It’s in the news, it’s on our minds. The human impact on nature in the form of habitat destruction and consequent climate change is obvious now to most of us.
We can complain about our governments’ inaction and we can proffer childish retorts such as ‘Our impact on the earth is not as bad as that of others and if they won’t change their ways why should we?’
However, sensible people recognise that leading by example is the quickest and best way to bring about change. If we all, as individuals, (x6 billion) start making small changes to lessen our impact on the environment, this would translate into a paradigm shift on a world scale.
Simple things we can all do and if we did them governments could not ignore or obfuscate.
These can include:
- use less or no plastics
- ask for re-useable containers
- hemp bag
- building materials
- install water tanks
- make your own compost
- grow plants
- keep bees
- avoid packaging
- don’t consume stuff you don’t need
- buy local, install solar panels or purchase renewable energy
- make your home more energy-efficient.
The list is endless. So, just be mindful of everything you do and the impact it can have.
How installing solar panels can help
Solar panels provide the best return on investment of any potential home addition you can carry out.
Typically, photovoltaic (PV) panels pay for themselves in as early as two years.
For your average family a 5KW-array will cut your bills to virtually zero carbon emissions. Unfortunately, the power company’s service charge may still impose a small bill in winter months when the solar panels are not producing as much electricity
Note: Solar panels have a carbon footprint from cradle to grave. After 25 years one may conceivably incur a disposal charge of the old panels?
That aside, after two years of usage, the average family could save between $ 1,000 to $2,000 better in electricity bill. This big variance in is due to the different levels of efficiency from one home to another.
How energy efficiency equals comfort
You are probably already noticing that energy efficiency and renewable energy generation are actually an investment in saving money and also adding value to your home when you renovate.
Equally, on a national level, renewables are more profitable than coal and are a new, important and still growing sector of the economy.
The building industry efficiency standard is currently six-star, meaning all new homes provide a good level of built-in energy efficiency.
So, what are the top 12 things we can all do to easily and cheaply make our homes (new or old) more green?
Ways to make your property more eco-friendly
Winter efficiency and comfort measures:
1. Windows and doors should be checked and sealed against drafts and unnecessary vents blocked.
Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans should be ducted and self-closing when not running. Roof cavity ventilators whilst great for extracting heat from the roof in summer should be sealable in winter.
2. Install heavy drapes with pelmets. When closed, in winter, these provide an additional air layer of insulation against heat escaping through the windows. Windows and doors are the weakest links in providing energy efficiency, Double glazed options are better but still only 30% as good as an insulated wall without a window.
3. Make sure you have R 5 insulation batts in your ceiling cavity.
This alone could save up to $ 1,000 per annum on bills for an investment of around $ 2,000.
4. When its cold outside shut any open doors or windows. Sound obvious? You might be surprised.
5. Homes with solar panels should run only electric appliances – including hot water services, heating and cooling, etc. – to get the best return on investment. No Gas.
6. Ventilate your home regularly to prevent mould and condensation, particularly on mild days.
The downside of airtight efficient homes is they need to be ventilated.
There are a number of proprietary heat recovery ventilation systems but if you don’t want to spend the money, you can judiciously let some air circulate for a short time on a daily basis.
Note: a bathroom exhaust fan will not work unless you can give it the same amount of fresh air as it is exhausting. This means opening the bathroom door or window by a similar amount of the fans flow rate or install a door vent.
7. If you have the budget, change windows to double-glazed. The cost of this will take many years to recover, however, would increase comfort levels and resale value immensely.
How to be energy-efficient in summer:
1. Install awning blinds to all windows not shaded from direct sun.
Direct sunlight on glass heats the glass which, in turn, radiates the heat into the house.
2. Build eaves, sails and pergolas to shade paved areas and decks.
Avoid creating large areas of paving, they intensify the heat.
3. Plant Trees to shade areas and the house. Water features work well too.
Avoid foundation damage, do not plant large trees too close to the house.
4. Install ceiling fans. Unless it gets above 35C they are normally sufficient.
Even with aircon on, they can help redistribute air.
5. Install reverse cycle, inverter, air conditioners for heating and cooling.
If you have your own solar generation panels you won’t need to worry about drawing from the grid. Running air conditioning correctly should not draw more electricity than the panels produce, particularly in summer.
1. Measure the power consumption of appliances and replace inefficient ones. Some old refrigerators use nearly twice as much electricity as current models.
2. Electric heat pump water services are very efficient and may mean you can cancel your gas account. Same goes for electric cooking.
3. Turn off lights, replace old halogens and std light bulbs with LEDs. Turn off appliances which run on standby power.
Renewable energy generation and efficiency around the home are imperative if we wish to continue living in a pleasant environment.
Capital Building specialises in energy-efficient design and construction.
Capital, along with a growing number of builders, are already offering a number of options in this context.
This doesn’t necessarily add much cost to a build if delivered mindfully and to a budget.
Much of a building’s efficiency lies in its passive design solutions – for example, north-facing windows, double glazing, selecting efficient building materials and spaces.