Low Maintenance, Indigenous Garden

Low Maintenance, Indigenous Garden

Many indigenous plants will adapt in their local surroundings and do well in most parts of the country.  In South Africa, many of the indigenous plants need very little water to survive.  This means that we enjoy a cool, lush garden with little effort on our part.  If we choose evergreen trees, our garden is green, even in winter.

A well-planned garden requires less effort in the long term.  Local plants are more resistant to local pests.  And well-positioned plants give our home shade during the heat of summer.

When it comes to lawn, areas within the garden that don’t receive enough sunlight may wither.  Minimal use of grass is recommended, and will thrive when laid down where it will do well all year round.

With a little help from the experts, we could plant a garden that will bring year round comfort.

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4 unconventional ways to save on your water bill (without cutting down on your water usage)

4 unconventional ways to save on your water bill (without cutting down on your water usage)

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!

  • Linked loop plumbing

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

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.

  • Poor installation

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.

  • Cheap brands

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.

How a green home saves you money

How a green home saves you money

Your home is the biggest investment you’ll ever make. And with the rising cost of electricity and the vulnerability of South Africa’s water supply, green living is becoming a more attractive option for many home owners. But can you afford it now? The last thing you want to do is over-capitalise on your property.

Another option would be selling your current home and buying a ‘green’ home instead. But how would a home that’s designed to be environmentally friendly save you money? While it’s true that sustainably built homes cost more initially, the long term benefits extend beyond saving on your electricity bill. So with that in mind, here are four reasons why investing in a green home makes financial sense.

  1. A green home costs less to maintain

Do you have a list of things to do around the home? Perhaps you need to paint the exterior, tend to your gutters and downpipes or maintain a large garden? There always seems to be something that needs repairing or re-decorating.

And it all costs money, time and effort. A green home simply doesn’t have these issues to begin with. That’s because a good developer makes sure that the materials used to construct a green home are durable. In a green home you should find the following low-maintenance features:

  • Naturally coloured roof tiles

That’s right, you’ll never have to spend money or put your back out painting your roof. The colour of these tiles won’t fade from exposure to the harsh South African sun. And they’re tough as nails too. They can withstand rain, wind and hail and aren’t easily damaged. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever have to spend money replacing them due to damage.

  • Self-cleaning rainwater tanks

Most rainwater harvesting tanks require some form of maintenance to remove the plant material, waste and sediment that build up over time. This can be a tedious job if you undertake it yourself, or expensive if you call in a professional cleaning service.

Rather choose tanks that are self-cleaning. So you’ll never have to incur the hassle or expense that normally comes with such a feature.

  • Aluminium and stainless steel

Aluminium is the ideal material for window and door frames. They add to the look and style of any home and the material itself offers homeowners several benefits over wood or uPVC frames, including:

  • Low maintenance: Resistant to all weather conditions and corrosion, aluminium frames won’t warp, crack, split or swell.
  • Environmentally friendly:Aluminium is one of the most highly recycled materials in the world which makes it extremely sustainable.
  • Thermally efficient:Frames made from aluminium outperform other materials when it comes to adapting to heat gain and loss.
  • Inexpensive:Although prices vary between manufacturers, aluminium doesn’t cost as much as you might think. And because the material is so energy efficient, you’ll quickly recoup the initial costs.
  • Design flexibility:You can customise aluminium frames to suit any shape or size making it particularly suitable for unusual openings.

Steel is another material that’s both cost-effective and sustainable. It offers strength and durability to the frame of a home and requires little or no maintenance. Best of all, it can be completely recycled so it never goes to waste.

  • A water-saving garden

Keen gardeners will already appreciate the fact that maintaining a green lawn and lush shrubbery takes a lot of time and effort. Create gardens that still look appealing without the hassle or cost by including these elements:

  • Indigenous trees and shrubs: These require less water as they have adapted to the South African climate. You won’t have to water them as often as foreign plants so you’ll spend less time working on your garden, and more time enjoying it.
  • Smaller lawns: This is the part of any garden that requires the most maintenance and incurs the most costs. Constantly watering your lawn to keep it looking at its best comes at a cost. Instead, make smaller lawns and use pots and decorations to make your garden a beautiful space.
  • Rainwater tanks: Rainwater doesn’t cost you anything and is perfectly safe for using to water your plants and clean your car. Even in times of drought, supplementing with rainwater saves on costs and helps preserve this precious resource.

A green home normally makes use of alternative energy sources to reduce your reliance on the grid. And these features will reduce your monthly costs. But by taking into consideration every aspect of your living space, you can reduce your costs even further by reducing the need for expensive maintenance.

  1. A green home is healthier

An advantage of green homes that is often overlooked is the fact that they are healthier than regular homes. In other words, all the materials and methods used in a green home tend to emit less harmful chemicals and toxins into your living space.

There are a few ways in which green building practices contribute to the health of a home:

  • Better air quality: Because green homes use paints and adhesives that emit less volatile organic compounds, the air in the home is safer and cleaner. Without constantly breathing in dangerous chemicals there’s less chance of the inhabitants suffering from eye, nose and throat irritations and headaches.
  • Elimination of mould: A home that is properly sealed and ventilated doesn’t give mould the chance to grow. Mould and damp can cause respiratory problems and infections, allergies or asthma. They can also affect the immune system.
  • Less temperature variations: Proper insulation in green homes reduces the fluctuation in temperature inside the home between seasons. Green homes are a comfortable temperature all year round which means you’re less likely to get sick. You may not get ill from being cold, but it does affect the immune system, making you more susceptible to any kind of infection or illness.
  • Cleaner water: the filtration systems used on green homes are effective at removing up to 99% of dangerous contaminants, including chlorine, metal and pesticides. And cleaner water means there’s less chance of you picking up an opportunistic infection.

But what does all of this mean for your pocket? Quite simply, it means you’ll be spending less time at the doctor’s rooms and less money on treatments and medicines. Healthcare is expensive and as the old saying goes—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Many studies have shown the health benefits that green building provide to the people who live and work in them. A healthier living space also makes people happier and more productive. These benefits make investing in a green home a smart decision for your pocket and your future health.

  1. A green home has a higher resale value

Your initial costs may be high, but if you ever need to sell your green home you’ll be pleased to hear that it can command a higher resale value than ordinary homes. Even retro-fitting an existing home with green features can increase your asking price when you sell it.

Energy efficient homes are becoming more attractive to homeowners because of the continual and long-tern savings they represent. And in current and future economic times, the ability to reduce your monthly running costs will be an important consideration when shopping for a home.

Scarcity of natural resources will also be a concern for future homeowners. So choosing a property that has been designed to make the most of natural energy sources will be more attractive. While green homes are still the exception, rather than the norm, many new developments are starting to incorporate green features. And in the future, tax rebates may be offered for those who make use of green technologies when building new homes.

How quickly you can expect a return on your investment in a green home depends on several factors. Your initial costs versus the savings on monthly utility bills, reduction in maintenance costs and the savings on your healthcare all contribute to the final figure. Within reason, you can expect to have recouped your costs within 10 years or less.

  1. Green homes reduce the strain on local infrastructure

Even those who do not live in an energy efficient home can benefit from living in an area where there are green homes available.

Because green homes don’t rely solely on the electricity grid to run their homes, this makes it much easier for local suppliers of electricity to cope with the demand. As a result, the cost of supplying these services will stabilise and make them more affordable and reliable for everyone.

Unfortunately there are not enough green homes to make this a reality yet. But with the movement becoming more popular it could mean that in the future, electricity will be more affordable for everyone. And that way, even if you do need to use the grid to supplement your photo-voltaic solar electricity supply, it won’t cost you as much as it might have.

  1. Green homes have many other benefits

Besides those already mentioned above, green homes have a number of other benefits that can’t be measured in monetary value.

The benefit to environment is the most obvious. Even though these homes still use a variety of building materials, these are sourced and used in a sustainable way. Harvesting rainwater and using solar panels for generating your own energy reduce the strain on local resources. Green homes generate less pollution and reduce your carbon footprint substantially.

Green homes are stronger, sturdier and built to last. They have been designed to work with nature and not against it. A good developer will take all aspects of the construction into consideration when helping you plan your green home. This includes looking at factors such as the location and your requirements. They will know how to maximise the efficiency of systems and techniques to benefit you and the environment.

Once you’ve experienced a green home you won’t want to live any other way. The air and water quality are often much better than those in other homes. Double glazed windows reduce noise pollution and make green homes a haven of peace and tranquility.

If the cost of buying or building a green home is putting you off the idea, these benefits should convince you otherwise. It’s tempting to try and save money, but when buying a home one needs to consider the long-term costs involved in maintaining and running it. And this is where a green home can really make an impact on your future expenses. Your home should be an investment for the future. So take the time to research and calculate the real cost of a potential property. Once everything is on paper, you’ll clearly see the financial benefits of going green. 

How to reduce your home’s carbon footprint—and save money

How to reduce your home’s carbon footprint—and save money

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. 

Cost of maintaining eco-friendly homes

Cost of maintaining eco-friendly homes

Finding the perfect home is hard work. As it’s the biggest investment we’ll ever make, it’s worth taking our time to consider the advantages and disadvantages of every property. We’d also need to consider how much maintenance our home requires. If our preference is to spend more time enjoying our home, and less time maintaining it, eco-friendly homes are ideal.

The importance of maintaining your home

It’s something that first time home buyers rarely consider—how much will it cost to maintain a dream home? It’s easy to fall in love with a property that we’ve only seen a few times. Only when living in the home will we realise the work it requires to keep it in tip-top shape and in perfect working order. Maintenance is essential to maintain or improve the value of our home for years to come.

A swimming pool or a large garden might be a pre-requisite: They both need a lot of work; to keep the pool clean and sparkling; and a lot of water is required to keep the garden. Maintenance requires time, effort and money. By adopting a greener living philosophy reduces the aforementioned multiple fold. Looking at purpose built eco-friendly homes thus becomes an attractive option.

Do eco-friendly homes require special maintenance?

Does green living features such as photovoltaic solar panels and a rainwater harvesting system require special maintenance with prohibitive costs? Although these are cutting-edge green technologies, they been designed to be simple and easy to maintain. Let’s look at each of the features typically found in eco-friendly homes and how much they cost to maintain:

  • Photovoltaic solar panels

Photovoltaic solar panels are made of semiconductors, a material that absorbs energy from the sun and converts it into electric current to power appliances and devices in our homes. They’re a standard feature of eco-friendly homes and are often the first image that comes to mind when we hear the words ‘eco-friendly’. They help homeowners reduce their reliance on the grid for electricity.

While they look impressive, photovoltaic solar panels actually require very little maintenance. They’re built to last and to withstand hail and storms. Photovoltaic solar panels don’t have moving parts that rust or break. The only maintenance needed is cleaning.

Safety first! When working on the roof to clean the photovoltaic solar panels requires safety precautions.

Dirt, grime, bird droppings and debris block the sun from being absorbed efficiently by the panels. So cleaning is a key aspect of photovoltaic solar panel maintenance. Inspecting the photovoltaic solar panels periodically, around once per year. If they do need cleaning it’s as easy as using a garden hose to rinse off the worst of the dust and grime. If they need more attention, using a squeegee and some soapy water gives them a good clean. Then using a hose to rinse off the soapy water and they’ll be as good as new. This is an easy task for DIY enthusiasts. Or is easily done by a professional. Remember safety first!

Aside from a simple wash down, photovoltaic solar panels do not require any expensive, specialist maintenance.

  • Rainwater harvesting tanks

Harvesting rainwater for use in the garden and home is an effective way to reduce our reliance on the municipal supply. Harvested rainwater reduces the use of municipal water over the year by around 60% and fits in with living green. Here are some preventative maintenance points to consider:

  • Clear your roof and gutters

Remove leaves, debris and overhanging branches from the roof and gutters. That way, bird dropping won’t find their way into the tank and cause water discolouration, odours or bacterial growth.

  • Check the screens

Periodically check the inlet/s and outlet/s screens and filters for leaves and insects, any blockages and damage, and clean or repair the screens or filters. Some systems come with self-cleaning options.

  • Keep the pump clean

Depending on the type of system, the pump needs regular checking to make sure it is working properly. Cleaning/replacing the filter is a necessity. This is another DIY job; by following the manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Check the first-flush diverters and rain-heads

Regularly clean and empty the first-flush diverters and rain-head. This is necessary to prevent roof debris, insects and plant particles from getting into the system. Certain systems do this automatically.

  • Check for cracks, holes and gaps

With some tanks it is necessary to ensure they are structurally sound. Repairing any gaps or holes stops animals and insects from getting into the tank and reduces the risk of algae and bacteria infecting the system.

  • Taking care of the water filters

If the tank is used to provide water to toilets and the washing machine, it will have a water filter. These filters generally need to be rinsed and where required replaced. This is another small maintenance job for the DIY enthusiast.

  • Inspect the tank for accumulated sludge

Sludge will accumulate in the tank and needs to be checked and cleaned professionally.

For all the added value and savings rainwater harvesting tanks provide, the maintenance they require is minimal. Most eco-friendly houses install water tanks underground to save on space and maintenance costs. Because these tanks aren’t exposed there’s minimal chance for them to crack or leak.

  • Heat pumps

Although heat pumps may not be the most eco-friendly option for some scenarios, they are incredibly efficient. This makes them a popular choice for eco-friendly houses. They require professional servicing twice per year.

  • Bamboo countertops

A popular choice for eco-friendly houses; bamboo is a material that’s renewable, solid and durable. It looks beautiful and doesn’t need too much maintenance. And it’s not limited to countertops. Bamboo can be used as flooring, furniture and in construction.

A professionally installed bamboo countertop gives many years of pleasure. Here are some pointers to keep bamboo countertops looking as good as the day they were fitted:

  • Wipe the surface down on a regular basis with a damp cloth and an all-purpose, non-abrasive cleaning product. Avoid ammonia based cleaners as this may damage the surface.
  • Never use harsh chemicals or thinners based products on the countertop.
  • Don’t chop anything directly on the surface. Bamboo is tough, but knives and other sharp instruments will damage them.
  • If the surface is damaged, a light sanding and re-sealing should restore it to its previous condition.
  • If the bamboo countertop is severely damaged, it can be repaired and re-sealed by a professional.
  • Avoid putting hot pots and pans directly on the bamboo countertops. The heat will damage the surface.

Bamboo is a beautiful material that is very easy to care for. Looking after the bamboo countertops will avoid any expense repairs. In fact, as part of green living, it’s easy to make a natural cleaning solution to clean the countertops safely.

  • Aluminium and stainless steel

You cannot speak of durable building materials without mentioning stainless steel and aluminium. Green living is focused on using quality materials that last well and don’t have to be replaced often. Both of these metals live up to that philosophy.

As both of these materials are so easy to maintain, it’s worth investing in a home that utilises them.

  • Stainless steel

Used to construct the frame of eco-friendly homes, stainless steel is one of the recyclable materials in the world. Every year, millions of tonnes of stainless steel is recycled and used in a variety of construction projects. It’s is durable and strong and doesn’t rust. Stainless steel is a first choice for balustrades.

  • Aluminium

Aluminium window and door frames requires far less maintenance than wooden or steel frames. They don’t need to be painted or varnished and are easy to clean. When powdercoated almost no maintenance is required.

  • Face brick and naturally coloured roof tiles

There are few building materials requiring as low maintenance as face brick. With no plaster and paint, big maintenance projects are not required to keep the outside of the home looking neat. Eco-friendly houses favour face brick because it’s a durable material that doesn’t need any special care.

And when combined with naturally coloured roof tiles, maintenance is reduced even more. Naturally coloured tiles never fade and stand up well to hail, wind and other harsh weather conditions. Making smarter choices is a key element of green living.

  • A water wise garden

A water-wise garden cleverly landscaped and combined with indigenous plants and natural pest care saves time and money on maintenance. And requires very little water.

Greener living focuses on preserving resources and making our lives comfortable and efficient. A water-wise garden is the perfect example of this philosophy. Indigenous plants are well suited to the local environment and will thrive with little attention.

First-time home buyers get caught up in the excitement of house-hunting and don’t stop to consider the amount of effort and expense it takes to maintain a home. Being aware of the maintenance and costs, and of eco-friendly homes, creates more options. Green living and eco-friendly homes bring about benefits now and in the future as a green home increases in value and remains attractive to future buyers who recognise the benefits of living green.

Gardening for greener living

Gardening for greener living

Your garden is the ideal place to start practicing greener living. Working in your garden is satisfying. Whether you grow prize roses, or vegetables to feed your family, sustainable gardening makes your efforts more rewarding. With a focus on preserving the soil and using resources wisely, eco-friendly gardening is cost-effective and easy to do. Here are some sustainable gardening principles you can start using in your garden right now.

  • Composting

Eco-friendly homes take advantage of available resources and make the most of them. Recycle your food scraps, used coffee grounds, vegetable peeling and plant cuttings. By making your own compost you’re able to fertilise your garden for free. And you’ll provide your plants with a rich source of nutrients. Composting is a perfect example of green living.

To make your own composter, start by picking out a shady spot in your garden. Your compost heap should be larger than a cubic metre, but smaller than 5 cubic metres. The compost heap should be large enough to generate sufficient heat to break down the material.

Start with a layer of course material such as thin sticks or twigs. Then add a mixture of grass clipping and green and dried leaves. Then add some soil. You can also add manure to your compost heap, make sure it’s well-rotted. You don’t want to be inundated with flies or a subject your neighbours to the potent smell. Keep adding more layers to your heap in this order until it’s a about a metre high. Over time, the material will turn to compost.

These are typical items you’re able to add to your compost heap:

  • Fruit and vegetable peelings
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags
  • Egg shells
  • Lawn cuttings
  • Nut shells
  • Straw
  • Paper
  • Cardboard and eggs cartons

Composting ticks two greener living habits off your checklist in one go. You end up sending less waste to the landfill, and you recycle organic materials at the same time. A third is, you feed your garden without it costing anything.

  • Harvesting rainwater

Any gardener knows that a beautiful garden needs water. This is one of our most precious resources. When experiencing a drought, harvesting rainwater is the ideal way to start living green. A sound investment in the future.

Rainwater is used for watering your garden, washing your car and even flushing your toilets. It’s not suitable for human consumption unless you filter it, using rainwater for general purpose jobs reduces the strain on the municipal supply. And, you’ll save money on your water bill at the same time.

While purpose-built eco-friendly homes have water tanks installed below ground, with existing homes if not possible to install underground, they are easily installed above ground. You’ll need to take into account how much water you need, the collection area of your roof and the rainfall pattern in your area to determine what size water tank you need. Water tanks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you’re bound to find one that works best for your garden.

If you haven’t got the room for a water tank, there are other ways to keep your plants hydrated the green living way:

  • Use mulch and ground cover to prevent water from evaporating.
  • Create raised beds to collect water and let it soak into the ground.
  • Use a watering can to water your garden instead of a hose pipe. That way you’ll use less water.
  • Swap your direct irrigation system for a drip irrigation system. This is an efficient way of watering your plants.

Using water wisely is the cornerstone of greener living. Water tanks are a great addition to eco-friendly homes. And in times of drought and water restrictions, you’ll prolong your supply of water to keep your garden blooming.

  • Planting native plants

Choose native plants that are hardy and drought resistant. Not only do they contribute to greener living, they require less maintenance. You’ll spend less time working on your garden, and more time enjoying it.

Native plants are well-adapted to local conditions so they don’t need as much water as foreign species. Indigenous trees, shrubs and flowers are more resistant to local pests and diseases. When planting trees consider their position and type to reduce your home’s heating and cooling costs.

Evergreen trees are green all year round so use them to form a windbreak and protect your home from chilly winds in winter. In summer, they’ll keep your home cool and comfortable. While deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter making them ideal for protecting the areas of your home that get the full sun in summer. Come winter, when the leaves fall off to let the sun in to warm the room.

Using plants to control the temperature of your home means you won’t have to rely as much on air-conditioners and heaters. If you adopt this green living trick you can make your home more comfortable and save on electricity. These natural methods are something that eco-friendly houses incorporate into their design from the start. And there’s no reason why you can’t do the same in your garden.

  • Controlling pests organically

Gardens attract insects and while eco-friendly gardeners recognise that some are beneficial, others are just pests. There’s no need to abandon your green living principles with them. From home-made insecticides to encouraging natural predators, there are organic ways to stop pests from ruining your garden:

  • Natural solutions: Save your eggshells from breakfast, crush them up and spread them around the base of your plants. That will keep slugs and cut worms away. Sprinkle salt around on the soil to stop snails from taking over. Don’t go overboard though, too much salt in the soil isn’t good for your plants.
  • Clean and tidy: Pests prefer untidy gardens. It gives them the chance to settle in and start breeding. So keep your lawn manicured and your beds tidy. Remove fruits and vegetables before they start rotting and become a food source for pests; and good for the compost heap.
  • Install barriers. Physical barriers such as mesh and nets protect plants from pests. Loosely woven material protects plants while they get enough water and sunlight to grow.
  • Insect-repelling plants. Citronella, marigolds, thyme, lemongrass and spearmint are all plants with insect-repelling properties. When planted in-between your shrubs they naturally repel pests – no need for chemicals.
  • Encourage birds. Hanging a feeder gets birds to visit your garden. Birds are fond of snacking on bugs and will help control the pest population in your garden. Lizards and frogs are another natural form of pest control.

Save on expensive and damaging chemicals and use natural, greener living methods to manage pests in your garden. You’ll discover that once you start working with nature, you’ll achieve the results you want with less effort, and costs.

  • Old-fashioned garden maintenance

To maintain a garden you rely on a number of tools to keep it looking tidy. Lawn mowers, leaf blowers and hedge trimmers are an essential part of any gardener’s kit. Where possible, choose electric-powered equipment. You could invest in cordless tools to make your job easier.

Electric-powered lawn equipment creates less noise and air pollution than the gas-powered models. Electricity is also cheaper than fuel and another way of saving on costs of keeping your garden in tip-top shape. Alternatively, using a traditional push mower and get a workout while attending to your garden.

An alternative to leaf-blowers, is sweeping the driveways and sidewalks the old-fashioned way – and getting in a workout. Though it may take longer, it saves on fuel and noise pollution. Green living, though by working differently, saves costs in various ways.

And did you know that using a hoe to cultivate between your plants suppresses weeds and aerates the soil? Spending a few minutes in your garden every day and pulling weeds, by hand contains weeds and they won’t spread get out of control. Ten minutes daily beats hours of weeding once a month.

Working in your garden is as good for the garden as for your soul. By returning to greener living practices you re-discover the joy of spending time in nature.

  • Designing eco-friendly gardens

Eco-friendly homes with eco-friendly gardens is a balanced eco-system. Compliment the indoors and outdoors, by following greener living through to your outdoor spaces too. Whether working with an existing garden, or starting one from scratch using these tips create a garden that’s eco-friendly:

  • Recycle materials. If you want to build a deck or a patio, use recycled materials or a material that can be recycled such as wood or aluminium. Some manufacturers offer you a composite material made from a combination of plastic and wood particles. This type of decking is fade-resistant and easy to clean. It requires little maintenance and looks attractive.
  • Plan your planting. Learn about native plants to make your garden attractive. The local nursery is able to help pick out indigenous plants that are ideal for our gardens. Native plants will help you to cut down on water usage, repel local pests. Have a beautiful garden. Use a combination of sun-loving and shade-loving plants appropriately. The more you know about the plants you want to use, the better your landscaping.
  • Limit your lawn area. Lawns require frequently watering and care to keep them looking at their best. Consider whether you need a large lawn and if you don’t, experiment with other kinds or ground covers that don’t need as much water or maintenance. Natural grasses are just as attractive and are suited to droughts and our particular weather conditions.
  • Make maintenance easy: Designing your garden in way that makes it easy to look after. Remember that green living is convenience. If you want to harvest rainwater for use in your garden, or start a composting heap, set aside space for these projects. Incorporate them from the start and make them part of your garden. Reduce the need for gas-guzzling or power-sapping garden tools. Working on your garden is a pleasure when approaching it differently.

When adopting green living gardening principles, changes the way you see your garden. Eco-friendly homes are about convenience, saving costs and being environmentally friendly. Everyone benefits when becoming mindful of how resources are used. Explore ways that you’ll enjoy and start a small project putting your ideas into practice.

The benefits of living in a green smart home

The benefits of living in a green smart home

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.