Saturday, August 18

Greening your home need not be expensive

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Eco-friendly homes are also attractive to buyers, especially foreign buyers.

Sustainability is a hot topic in the home and construction sector, and reducing the demand on natural resources need not be expensive for homeowners.

Often the thought of being more energy efficient makes one think of expensive contraptions, modern interiors or fittings, and a lot of extra work to make the home more eco-friendly.

But Craig Hutchison, chief executive of Engel & Völkers Southern Africa, says this does not need to be the case.

“A green home is attainable with a few simple adjustments, and while the results may not be physically visible all the time, doing your bit in your home on a daily basis is not as difficult or expensive as you may think. (It can) even save you money in the long run.”

Eco-friendly homes are also attractive to buyers, especially foreign buyers. Engel & Völkers Stellenbosch, has had first-hand experience with this when clients from Sweden were looking for a home in the Western Cape.

In light of the water shortage they opted – over a number of other properties – for a particular one in Stellenbosch, as it has its own supply of water tested and approved for human consumption, a swimming pool running on borehole water, and a solar system supplying hot water.

“It shows that having more ecofriendly sustainable homes has become a strength in effecting the choices made by tourists as well as buyers. We believe that this will add a handsome premium to the price of accommodation and real estate,” says Hutchison.

He advises some relatively simple steps to turn an ordinary home into a green zone: 

* Showering changes: The simplest, cheapest and quickest way to save water is by switching your regular shower head to a low-flow, water-efficient shower head. This will halve your shower water consumption. Shortening your showers and turning the taps off while washing yourself can save a considerable amount. By placing a bucket in the shower you can catch your grey water and use it in your garden. 

* Upgrade your toilet cistern: Older cisterns can use between nine and 12 litres per flush, while newer cisterns use about 6 litres. Installing a cistern with dual-flush, that provides a button for a long flush and a button for a short flush, will save water. Or, place a plastic bottle or brick in the cistern to displace the water. This will allow less water to flush out whenever the handle is pulled. 

* Install timers on geysers: Heating water is one of an average household’s biggest electricity spends. A digital timer on your geyser will enable you to programme exactly what times you want it to turn on and off. Or you could introduce a system to pre-warm the water that goes into the main geyser, so the geyser’s not constantly heating up the water intake from cold. This could be done through a solar geyser or a homerigged system of black pipes coiled on the roof, warmed by the sun. 

* Solar panels: Use the sun’s energy to power your home. Solar power can be used to heat water and provide electricity for lighting and appliances. This works best when the panels are exposed to as much light as possible on a daily basis. 

* Use energy-saving lighting: LED light bulbs are becoming more affordable now, but not everyone can afford to switch over the whole house to LED lighting in one go. Start by replacing bulbs in the most used areas – the kitchen and the hall light that you leave on all night – and gradually convert the whole house. 

* Recycle all grey water: Grey water is water that has been used around the home and is then used to irrigate the garden. Do not store grey water for too long as it is particularly susceptible to bacteria and gas production. Let it run directly from the bath, shower or washing machine into the garden or collect it in a bucket and use immediately. The reuse of grey water may take a little preparation and forethought; however, the economic benefits as well as the enormous advantages to your immediate environment, certainly make it worthwile. 

* Green your walls and roof: Having plants growing on your walls and roof lead to many beneficial effects. They insulate the building, reduce noise pollution, emit healthy oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.

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