There is lots of advice out there on how to cut down on your water usage and save money on your water bill. But why deprive yourself of water simply to save a few Rand? We’ve come up with four ways to save money without having to cut down on your water.
Plant indigenous plants in your garden
When a garden is filled with indigenous plants, you will barely need to water or maintain it throughout the year. Indigenous plants can withstand the hot South African summers, while still staying green during winter months. Imagine having to almost never water your garden except in drought months!
Awareness is increasing in South Africa regarding trees and plants that are not native to South Africa. These plants are often referred to as invaders. Invader plants have a way of stifling the growth of native plants by:
- Stealing moisture during dry seasons
- Taking up space and crowding other plants
- Self-seeding prolifically, not giving other plants a chance
- Growing elaborate root systems that cannot be unearthed
- Not adding any benefits to animals such as birds and insects
Another aspect to having these plants in your garden is the maintenance. Many of them steal moisture from your soil—meaning you are forced to water your garden more regularly to ensure the survival of indigenous plants. You will be required to trim these plants regularly to ensure they don’t take over. Worst of all, when seeding takes place you are left with hundreds of weeds.
The benefits to having a purely indigenous garden are many. Here are a few reasons we planted them in our homes:
- Indigenous plants work well together. Because they are native to South Africa, they benefit each other; coexisting in a way that cannot take place with other plants.
- These plants are more likely to stay green all year round. They don’t mind harsh climates, as they have already adapted themselves to our weather conditions.
- Maintenance such as watering, trimming and shaping is minimal with indigenous plants. They work well together to create unity within your garden—without much effort from people.
- Indigenous plants also bring life to your home. Because they house birds, insects and small animals, your garden will soon become its own little ecosystem. Another reason why working WITH nature is so much better!
So it’s not only about saving water—it’s also about all these other benefits. Now let’s look at another way to save water…
Harvest rainwater for everyday cleaning
Installing a rainwater harvesting system on your property is an excellent investment. Rainwater is not fit for drinking, bathing or showering; but it can be used in almost any other capacity in your home. Use rainwater to flush your toilets, washing machine and your outside taps. In fact, any cleaning can be done with harvested rainwater which has been coarsely filtered.
Many people wonder whether rainwater is clean enough to use in the home. The answer is, YES! Basic rainwater collection tanks are perfect for watering your garden. But if you want to take it one step further, then a rainwater filtering system is excellent.
These systems perform three major functions:
- First of all they collect rainwater more efficiently than regular surface mounted tanks. That’s because they are installed in strategic positions which maximise collection potential.
- Second, these systems perform general coarse filtering of your water. This takes place by extracting the water from just above the surface—thereby giving you the cleanest portion.
- Finally, these systems go one step further by distributing the water to certain areas of the home. This includes the toilets, the washing machine and the irrigation system for your garden.
That’s right. If you can get your rainwater tank connected to your plumbing, you can even use it for toilet flushing! This is a system that is usually pre-installed in a ready-built green home; but if you plan on staying in your home for years to come, there’s no reason why you can’t install such a system in your current home.
As mentioned, unfiltered rainwater is not fit for consumption. But some would argue that tap water isn’t either. So why fill your water filter with tap water when rainwater is free? If it’s available and accessible, you may as well use what nature has already given you free of charge! Since most of us use water filters/coolers in our homes, there’s nothing wrong with filtering your rainwater for the purpose of consumption. Simply access your water at the source, collect it in a jug, and fill your water filter. Within a few hours you will have perfectly clean drinking water that didn’t cost you a cent!
Now you may be wondering about the price. What does rainwater harvesting cost? How hard are these systems to maintain?
Although decent rainwater harvesting systems cost a bundle, they provide a return on investment that far surpasses their initial cost. This is a viable long term option for homeowners who want to save on their utility bill.
Maintenance on rainwater harvesting systems is minimal. These systems are designed in such a way that they run themselves. And because there are no complicated mechanics to how they work, they won’t breakdown or malfunction.
Reduce the need for running your taps unnecessarily
Plumbing has slowly evolved over the decades. Today we have awesome systems which will help you save on your water bill. Although these savings are small at first, accumulatively they make a massive difference.
One such system is a heat pump. Heat pumps work in conjunction with three other systems which keep your hot water warm within the pipes. These include:
- Hot water pipe insulation
- Insulation of the tank to negate the need for constant heating
- A linked loop plumbing system to prevent waste
We’ll look at each of these aspects more closely. But first, let’s explore how having hot water immediately on tap ultimately saves water.
You may be surprised to learn how much water is wasted while you wait for it to warm up. Conventional plumbing systems allow water within the pipes to cool down within minutes of your previous use. So every time you need hot water, you have to run your hot water tap for about 15 seconds or more before it warms up.
This wastes A LOT of water! Collectively, litres and litres of water are lost. That’s literally money down the drain.
So let’s now look at the three factors that help you save money on your water bill:
- Hot water pipe insulation
When hot water flows through pipes, insulation keeps it warm. Insulation material is wrapped around pipes to ensure heat is not lost while the water sits dormant inside. This ensures that hot water is immediately accessible whenever the hot water tap is turned on.
- Insulation of your water tank
In addition to the pipes being insulated, the tank needs to retain its temperature too. By keeping the water tank insulated, water does not require constant heating. Electricity is saved and so is water—because again, you don’t need to run your tap to get to the hot water. It’s already there!
A linked loop plumbing system is another practical way to keep hot water accessible throughout your home. This again negates the need for running water to get it to the desired temperature. Linked loop plumbing ensures that water is always warm, always accessible no matter where you are in your house.
Use reputable green vendors to fit your plumbing systems
As with all industries, the green home industry in South Africa is rife with low quality materials and installers. That’s why it’s important to find reputable vendors when looking into these systems. Yes, you will pay a little more. But rather that than having to worry about problems down the line.
Here are some you may hear about:
Leaking pipes may cause you unimaginable problems later on. Because these pipes are built into walls, floor and ceilings, they need to be of a very high quality. Low quality pipes will leak after a few years and breaking down your home to repair them is simply not worth it. And even if you don’t realise you have a leak, your water bill will be ridiculously high despite your attempts to save on water usage.
- Cheap insulation material
We’ve already seen how insulation of pipes and hot water tanks can save money on your water [and electricity] bill. But if that insulation material comes loose, it’s function is lost. Additionally, if the wrong type of material is used, your insulation won’t be as effective.
When a green plumbing system is not fitted correctly, it will not perform as well. If it’s not performing the way it should, it’s not saving you money—and is therefore a useless addition to your home.
Green home components should come from reputable green suppliers. There are countless cheap brands out there and many South African installers use these brands—choosing price over quality. Do a bit of research before you get an installer out and make sure they know their brands.
Don’t be discouraged by these possible problems. Fortunately there are companies in South Africa that are serious about delivering a high quality service.
These water saving strategies are probably very different from the ones you’re used to reading about. And while they are unconventional methods, they are super effective in giving you a return on your investment.
If you’ve never considered green features as a way to save on your water bill, then now’s the time to look into it. As green home development increases, more and more of these methods will be implemented. Accumulatively, when water is saved, it has a huge impact on our planet.
It also has a positive effect on the economy since everyone benefits when water is saved! So, for saving on your pocket, your planet and your peace of mind; implement these systems wherever you can and save our most precious resource.
At the first sign of winter do you dust off your heaters and throw your electric blanket on the bed? Or maybe you stock up on gas and firewood to keep you warm through those dark, chilly nights? With a green home, you wouldn’t have to do any of these things.
And the reason for that lies in proper insulation. You may be surprised to hear that a well-insulated home not only reduces your electricity bill, but it takes all the hassle out of dealing with the change in seasons.
Yes, insulation does mean a significant reduction in your heating costs. But the real benefit is that it keeps your home at an even temperature throughout the year; cool in summer and warm in winter. Green homes combine a variety of insulation materials and techniques to keep your home at the perfect temperature all year round.
Not only are the materials and techniques they use environmentally friendly, but they’re also remarkably efficient and effective. Here’s a breakdown of how a home should be insulated against the elements.
Lambdaboard: Built in-between external and separating walls
Lambdaboard is a high-quality, environmentally friendly alternative which provides superior insulation for homes. Lamdaboard is a polyisocyanurate, which is another name for a thermoset plastic. Essentially, it is closed-cell, rigid foam board set between two facers. The facers are made of a various organic materials such as fibreglass or paper.
Lambdaboard is the ideal insulating material and provides several benefits to homeowners:
- The foam core resists moisture which reduces the risk of rising damp on walls.
- It is made from recycled materials and can also be recycled itself which makes it really environmentally friendly.
- It performs better than most other materials in fire tests. It will not melt, drip or spread the flame.
- It has a wide service temperature range from -30° to 140°.
- It has the highest thermal resistance (R-value) per 25mm of thickness which makes it the most thermally efficient insulation material available on the market.
By inserting this remarkable material in-between exterior and separating walls, the temperature of each individual room is contained and maintained. The result is that heating your home in winter is cheaper and easier.
The Lambdaboard helps to keep any heat generated within the room, which in turn makes you less dependent on other energy-hungry heat sources to keep warm in the colder months. And in summer, the board keeps the heat of the sun out, which makes interiors cool and comfortable.
Here again, you won’t have to rely on expensive and environmentally damaging air conditioners to keep the temperature down. It’s not hard to see how using this amazing material to insulate every room in a home would make it more comfortable to live in.
Hydronics radiant heating and cooling
Homes built using this method to help homeowners control and customise the temperature of their home to suit their individual preferences, makes it a versatile and economical way to heat or cool your home.
How does it work?
Hydronics radiant systems circulate water through tubing laid in the floor between the foundation slab and the surface of the floor. They are connected to a hot water tank and gets cold water directly from the heat pump system. The feeder pipes are well-insulated which helps to maintain a consistent temperature throughout a specific area.
The system is laid out over multiple zones in the home and you can adjust the temperature of each zone individually. That means each member of the family can adjust the temperature in their area to suit their preferences.
What are the benefits?
When compared to regular methods, using water to heat or cool your home has several benefits:
- The floor surface of the area is heated or cooled, rather than the air within it. This eliminates hot or cold spots and makes it more comfortable for the people living in the house.
- There is no need for messy ductwork or noisy fans which means a cleaner and quieter home.
- Dust particles aren’t circulated through the air so there’s less risk for those who suffer from allergies.
- It’s easier to control the temperature of the building and set the temperature to suit your comfort level.
The system is compatible with any type of flooring so you don’t need to avoid using tiles throughout your home for fear that it will be cold in winter. With a hydronics radiant heating and cooling system, you’ll be able to walk barefoot across your floors no matter what time of the year it is.
Combined with the use of Lambaboard in the walls, it’s easy to see why these homes are both more energy efficient and comfortable to live in. Being able to control the temperature within your home, and maintain it without relying on expensive electricity makes a green home particularly attractive to anyone looking to buy a new home.
Any costs involved in such a system will be quickly offset by the reduction in running costs, especially as the price of electricity continues to rise. But beyond this, the knowledge that these methods are also kinder to the environment provides a benefit that cannot be measured in economic terms.
Going green doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your comfort. In fact, a green home is easier to live in and maintain, despite the perception that reducing your reliance on electricity means missing out on the convenience of modern living.
Adding a layer of insulation to floors of every home, ensures that the hydronics radiant heating and cooling system is even more effective.
On its own, an extra thick screed will provide your home with insulation. It is also a good idea to insulate the pipes carrying water.
And not only in the bedrooms and living areas – the kitchen, bathrooms and domestic quarters should be fitted with these pipes and an extra thick screed. So no matter where you spend your time, the temperature of the area will always be just what you want it to be.
Innovative ceiling insulation
One popular method of insulation consists of laying a thick roll of fibre-glass or asbestos material in the roof of your home to trap the heat inside. Although it may be effective, it certainly isn’t environmentally friendly. And it makes it awkward to access your roof space should you need to install new lighting or lay any kind of wiring. But there is a far more efficient and sustainable way to insulate your ceiling.
So what should you use in place of this? If you’re concerned about safety, you’ll be delighted to know that there is an entirely green technology to insulate the roof of your home. Called Isotherm, this insulating material is completely made up of recycled plastic bottles. Not only is this material environmentally friendly, it can also be recycled. You can’t get greener than that.
And it still has some other benefits that all homeowners will appreciate:
- Dust and water resistant
- Non-toxic with no associated health risks
- Lasts longer than most other insulating materials
Choose a ceiling insulation product that is effective and gentle on the environment. Once again, you don’t have to sacrifice modern comforts for the sake of greener living. And you’ll be reaping the benefits of reduced electricity consumption and the costs associated with it for years to come.
The double benefit of insulated plumbing
Don’t let any opportunity go to waste when it comes to insulating your home. Even the water pipes should be insulated. First, cover with an insulation material which is wrapped with insulating tape. And then, benefit from the insulation in walls, floor and ceiling.
You might think this is too much, but this only adds to the savings you’ll enjoy. Obviously all this insulation means that your hot water won’t cool down in winter or your cold water heat up in summer. Via a linked-loop system hot water is available a few moments after you turn on the tap.
So you won’t need to run your taps until the water reaches the desired temperature. This means you’re saving water too. And considering what a precious resource this is, it makes perfect sense to insulate your plumbing as much as possible.
Double glazing on windows and glass doors
You may think that this would be unnecessary considering how many other insulating methods are used to make green homes comfortable and energy efficient. But every technique available must be used to maximise the efficiency of green homes.
Double glazing refers to a window that consists of two panes of glass, an outer pane and an inner pane. Because the window is completely sealed, the air between them acts as a layer of insulation. This stops the warm air inside the home from escaping during chilly winters. And in summer it has the reverse effect; preventing unwanted heat from entering your space.
Once again, this reduces your need to keep heaters or air conditioners running constantly to maintain the temperature of your home. And there are some other benefits to double glazed windows that you may not be aware of:
- It reduces condensation which is the primary cause of mould in the home.
- It cuts down on medium to high-frequency noise, which makes for a quieter space.
- It’s harder to break through two panes of glass so double glazed windows and doors also act as a security measure.
Once again, a feature like this does tend to add to the cost of a home. But it’s easy to see how the benefits outweigh the initial costs.
It’s easy to see how much your energy costs will be slashed by taking advantage of these materials and techniques. Great care should be taken to ensure that every green home build conforms to the strictest safety standards. The materials and techniques used should not only be environmentally friendly, but also durable, effective and cost efficient.
A well-insulated home makes financial sense. Although it may affect the cost of your initial layout, your living costs will be significantly lower. And in less than 10 years the savings you’ll enjoy will more than make up for extra expense of buying a green home. With low maintenance costs, you’ll continue to enjoy modern comforts while also making a positive impact on the environment.