Green homes give tenants and owners long-term energy and water savings and a better standard of living – with less costs. Which of these tips do you find the most useful to turn your home green?
Green by design
Before you start buying material, call a professional, ecologically-aware architect who understands green building principles. New rooms and structures can be designed to be an appropriate size with energy efficiency in mind. Don’t go bigger than you need to –not only do you initially use more material, and so increase the carbon footprint, but you’ll require more energy on an ongoing basis to control the heating, cooling and lighting of a bigger space.
Light material footprint
Understand the difference, in cost, quality and environmental impact, of the types of building materials you choose. There are green alternatives to concrete, sustainable sources of timber, recycled products (think of paper-based countertops and composite decking), non-toxic paints and so much more. They are often cheaper or very similar in price to traditional dirty building materials.
Power your home
Many types of renewable energy options are available and, depending on where you live, some will be more feasible than others. What is not feasible is relying on irregular, ever-more-expensive coal-powered electricity. It will weigh down both the carbon footprint of your home as well as your personal lifestyle. Consider solar-powered geysers and PV solar panels which often save users enough to more than justify the initial investment after a few short years. And you’ll never have to worry if loadshedding has stopped your geyser from heating up (especially if it is on a timer).
Steward your water
With exponentially-growing demand and limited supply South Africans can expect that clean water for home use will become more difficult for municipalities to secure, supply and maintain. The drought in various parts of the country taught us to only use the water we need. A grey-water system at home can circulate used water, such as bath water, into an irrigation holding tank, or straight into the garden. This reduces the need to the need to give plants drinking water.
Quality fixtures in your bathroom and kitchen will reduce the volume of flow as well as the number of leaks. Duel-flush toilets are also very effective in reducing the amount of water flushed down the drain.
Thinking about lighting
Yes, you can and should swap out your energy-sucking old light bulbs with fresh, economic and efficient lighting. And this can make a big difference – LEDs often last 12 years and use 12c of electricity per hour, as opposed to halogens which often only last 12 months and cost 75c an hour to power.
Keep in mind that sensible building orientation that maximises the use of sunlight will reduce the amount of lights you need to switch on in the first place.