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Eco-friendly homes can put more green in your pocket

When building or renovating a home is it worth installing ‘green’ measures and what are the cost implications?

Although it will cost slightly more to build fitting all the necessary equipment to have a home that is off the electricity grid and with water recycling and energy saving fittings, the return on investment over the medium to long term is definitely worth the money spent, says Lanice Steward, managing director of Knight Frank Residential SA.

“Retrofitting energy saving equipment such as solar panels, batteries, led lighting, water saving taps and showers and water recycling equipment is no more expensive than starting from scratch on a new build, and is worth considering when you take into account the ecological and financial implications later.”

Information from Danielle Klaff, eco-auditor and founder of Green Your Home, shows how easy it is to change from an energy inefficient home that does not recycle water or waste to one that would score well in an eco-audit.

There are four main aspects that need to be assessed when doing an audit. Energy usage, water usage, dealing with waste and chemicals used, and though it may take a couple of hours to do an audit, the information gleaned after such an exercise will undoubtedly make people think about making changes in their home.

“These could be simple and needn’t cost a lot of money,” she says.

“Going off the grid completely is what many people would like to do, and this could cost around R150 000 for an average three-bedroom family home. However, there are other less expensive things you can install in stages to convert the home over time instead of all at once.”

To save energy consider installing a solar water heating system instead of a geyser, which is one of the biggest consumers of power in any household. This can cost about R16 000. Another option is black evacuator tubing that is laid out on the roof of the house and warms water from the sun.

“Many people use this system and find it effective enough for them,” says Klaff. “Some people prefer heat pumps but the problem with these is that they need some electricity, so they don’t work during power outages whereas solar geysers are independent of electricity supply. Another simple way of saving electricity is to install a timer on the geyser, which will allow it to switch on at stipulated times of the day.”

Stoves and kettles also use a lot of electricity and you can cut back by installing a gas stove and only fill the kettle with the amount of water to be used instead of to the top.

Another system used which helps during power outages and cuts down on electricity consumption is photovoltaic panels that will charge batteries, which then power lights and smaller appliances. These systems can range in price from R7 000 to R50 000, depending on the size needed and the number of batteries.

Another way to save on the power bill is to keep appliances in standby mode, by plugging those that don’t have to be on all the time into a smart strip. This inexpensive device shuts off the electricity supply to the appliances if they aren’t used for an hour and then immediately re-instates supply when the appliance is switched on again.

“Heating can be costly, and the most effective way of heating is to install a slow wood burning stove in a central position in the home with the flue exposed, never on an outside wall. The heat from this will radiate throughout the home and heat a large area. To keep all this heat in, the insulation on windows and doors must also be checked, as a large percentage can be lost through the tiniest of gaps,” says Klaff.

“Water consumption is often forgotten in households and simple changeovers of shower heads and taps to the aerated versions can cut the use of water dramatically. The installation of a grey water system is usually recommended to water gardens, but this does not necessarily have to be an expensive tank system, it can be a DIY gravity fed system that feeds bath and basin water to the garden.”

“Although recycling and monitoring the chemical usage in a home does not save money, it does have a huge impact on the environment and more people are becoming aware of the need to have recycling stations in the home. Planning a kitchen around recycling and composting will add value for the user of the kitchen, which in turn adds value to the home,” says Steward.

“In most cases if money is spent improving a home, the increase in market value is higher than the actual cash spend. Often the simple, cost effective improvements or changes can add much value to the residents in ease of living and comfort.


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