Designing green buildings isn’t purely about installing energy-saving elements. It’s about the orientation of the home, ventilation to capitalise on cool breezes and reduce heat, the role of ceilings, smart materials better adapted for heating or cooling, and, of course, using recycled materials. Start with the basics. New technology is far more energy-efficient than old, so do your homework when replacing your fridge, freezer and so on, and examine the energy star ratings when buying new appliances. Consider a heat pump – and/or repositioning a geyser adjacent to where the hot water’s required, so there’s no cold water wasted while you wait for the hot. Installing long-lasting LED bulbs also makes a difference – buy a reputable brand that delivers on its promise on the number of hours of light.

Tips to make your home green

What about photovoltaic panels or other big-ticket expenses? For large corporations that use a lot of electricity, water and, most expensive of all, air-conditioning, their return on investment for installing alternative energy sources can pay dividends. But as a family in a standard house, can you ever recoup that initial outlay?

House thermostat with wooly hat

Long term investments

Property isn’t a short-term investment, so you’re likely to be looking at upwards of 10 years. And don’t underestimate the value that prospective home buyers place on smart alternative energy sources like a heat pump, solar geysers or panels. They are all worthwhile investments. Given that some municipalities are effectively “buying back” surplus energy you generate, and that residential time-of-use tariffs are on the cards (more expensive electricity during peak periods), electricity saving is more than green. It could get you out of the red.

If you’re serious, bring in an expert and get a home energy rating. They’ll tell you what’s achievable, and set priorities according to your budget. You’ve got nothing to lose, and plenty to gain.

The green basics

  • Warming and cooling: use blinds and shutters to repel or retain heat, insulate the ceiling, install a heat pump or solar geyser, and raise the temperature a degree or so on your air-conditioning.
  • Electrical: place a blanket over the geyser; install energy-saving bulbs, dimmer switches, motion-activated lights (exterior, even interior), sunset-sunrise external lights and solar garden lights; reduce running hours of your pool pump; and reduce use of dishwasher/washing machine/tumble dryer.
  • Water: use a JoJo-type tank for garden/car washing, link waste water downpipe to a simple system to reuse this water for the garden, plant indigenous plants that don’t require a lot of water, install restricted-flow shower heads, and use the shower instead of the bath.

Words: Anne Schauffer | Images: iStock

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