When looking clinically and in a balanced way at drinking water filters, considering costs, replacement intervals, filter capability, filter recycling and the filter’s effect on our carbon footprint, how many drinking water filters would make the cut?
And importantly, do any water filters tick all the boxes and stand out as a best of breed product?
Reviews.com, elaborates on How We Found the Best Water Filters. A worthwhile review. Stay informed.
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.
Is the only thing holding you back from investing in a green home the fear that you simply can’t afford it? It’s a common misconception that living off the grid is only possible for the rich. While other’s think that converting their existing home will result in over-capitalization. By the end of this article you’ll come to realise that green homes are not just affordable, but actually add more value to your biggest investment.
Starting from scratch
If you’re in the market for a new home, it makes sense to look for one that already has many green features. Although there are not many of these homes available yet, these homes boast several innovative features that are not only eco-friendly, but contribute significant savings to the running of your household.
Knowing what to look for in a green home is the first step to evaluating whether it will be a good investment. Here are some pointers that you can use:
- It makes the best use of the location: An eco-friendly home should work with the environment to achieve maximum efficiency. If it’s correctly orientated, a green home can use natural sunlight to ensure that it’s easier to heat in winter, and just as easy to cool in summer. Taking advantage of natural sunlight and shadow means you spend less money keeping your living space at a comfortable temperature throughout the year.
- It is properly insulated:Most regular homes aren’t well insulated at all. This means that any money you spend trying to make your home comfortable just goes to waste. A green home is not just well-insulated; it also makes use of eco-friendly materials to ensure comfort and sustainability. The floors, walls and roof of your green home should all be insulated.
- It uses efficient heating and cooling systems:Underfloor heating and cooling may sound like an expensive luxury, but in a green home it provides a more efficient method of keeping your home at the right temperature. Use the innovative hydronics heating and cooling system to achieve this. Pipes laid throughout the house enables hot and cold water to be pumped under the flooring. This is far more efficient and affordable than using heaters in winter or air conditioners in summer to adjust the temperature of your interior spaces.
- It relies on solar energy:This may seem to be the most obvious feature of green homes. At the very least, a solar water heater provides free energy for heating the water that you use on a daily basis. If you instead add different panels and batteries, you can generate enough power to run your entire home without relying only on the grid.
- It’s water-wise:Clean water is rapidly becoming one of the most precious resources on the planet. And as time goes on, accessing water will become even more expensive. That’s why most green homes make use of water tanks to collect rainwater which can be used for everything from washing your car to flushing your toilet, and importantly to irrigate your garden. And the good news is that this doesn’t have to take the form of an unsightly tank in your garden. Instead, they are buried underground and fitted with energy efficient pumps to make the water available where you need it.
While these are just some of the basic features that any good green home should have, look out for those that offer little extras. Double-glazed windows, a garden with indigenous plants and bamboo flooring or counter tops all go a long way to making your home efficient and sustainable.
Counting the cost
Understanding the true cost of a green home requires you to do some serious calculations. While it’s true that you initial investment is higher than normal, you should factor in your future costs to see how much you’ll save in the long term.
To do this, you’ll need to calculate how much energy and water you currently consume and what it costs you every month. You can do this by monitoring your consumption and bills for a month or two. Then, you’ll need to estimate how much your expenses will increase as the cost of these resources continues to rise. Finally, you can offset this against the initial costs of buying a green home.
You’ll realise, as others have, that investing in a green home offers you substantial future savings. On average, you’ll find that it takes between 8 – 10 years to recoup your green investment. And, you’ll have many years of future savings to look forward to. As the costs of electricity rises, you’ll actually end up saving even more with each passing year.
Buying a green home is a serious commitment though. To really appreciate the savings you can enjoy, you’ll remain in your home longer—and when moving, you’ll move to another eco-friendly home of course.
The good news doesn’t end there. Should you ever sell your green home, you’ll find that you can command a higher price for your property. And because green homes require less maintenance, you won’t have to spend a lot of money preparing your home for resale.
Retrofitting your existing home
Even if you’re not in a position to buy a ready-fitted green home, there are several things you can do to make your existing home more energy-efficient. Retro-fitting an existing home with green features is often considered expensive. But once again, you need to take into account your future savings to determine how cost-effective these measures are.
Aside from cost, most people are unsure of where to start greening an existing home. However, it’s always a good idea to start small and build-up to bigger projects. Very often, some serious research is required to determine just what the final cost and savings may be. If you need help, consult with experts who will be able to give you the right advice. Some of these projects require specific knowledge and tools, so don’t be tempted to take the DIY route if you don’t have the necessary skills.
There’s more to owning a green home than just enjoying the cost savings. It requires a mind-shift to start living in a different way. So if you think that you’re ready to embrace a new way of living, try out some small projects before committing to the bigger ones.
- Be aware of how much energy you use: Simply turning off the lights as you leave a room is a good habit to develop. If you do eventually install photo-voltaic solar panels to power your home, you’ll need to be conscious of your energy consumption. That way, if you do make the switch to solar power, you’ll use it wisely and not waste it.
- Use energy efficient products: Light bulbs, dishwashers and fridges all consume electricity. If you ever get to the point where you generate your own electricity, you’ll want to make sure your household appliances are energy efficient.
- Monitor your water usage: Cutting down on your time in the shower can be difficult. But ultimately, it will help you save money on both your water and energy consumption. If you’re going to install a solar water heater, you’ll appreciate just what it takes to have a hot shower in the morning.
- Get water-wise: It’s so easy to just turn on a tap and have access to fresh water that we tend to take it for granted. So start thinking about all the water you use during the day and what steps you can take to cut down. Plant indigenous in your garden, pop a brick in your toilet and re-use your grey water for washing your car.
Once you’re aware of your consumption habits, it will become easier for you to see the value in investing in the bigger projects. When you’re ready to make the change, here are some of the ways you can retro-fit your home:
- Solar water heaters: Installing a solar water heater can knock a good 30% off your monthly electricity bill. When measured against the installation costs, it means you can re-coup your investment within 4 – 5 years. Most solar water heaters come with a five year guarantee and last between 15 – 20 years. As they don’t require much maintenance, this makes them one of the easiest green features you can use in an existing home.
- Insulation:An energy-efficient home is one that is well insulated. With existing homes it may be difficult or costly to add more insulation, but the investment is well worth it. Often your roof is the best place to start as it’s quite easy to add a layer of insulation here. But be sure to use environmentally-friendly material for this project. You can also check your windows and doors for air leaks and use insulating strips or caulk to seal them from draughts.
- Rainwater harvesting tanks:This very much depends on the space you have available on your property. However, there are plenty of options available on the market; your bound to find one that suits your requirements. These tanks can also be buried underground so they won’t detract from the appearance of your property. And they can be fitted to work with the existing municipal supply so you’ll never have to worry that you won’t have access to water when you need it.
- Photo-voltaic solar panels:Living off the grid is possible, but for existing homes it requires a significant investment. However, you can easily start with some panels and add to them as you save on your monthly bills. As with the rainwater tanks, you can supplement your solar panel with the municipal electricity supply.
Once you start investigating the options available for retro-fitting an existing home, you’ll see just how easy and affordable it can be. Not only will you enjoy considerable savings on your monthly running costs, you’ll also be adding significant value to your home. And should you ever want to sell your home, you’ll be able to command a higher price.
What’s more affordable?
The answer to this question will depend on your current situation. If you’re considering buying a new home, it would make sense to find one that has all the green features you want. And while this may mean that you spend more money initially, you will end up saving immediately and continuously.
If moving is not an option, then this article should prove to you that it’s still possible to go green without spending a fortune. Researching various green features will help you make a decision on where to start. And you’ll find that once you have implemented some of these suggestions, you’ll save money which you can put towards your next project.
It’s safe to say that being environmentally conscious isn’t just for the rich. With proper planning and dedication, anyone can change their home into green home. Are you ready to make the change?
Finding the perfect home is hard work. As it’s the biggest investment we’ll ever make, it’s worth taking our time to consider the advantages and disadvantages of every property. We’d also need to consider how much maintenance our home requires. If our preference is to spend more time enjoying our home, and less time maintaining it, eco-friendly homes are ideal.
The importance of maintaining your home
It’s something that first time home buyers rarely consider—how much will it cost to maintain a dream home? It’s easy to fall in love with a property that we’ve only seen a few times. Only when living in the home will we realise the work it requires to keep it in tip-top shape and in perfect working order. Maintenance is essential to maintain or improve the value of our home for years to come.
A swimming pool or a large garden might be a pre-requisite: They both need a lot of work; to keep the pool clean and sparkling; and a lot of water is required to keep the garden. Maintenance requires time, effort and money. By adopting a greener living philosophy reduces the aforementioned multiple fold. Looking at purpose built eco-friendly homes thus becomes an attractive option.
Do eco-friendly homes require special maintenance?
Does green living features such as photovoltaic solar panels and a rainwater harvesting system require special maintenance with prohibitive costs? Although these are cutting-edge green technologies, they been designed to be simple and easy to maintain. Let’s look at each of the features typically found in eco-friendly homes and how much they cost to maintain:
- Photovoltaic solar panels
Photovoltaic solar panels are made of semiconductors, a material that absorbs energy from the sun and converts it into electric current to power appliances and devices in our homes. They’re a standard feature of eco-friendly homes and are often the first image that comes to mind when we hear the words ‘eco-friendly’. They help homeowners reduce their reliance on the grid for electricity.
While they look impressive, photovoltaic solar panels actually require very little maintenance. They’re built to last and to withstand hail and storms. Photovoltaic solar panels don’t have moving parts that rust or break. The only maintenance needed is cleaning.
Safety first! When working on the roof to clean the photovoltaic solar panels requires safety precautions.
Dirt, grime, bird droppings and debris block the sun from being absorbed efficiently by the panels. So cleaning is a key aspect of photovoltaic solar panel maintenance. Inspecting the photovoltaic solar panels periodically, around once per year. If they do need cleaning it’s as easy as using a garden hose to rinse off the worst of the dust and grime. If they need more attention, using a squeegee and some soapy water gives them a good clean. Then using a hose to rinse off the soapy water and they’ll be as good as new. This is an easy task for DIY enthusiasts. Or is easily done by a professional. Remember safety first!
Aside from a simple wash down, photovoltaic solar panels do not require any expensive, specialist maintenance.
- Rainwater harvesting tanks
Harvesting rainwater for use in the garden and home is an effective way to reduce our reliance on the municipal supply. Harvested rainwater reduces the use of municipal water over the year by around 60% and fits in with living green. Here are some preventative maintenance points to consider:
- Clear your roof and gutters
Remove leaves, debris and overhanging branches from the roof and gutters. That way, bird dropping won’t find their way into the tank and cause water discolouration, odours or bacterial growth.
Periodically check the inlet/s and outlet/s screens and filters for leaves and insects, any blockages and damage, and clean or repair the screens or filters. Some systems come with self-cleaning options.
Depending on the type of system, the pump needs regular checking to make sure it is working properly. Cleaning/replacing the filter is a necessity. This is another DIY job; by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Check the first-flush diverters and rain-heads
Regularly clean and empty the first-flush diverters and rain-head. This is necessary to prevent roof debris, insects and plant particles from getting into the system. Certain systems do this automatically.
- Check for cracks, holes and gaps
With some tanks it is necessary to ensure they are structurally sound. Repairing any gaps or holes stops animals and insects from getting into the tank and reduces the risk of algae and bacteria infecting the system.
- Taking care of the water filters
If the tank is used to provide water to toilets and the washing machine, it will have a water filter. These filters generally need to be rinsed and where required replaced. This is another small maintenance job for the DIY enthusiast.
- Inspect the tank for accumulated sludge
Sludge will accumulate in the tank and needs to be checked and cleaned professionally.
For all the added value and savings rainwater harvesting tanks provide, the maintenance they require is minimal. Most eco-friendly houses install water tanks underground to save on space and maintenance costs. Because these tanks aren’t exposed there’s minimal chance for them to crack or leak.
Although heat pumps may not be the most eco-friendly option for some scenarios, they are incredibly efficient. This makes them a popular choice for eco-friendly houses. They require professional servicing twice per year.
A popular choice for eco-friendly houses; bamboo is a material that’s renewable, solid and durable. It looks beautiful and doesn’t need too much maintenance. And it’s not limited to countertops. Bamboo can be used as flooring, furniture and in construction.
A professionally installed bamboo countertop gives many years of pleasure. Here are some pointers to keep bamboo countertops looking as good as the day they were fitted:
- Wipe the surface down on a regular basis with a damp cloth and an all-purpose, non-abrasive cleaning product. Avoid ammonia based cleaners as this may damage the surface.
- Never use harsh chemicals or thinners based products on the countertop.
- Don’t chop anything directly on the surface. Bamboo is tough, but knives and other sharp instruments will damage them.
- If the surface is damaged, a light sanding and re-sealing should restore it to its previous condition.
- If the bamboo countertop is severely damaged, it can be repaired and re-sealed by a professional.
- Avoid putting hot pots and pans directly on the bamboo countertops. The heat will damage the surface.
Bamboo is a beautiful material that is very easy to care for. Looking after the bamboo countertops will avoid any expense repairs. In fact, as part of green living, it’s easy to make a natural cleaning solution to clean the countertops safely.
- Aluminium and stainless steel
You cannot speak of durable building materials without mentioning stainless steel and aluminium. Green living is focused on using quality materials that last well and don’t have to be replaced often. Both of these metals live up to that philosophy.
As both of these materials are so easy to maintain, it’s worth investing in a home that utilises them.
Used to construct the frame of eco-friendly homes, stainless steel is one of the recyclable materials in the world. Every year, millions of tonnes of stainless steel is recycled and used in a variety of construction projects. It’s is durable and strong and doesn’t rust. Stainless steel is a first choice for balustrades.
Aluminium window and door frames requires far less maintenance than wooden or steel frames. They don’t need to be painted or varnished and are easy to clean. When powdercoated almost no maintenance is required.
- Face brick and naturally coloured roof tiles
There are few building materials requiring as low maintenance as face brick. With no plaster and paint, big maintenance projects are not required to keep the outside of the home looking neat. Eco-friendly houses favour face brick because it’s a durable material that doesn’t need any special care.
And when combined with naturally coloured roof tiles, maintenance is reduced even more. Naturally coloured tiles never fade and stand up well to hail, wind and other harsh weather conditions. Making smarter choices is a key element of green living.
A water-wise garden cleverly landscaped and combined with indigenous plants and natural pest care saves time and money on maintenance. And requires very little water.
Greener living focuses on preserving resources and making our lives comfortable and efficient. A water-wise garden is the perfect example of this philosophy. Indigenous plants are well suited to the local environment and will thrive with little attention.
First-time home buyers get caught up in the excitement of house-hunting and don’t stop to consider the amount of effort and expense it takes to maintain a home. Being aware of the maintenance and costs, and of eco-friendly homes, creates more options. Green living and eco-friendly homes bring about benefits now and in the future as a green home increases in value and remains attractive to future buyers who recognise the benefits of living green.