The position of your house has an undeniable impact on its heating, cooling and lighting demands and consequently on its energy saving capability. It is advisable to orientate the longest side of your house to face north for maximum exposure to light and heat from the sun. Add an extra 40 cm to 60 cm to the roof overhang on the north-facing side to keep your home cool in summer when the sun is high. This will still allow light and heat in during the winter months when the angle of the sun’s arc is lower. A north-facing skylight is also a simple but effective way to let natural light in. Though fairly obvious such design principles can go a long way to making your home more energy efficient.
2. Building materials
If going green is your aim, choosing building materials that come from a renewable or sustainable source is vital to ensuring your house lives up to its eco-friendly ideal. These days there are environmentally-friendly alternatives for everything from roofing materials and insulation to non-toxic paints. Naturally occurring materials like stone, thatch and clay can generally be sourced locally while using reclaimed timber and recycled glass, tiles and aluminium is becoming ever more popular. Bamboo, cork and linoleum are also ‘in’ choices as they are manufactured from renewable sources.
Planting a tree not only contributes directly to reducing your carbon footprint but can also influence the energy efficiency of your home. Trees planted to the south, east and west of the building provide much needed shade and keep your house cool in summer. A deciduous creeper planted along boundary fencing or over your porch also aids in cooling your house in summer. When it loses its leaves in the winter months, it will allow welcome light and heat in.
4. Energy Saving Lighting
LEDs and CFLs are both brilliant lighting options for your eco-friendly home. They have a far longer life span than incandescent light bulbs, and more than make up for their extra expense by saving energy and significantly reducing electricity costs.
The Thermal Insulation Products & Systems Association of South Africa (TIPSASA) cites insulation as one of the most important steps in converting your home into an energy saving green house. An un-insulated house loses approximately 40% of its heat through the roof and ceiling and about 35% of its heat through the floors and walls. Proper insulation substantially slows this transfer of heat and is a highly effective way to reduce your household energy consumption and save big on electricity costs. It can keep your house up to 5°C warmer in winter and up to 10°C cooler in summer. ISOTHERM thermal insulation is an excellent choice for insulating roofs, walls, geysers and hot water pipes. ISOTHERM is also environmentally-friendly. It is manufactured from thermally-bonded polyester harvested from recycled PET plastic bottles so it is doing its bit to reduce plastic waste, consequently benefitting the environment on several levels.
6. Natural Power
Taking advantage of solar power makes good sense in a sunny country such as South Africa. By installing solar (photovoltaic) panels, your home has access to a clean and renewable energy source that will more than pay for the initial costly outlay. This energy can power appliances such as your TV, radio, lights and fridge, and in time you may even generate enough energy to put some back into the national grid. While compensation for the latter option is still in an experimental phase, the time will come when you’re duly awarded for your environmentally-friendly efforts. If solar panels are presently beyond your budget, consider installing a solar water heater. Though also relatively pricey, the subsequent energy saving means the solar water heater will more than pay for itself in the long-term.
7. Rainwater Harvesting
Water is life and ultimately the one precious resource we humans really cannot survive without. Clean, potable water is also a resource that is becoming scarcer with each passing year and as a result more expensive. Harvesting rainwater from your roof and gutters is an excellent solution to ensuring your home has a quality water supply while reducing your municipal water account. The harvested rainwater can be safely stored in a suitably sized tank for future use. Also consider creating channels so the ‘grey’ water from your sinks, baths, showers and washing machine can be directed into your garden or toilet cistern.
Eco-friendly building is an opportunity for you to effectively use available resources, save energy and support sustainable practices while creating a healthier home.