery.
You can use them at home to charge your electronics for free and they’ll help to reduce your carbon footprint. Solar charges are the perfect example of how green living can be affordable and convenient.
You’ll find over 60 different types of solar cookers and are categorised as follows:
- Box solar cookers
- Panel solar cookers
- Solar kettles
- Parabolic solar cookers
- Hybrid cookers
What they all have in common is that they use energy from the sun for a chore that you have to do every day—cook food. Not only do they provide you with massive energy savings, they’re much safer to use. They don’t require any kind of fuel and they don’t produce any flames or fumes. Solar cookers provide a clean and efficient form of energy which is completely free.
Going solar doesn’t mean having to sacrifice your creature comforts. If anything, using sunlight to heat your water and charge your electronics makes your life easier. If you’re reluctant to incorporate solar power into your home, perhaps these examples will change your mind. Aside from the cost savings you’ll enjoy, there are some other very good reasons to use solar power in your home.
Reasons to go photovoltaic solar
Photovoltaic cells are incredible. They generate an electric charge when photons in the sunlight hit them. These solar cells are usually made from silicon and mounted in panels on the roof of the home where they are exposed to the maximum amount of sunlight.
By absorbing photons from the sun they generate enough electricity to run your home without relying on the grid. This makes them perfect for eco-friendly houses which are designed to reduce your carbon footprint. The cost saving alone are a good reason to consider installing photovoltaic solar panels.
But there are some other reasons why solar photovoltaic panels are a good investment, particularly if you’re interested in green living.
Photovoltaic solar energy is affordable
While you may think that installing photovoltaic solar panels is expensive, they are actually quite affordable. The cost has come down considerably as the demand for alternative energy sources has increased. Today, they cost half as much as they did in 2008 and the solar market has increased substantially.
Photovoltaic solar panels are easy to install
If you’re retrofitting an existing home, you’ll be pleased to hear that installing photovoltaic solar panels is not that difficult. If you have the knowledge you may be able to do the installation yourself. Though it’s always wise to work with an expert. They’ll be able to provide you with the right advice when it comes to choosing and fitting the panels for your home. Your energy requirements should be assessed and the size and position of your roof taken into account before installation begins.
Photovoltaic solar panels require little maintenance
Green technologies are surprisingly robust and photovoltaic solar panels are an excellent example of this. They are strong enough to survive some tough weather conditions such as rain, wind and hail. A high quality installation can last as long as 30 years and requires hardly any maintenance. Monitoring and operating your photovoltaic solar panels and battery back-up will be no hassle at all.
Photovoltaic solar energy is reliable
This is of particular importance in South Africa where the power supply can be erratic. Load shedding can be frustrating and inconvenient. But with photovoltaic solar panels you never have to worry about coming home to a house without power. Given our sunny weather, you can look forward to a constant and free supply of energy throughout the year.
Photovoltaic solar energy is safe and clean
Solar cells are environmentally friendly. They do not burn fuel, produce noise or pollute the atmosphere. You get all the benefits of a constant supply of power without damaging the environment or contributing to the load on limited resources. Your carbon footprint is reduced without having to sacrifice any modern conveniences.
Photovoltaic solar panels conserve water
And while you’re reducing the strain on the national grid, you’re also saving water. Electricity generated from a photovoltaic system use 100% less water per kWh of electricity than coal power plants. That’s a double saving for greener living enthusiasts.
The big benefit of photovoltaic solar power for home owners still lies in the impressive long term saving you achieve. If you take into account the fact that electricity costs will only continue to rise, investing in photovoltaic solar power now makes it the best investment you can make for your home. While the initial installation costs are high, your savings will enable you to offset that in just a few years. And you can always start small and add on more panels as you can afford them.
The more you understand photovoltaic solar power, the more you’ll be convinced that it’s worth investing in. Here is some information you may find useful.
Photovoltaic solar power components
A photovoltaic system comprises of the following components:
- Photovoltaic solar panels: Made from silicon, these panels are mounted on your roof where they catch the sun and convert that energy into power for your home.
- DC-AC inverter: This unit is responsible for converting the current generated by the panels into a form that can be used for running your appliances and devices.
- Storage batteries: South Africa averages upwards of 2500 hours of sunshine a year. It’s entirely possible that your system could generate more energy than you need. Storage batteries are used to store the power providing you with a constant and uninterrupted supply every day.
- Charge controller or regulator: This prevents damage to your batteries as a result of excessive discharging or overcharging.
All these elements are required, and you can alter the size and number of photovoltaic solar panels depending on your budget and needs. The beauty of a photovoltaic system is that you can add to it at a later stage. This allows you to start small and increase capacity when you can afford it.
Photovoltaic solar power installations
You can choose from three types of installations depending on the size of your property:
- Ground mounted: This type of installation is ideal if you have a large, clear area of land to work with. You can install as many photovoltaic solar panels as you need.
- Roof mounted: Mounting your photovoltaic solar panels on the roof ensures that they receive maximum exposure to the sun.
- Thin film photovoltaic solar panels: These panels are glued onto your roof which eliminates the risk of damage to your tiles. They are perfect for sunny climates as they collect more energy than conventional panels.
Take some time to work out how photovoltaic solar panels could make a difference to your monthly expenses and weigh that against the costs of your preferred installation type. You’ll see why going photovoltaic makes sense.
Though retrofitting photovoltaic solar panels is a big investment to make, it’s the perfect way to start living green. Alternatively, if you’re in the market for a new home, look for one that already has this feature.
Photovoltaic solar energy can be used in different ways to help you cut costs and start living green. Whether you’re ready to say goodbye to the grid for good, or just make small changes to reduce your consumption, the technology does exist. And with each passing year, new developments make eco-friendly homes that utilise photovoltaic solar power easier to afford. Don’t wait too long, the sooner you start living green, the more you’ll save.
Title: Transcript of Interview with Jonathan Harf, CEO of Jex Energy
Presented by: Emmanuel van der Meulen
Guest Speaker: Jonathan Harf
Date: 9 May 2017
Number of Speakers: 2
File Duration: 11:48
Transcriptionist: Jacqui Jonk
Links are at the end of the transcript.
00:01 Introduction to Radio Live Green Smart
00:54 Introduction to alternative energy sources
01:57 What is solar energy?
02:33 Start of interview with Jonathan Harf
06:36 Three options for solar power
08:43 Benefits of solar power to the domestic user
11:43 Wrap Up
00:01 Beginning of recorded material, Introduction to Radio Live Green Smart:
[Righto] so I’m just going to give a short introduction and then I’ll come back to you.
Emmanuel: Welcome to Radio Live Green Smart and to our interview this evening with Jonathan Harf, of Jex Energy. I’m the presenter Emmanuel, and a little bit of background on Radio Live Green Smart: it’s a forum to discuss green living and eco-friendly living and importantly a forum to discuss where you see any disrespect for the environment first hand. Bring such disrespect to us, we’ll assist to expose that environmental disrespect, use the contact us form to send the details of the disrespect, please provide comprehensive information.
00:54 Introduction to alternative energy sources.
Tonight’s talk is about alternative energy sources, most of the worlds current [electric] electricity supply is produced from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. These traditional energy sources have various challenges including but not [limit] limited to rising prices, growing environmental concerns over the climate changes and limited supply of fossil fuels. As a result, governments, businesses and consumers are increasingly supporting the development of alternative energy sources. [Renewed] renewable energy sources such as solar, biomass, geo thermal, hydroelectric and wind power generation have emerged as potential alternatives which address some of these concerns. Top
01:57 What is solar energy?
What is solar energy? Solar energy refers to energy from the sun. The sun has produced energy for billions of years [it is most] it is the most important source of energy for life forms. Solar energy technologies use the suns energy to light our homes, produce hot water, heat homes as shown in solar tankless water heater reviews and electricity. Top
02:33 Start of interview with Jonathan Harf.
Emmanuel: Jonathan is joining us
Emmanuel: and he’ll be talking about Jex Energy and how they look at renewable solutions. Jonathan my first question is tell us about yourself and Jex Energy and what do you do? Top
Jonathan: Ok sure, well what we do exactly is pretty much what you were going on about there, is we supply and [insall] install renewable solutions, renewable energy solutions predominantly for residential and commercial, [um] as the need is arising we moving more into the industrial sector too. What our aim [is] is to really reduce the carbon footprint and have people less reliant on the normal utilities, fossil fuels what not.
Emmanuel: Ok, [what um]what would be interesting [um] especially from our point of view as well: why should people switch to solar power?
Jonathan: Well it’s a very good question [um] very simple answer. The people are using up the fossil fuels at a dramatic rate and it is really destroying our planet. That would-be option [well] reason number 1 to kind of go green. [um] reason 2 [inaudible] the growth of the solar market worldwide has seen a huge reduction in the price of solar panels, solar grid tie inverters, it is really becoming a cost-effective way to move over. You must remember that in South Africa [um] our electricity price is still relatively low compared to a lot of the rest of the world, so the quicker people here can move over to solar energy the better for them from a cost saving point.
Emmanuel: Yeah, just before we move on, I’m curious, are you finding traction? Are you finding a little bit of resistance? Is the market buying into this still in a small way or in a big way? How do you find the market?
Jonathan: I’ll tell you something, we’ve been doing this now for 6 years, for the first 4 years there was a lot of resistance[um] people were very hesitant, the prices were high, which did cause this obviously.
Jonathan: In the last 2 years, this industry has literally boomed, [it’s um] we are just getting requests from every sector in the market which is brilliant.
Emmanuel: Ok, even domestic dwellings?
Jonathan: Even domestic, and that now has also come down to the fact of the drop in the prices of batteries as well as the technology increasing [um] Tesler have released their Powerwall 2 which we are installers and suppliers of, and that battery is really changing the way people can live.
Emmanuel: Ok, is that the life of the battery or is that the cost or both? [inaudible]
Jonathan: It’s the life and the cost. They’ve been able to increase the life and reduce the cost.
Emmanuel: Ok I understand [righto]. [uh] Jonathan and then what are the different solar power solutions available either in the market or from your company?
Jonathan: Sure, so and in the market at the moment you would look at 3 different options. Top
6:10 cuts out
Emmanuel: Hello are you there? Hello?
Jonathan: There’s obviously [inaudible] hello can you hear me?
Emmanuel: You were out a little bit, just give [inaudible] please Jonathan.
Emmanuel: Jonathan sorry, suddenly something has gone wonky, [um] you come and go. Shall we just try again?
Jonathan: Can you hear me now?
Emmanuel: Yes, I hear you well. Top
06:36 Three options for solar power.
Jonathan: Ok, alright, so your first option would be a grid tied system, this is have solar panels and a grid tied inverter, there’s no backup or battery storage with this system [uh] typically this is a cost saving system. The only drawback obviously is that you don’t get any benefit at night time. We find this system typically used in commercial situations where they are using most of their power during the day; that being said there is space for it in the domestic area.
The next system would be what you would call your hybrid system, this would be a system typically where you would have a battery bank as well as solar panels and an inverter. The solar panels would feed the house or the offices during the day, the inverter then would change some of that solar power into storable energy into your batteries. This would be then either used on a daily or nightly basis, just a small amount not to drain the batteries or used as a backup, say for example there’s load shedding or a power outage.
And the last system is a complete off-grid system this is where you do not have any grid, any Eskom grid or any power grid and we design a system around that. We’ve done quite a lot of systems for game parks and those sorts of situations where it’s too expensive for [inaudible] Eskom line [inaudible] completely off solar energy and batteries.
Emmanuel: OK and that must be the expensive one?
Jonathan: [ah] yes that is quite pricey, although as I said as technology increases, these systems are really becoming a reality. [um] Elon Musk with Tesler, they’ve set up an entire island, one of the islands of Hawaii, that are running completely off grid.
Emmanuel: OK, so it’s not impossible?
Jonathan: No, not at all.
Emmanuel: OK, [righto] thank you for those insights.
Emmanuel: Then if we can take it a step further and maybe you can cover the domestic [uh] dwellings as well [uh] as well as the industry but also let’s look at the [indus, uh] the domestic user. What are the benefits of the solar power? Top
08:43 Benefits of solar power to the domestic user.
Jonathan: Well firstly obviously, it’s the cost saving, so [um] although the pay back is still relatively long, [um] if you factor in Eskom increases, as you know are quite ridiculous sometimes there is definitely a cost saving. Another big thing is that you no so reliant on one sort of power source, the utility, whoever it is.
Jonathan: So, it really lets you be a bit more free if you will [uh] obviously we also a green company so we believe in reducing your carbon footprint and all those sort of things.
Emmanuel: [inaudible] yeah OK. Just on the [the] grid tied that you mentioned a moment ago.
Emmanuel: What happens if the system produces more electricity than the house or the office dwelling actually uses.
Jonathan: Very [very] good question. So, at the moment is South Africa there’s only 1 or about 3 or 4 municipalities that allow for feedback into the grid and you get [you get] a credit in your account. There is a push now, Tshwane municipality have sort of passed it through legislation, so it will just take a bit of time and they are also going to allow for it. It [it] is a reality that it has to happen especially as our grid is under so much strain this would allow for energy to becoming back to them, even if we not getting paid the full amount you’ll still get a credit. All over the world they allow for feedback into the grid, however in places where it’s not allowed yet we do put something on called a grid tie limiter which just prevents that feedback for now but in the near future hopefully all the municipalities will follow suit.
Emmanuel: Ok so there is uptake? I take it when you started your business [inaudible] that there were no municipalities buying back?
Emmanuel: Now there are. OK
Emmanuel: OK so there is a growth but slow. [uh] are you there Jonathan?
Jonathan: I’m here yes [yes].
Emmanuel: The other question is, what are your most popular solutions?
Jonathan: Our most popular solutions right now I would say in the domestic market would be our hybrid solution, as I mentioned it has solar panels as well as a battery bank so you are getting the best of both worlds [um] we set up these systems in such a way that we try get people say 80-90% off grid with them.
Jonathan: So, it can be quiet a big saving to a lot of people. On the commercial side its definitely our grid tied system where companies are now looking at a 3-year payback on their system.
Emmanuel: As quick as that? Wow.
Jonathan: As quick as that yes. Top
11:43 Wrap Up
Emmanuel: [inaudible] OK righty [um] Is there maybe anything else you want to cover? I’m drawing towards the end of…
End of Transcript Top