Buying green

“American homebuyers have been leaning more towards green homes for some time now, and a similar trend is emerging in the local market, possibly due to the growing cost of utilities and an increased awareness of burning environmental issues,” says Goslett.
Unlike the US market, South Africa does not have an official green certification for residential homes; however, the Green Building Council of South Africa is currently working on a rating tool for multi-unit residential buildings that will possibly also be used for freestanding homes in the near future.
Goslett says that while there is no official certification, there are certain things that buyers can look out for when wanting to buy green.  “The first thing to do would be to find the right estate agent that is knowledgeable about green home features and specifications. Finding the correct agent for you is always the first step to buying any property, as they will have the knowledge required to assist you in finding the right home to meet your requirements,” says Goslett.
Essentially, going green is all about minimised energy and resource usage, adds Goslett, so specific features to look for would be those that help to reduce energy usage and save water. He says, “By reducing energy and saving water, consumers are not only helping the environment but are saving costs on a monthly basis, which makes it a win-win situation.”
Goslett notes that one of the first things that buyers will see when entering a property and an area where large amounts of water can be saved is the garden. According to SANBI reports, 35% of domestic water is used to water gardens. “Looking at the type of landscaping and plants will give the buyer an indication as to how water wise the garden is. Indigenous, low-maintenance plants that require little water and are disease resistant will be the better option. Ideally plants with similar watering needs should be grouped together. Paved areas, indigenous groundcovers, gravel and hardscaping features will also all reduce the water required to keep the garden thriving,” says Goslett.
He adds that another aspect that buyers should look for is photovoltaic solar paneling. These should be easy to spot as they are normally installed on the roof of the house.  Light from the sun is collected by these panels and converted through semi-conductorsinto DC electricity. This DC electricity is then channelled through a solar regulator to a battery or bank of batteries. Household appliances that use DC electricity can run directly from the battery, while a power converter can be used for AC appliances. Solar panelling can reduce standard electricity usage or replace it entirely.
According to Goslett, a lot of energy is used in residential homes to heat water. Studies in the US have revealed that as much as 40% of energy used in homes is for this very purpose. “Ask the seller what type of water heating system they use. Electric geysers can be converted to solar geysers, alternatively energy can be saved by installing an automated digital thermostat on the geyser which the homeowner can control,” says Goslett.

It is also important for green conscious buyers to look at the insulation of the home as proper insulation will keep the cold outside during the winter months and the cool air inside during the summer months.  Goslett says that windows play a vital role when it comes to insulation. He says: “Look at the quality of the windows in the home. Good quality windows will close and seal properly; this will keep the heat or air-conditioning where it needs to be. Double pane windows with glazed glass will also keep heat loss to a minimum during winter and the home cooler during summer. ”

Goslett notes that other aspects to consider when buying green include:
  • Gas cooker and stove instead of the traditional electric stove.
  • Water saving low-flow showerheads and aerator taps which will reduce water consumption considerably.
  • Ensure the toilets are new and in good working order. Reports reveal that 62% of domestic water is flushed away making toilets with a duel flush system the better option for saving water.
  • Make sure that the heating system or air-conditioning units are in good working order or new as older units use more energy. Alternatively, ceiling fans and gas heaters are better energy-saving options
  • Look for LED Energy Saving Lights, these lights largely reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions.
“Going green is seen as a smart option the world over, it is not just about the environment but also sustainability and of course saving money with the higher cost of living today,” Goslett concludes.
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