Renovations pay over the long term

Renovations to your home can be a costly business - but if you give it some thought your upgrade can save you money in the longer term.

With the spectre of ever-increasing electricity costs and historically high fuel, transport and food costs ahead, consumers are facing great challenges to keep daily expenses on manageable levels, says Neville McIntyre, chairman of Aida, South Africa's best-known estate agency group.

"So if you need to renovate your home now, it makes good sense to include as many energy-saving and other 'green' features in your plans as possible. Initially it may be slightly more expensive than traditional alternatives but long-term savings will help to offset rising utility bills and other household expenses," he says.

Electricity savings should be high on the agenda in the light of Eskom's requested increases that will see unit costs double in five years. Many householders are already switching to solar power or heat pumps to heat water since hot water accounts for a high percentage of electricity costs, says McIntyre. "In fact even if you are not currently renovating, it would make financial sense to switch to alternative ways to heat household water."

Other ways in which electricity costs can be limited include making sure that any heating or cooling systems are highly functional by ensuring proper insulation to keep the heat in during winter and out during summer. Window and roof insulation, as well as making sure doors fit properly, are aspects that need to be considered.

If new appliances form part of the upgrade, consumers would be well advised to choose energy-efficient models that will contribute to lower power bills.

Energy-saving light bulbs have become popular choices for lighting, but recently great strides have also been made in the efficiency of LED lights. As an aside, McIntyre says moveable solar garden lamps have become very affordable and apart from lighting up the garden to the best advantage at night, they may be pressed into service as instant indoor lamps in cases of power cuts.

Water use is the second major area where savings can be made. If plumbing forms part of the upgrade, homeowners should consider installing a grey water system to safely re-use bath and shower water in the garden. Tanks to catch and store rain water run-off from roofs for irrigation are another good idea to cut metered water consumption. And, once again, appliances such as dishwashers or washing machines that are rated for low water consumption make sense.

Kitchen and bathroom renovations could include use of low-flow aerated taps and shower heads and low-flow toilet cisterns to save a bit of extra water each day that will add up to a significant amount over a month.

McIntyre adds that such upgrades will not only save home-owners some hard cash over the longer term, but will also make their properties more attractive to cost-conscious buyers when the time comes to market their homes.

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