In recent years it has become more and more trendy to be aware of our environment. This awareness has led to changes in our lifestyle – recycling bins, electric cars – that try to make us all a little bit more ‘green’. Not only can we change our lifestyle, we can change our habitat. Next stop: live in a green house. But you don’t have to bed down with your tomatoes in order to be eco-friendly!
From tiny changes like switching to low-energy light-bulbs, to huge ones like fitting solar-panels, there are loads of ways to make your house greener. There are good reasons for these changes too; living in a greener home not only makes vital reductions to your home’s carbon emissions but can also save you a lot of money and add value to your home. Naturally larger savings come from larger investments, but in the long run you shouldn’t end up out of pocket. What’s more, government schemes mean it’s even easier to reduce your home’s carbon-footprint without breaking the bank.
If you’re planning on moving, long-term energy saving investments may not be so attractive. An alternative is moving into a ready-made, environmentally friendly home. Eco-friendly new-builds have the same environmental benefits as an updated older home, as well as all the usual perks of living in a brand-new property.
Unless you happen to be a millionaire, or best mates with Kevin McCloud, you’re unlikely to be able to move into a perfect eco-home any time soon. However, if you’re on the hunt for a greener new-build, look out for some of the following:
1. Proper Insulation.
Ensuring your home has sufficient insulation is an easy way to save money and carbon; better insulation means less wasted heat, so lower bills. Insulated pipes and hot-water tanks also make a difference.
2. Double (or triple!) glazing.
Heat likes escaping through windows just as much as it does through walls and roofs, but multiple layers of glazing can help prevent this. The larger the gap between panes, the better (optimum is 16mm). To be even more efficient look for windows filled with an inert gas, like argon.
2. Water recycling.
People often forget about the impact of over-using water. A water-butt that saves run-off from your gutters for use in the garden can reduce your water bills, as can a water recycling system that reuses water from sinks and showers. A more efficient toilet can also save up to 4 litres of water per flush. Ideally we’d all have composting toilets, as these use no water at all and the ‘waste products’ can be recycled as fertiliser, but obviously this system isn’t for everyone.
3. Efficient heating systems.
Move on from the traditional, yet inefficient, radiator and look for a home with under-floor heating. This style of heating spreads heat more effectively around a room, meaning the temperature can go down a notch. It’s also very pleasant in rooms like kitchens and bathrooms that may have cold, tiled floors. A ground source heat pump is an eco-friendly way to provide this heat.
4. Renewable electricity.
If your house can generate its own power you’re onto a winner. Modern wind-turbines are quiet and produce completely green electricity. If you generate more than you use this can either be stored in batteries (to power your electric car, of course) or sold back to the national grid. Alternatively, photovoltaic panels on your roof can generate the electricity you need. You can also get window-frames containing photovoltaic cells. Pairing these with a special transparent dye on the window-panes can increase the power produced by your windows tenfold.
5. Eco-friendly design.
You don’t need to live in a hobbit-hole to have an efficiently designed home. Simple things like strategically placed windows can make a lot of difference by providing natural ventilation and capturing as much light as possible, reducing the need to use electricity during the day. The use of recycled or low-impact materials in the design also decreases a building’s carbon output, and for real eco-points add a grass roof.
To see if there are environmentally friendly new-builds available in your desired area check out What House.