From zero carbon to wind turbines, there are tons of eco features that can be added to your home. With Home Reports having been made statutory, it is more important than ever to be seen to be green. It is easier than ever to add a few eco features to your existing home – thus salving your conscience and saving you a few pounds on your energy bill.
Even if you just want to re-decorate, it’s possible to do this in an eco way. Many paints used in home decorating contain harmful chemicals, however natural paints are more popular than ever, and you can even choose from a gorgeous range of shade. Wallpaper also comes in environmentally-friendly options, using paper from sustainable, renewable forests, and even using water-based inks that don’t contain toxic chemicals or solvents. Eco design warrior Oliver Heath has a great range of environmentally sound wallpapers on his website www.ecocentric.co.uk
Ensuring that your home is well-insulated not only reduces the amount of energy you consume, but also cuts your heating bills. All types of insulation benefit the environment, but there are various natural options available, from recycled materials to sheep’s wool. Your builder will be able to advise on and source these products easily. Cellulose fibre is the newest insulation material to become popular. It’s made from recycled, fireproofed newsprint making it extremely safe to use as well as massively friendly to the environment. Other insulation types can be made from old denim jeans, hemp, cotton clothes or even recycled plastic bottles. The traditional eco choice, sheep’s wool insulation is highly efficient and very environmentally friendly. Once again, various grants may be available, depending on your circumstances. See www.government-grants.co.uk for full details of government grants.
Moving inside the home, another option is to install a wood burning stove, which is much more efficient than an open fire. Whether you want to just heat your lounge or the water for your whole house, wood burning stoves and boilers are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to oil and gas. And wood is a carbon neutral resource – well-managed woodlands also have benefits for wildlife and conservation, making your eco choice all the more effective. Stovax are one of the best manufacturers of stylish wood-burning stoves – see www.stovax.com for their modern and traditional models.
While it’s great to ensure you’re maximising the heat in your home, it’s even better to ensure that heat is generated in an ecological way. One of the most efficient ways of saving money in the long term is to maximise the free heating from the sun: harness solar energy. By absorbing as much natural sunlight and heat as possible, an eco home reduces the need for supplementary heating, a technique known as passive solar gain.
If you have a house or are on the top floor of a maisonette or flat, the roof pitch of your home could allow for solar panels. Water heated by the sun can cover around 65% of a family’s annual hot water needs, in the summer this can rise to 90%. A builder will be able to give you an idea of how effective this will be in your particular area.
Wind turbines are growing in popularity and are a great way to provide clean, renewable energy. They convert the kinetic energy in wind into mechanical energy. The cost of implementing this method really depends on how much energy you wish to generate. A low efficiency wind turbine can be picked up for as little as £200 and can be fitted relatively easily – although it’s always best to call the professionals! Planning permission is needed for the installation of a wind turbine, so make sure to check the legalities, although your builder or supplier should be able to advise. Also, if you should wish to sell your turbine at any time, there is a market for second-hand models. See www.provenenergy.co.uk for information on buying and selling wind turbines.
Geothermal heat harnesses energy from the earth by circulating water through plastic pipes buried in the ground. Because they can be fitted to the outside of any building (subject to the relevant planning permissions) they are perfect for retro-fitting. Grants can be available to add to the inherent financial incentives of incorporating these green technologies in your eco home. Further information can be found at www.energygrants.co.uk.
Saving water is an important consideration when trying to make your home more eco-friendly. A grey-water system stores water you have already used in a large tank underground. The water comes from the dishwasher, washing machine, bath and sinks, and is then re-used for flushing your toilet or watering the garden. Rainwater harvesting systems follow the same principle, collecting water that falls on the roof, discarding leaves and other debris, before storing the water for re-use. It is estimated that more than 50% of mains water can be substituted by rainwater – a very important saving when you think how much water we all use in an average day. A plumber will be able to maximise the effect of this sort of work. Dual flush systems on bathroom cisterns also minimise water wastage – something that can easily be installed as part of a bathroom renovation.
By using local builders, you also put money into the local economy. Thinking global and acting local is an important part of saving the planet. Compile a list of the eco jobs you need doing – whether it’s upping your insulation or installing solar panels – and let our local tradesmen quote for them. Being green is as easy as that!