Are you interested in creating a sustainable home but you’re not sure what to begin with? Green, eco-friendly or sustainable-no matter how you call it, being kinder to the planet is one big decision to make.
Sustainability has various meaning for various people. Installing a couple of solar panels or simply growing a small veggie garden may be enough for some, whereas others are willing to go all the way as possible.
When it comes to sustainability space, the bar is sure high for the architects and builders. They have to use the thermal mass in order to maintain the house’s temperature stable. The rainwater tanks, the breathable wall systems and the low-VOC (volatile organic compound) options are only few to name for fewer emissions and chemicals.
No matter if you’re renovating or starting from scratch, you cannot have sustainable design without building and the other way around. The sun is going to heat your house, whereas the breezes are going to cool it down, but you need to get the best out of it in order to accomplish sustainability.
- 1 What do you need to think about when going green?
- 2 How to make your home eco-friendlier?
What do you need to think about when going green?
Simply installing some solar panels isn’t going to do it and you do need to do your homework about turning your home into a sustainable property.
Here are the things to think about:
Why do you want to go green in the first place?
There are plenty of reasons for which one would adopt the sustainable home designs. Someone in the family could struggle with allergies or respiratory illnesses, so it’s only natural that they would want to create a healthy environment for their loved ones. Using the low-VOC products with natural materials is the way to go for them.
Others may live in a house that’s either too hot or too cold, so a sustainable renovation may solve the whole problem.
The budget issue is also to consider as everyone hates paying too much for their utility bills. Going “off the grid” and becoming as self-sufficient as possible is very attractive to many. In addition, ecologically sustainable houses are worth a lot more, so that’s another aspect to remember.
You need to use the right materials
It’s not only the layout that you need to think about, but also the materials that you’re going to need. You need to use long-lasting, lightweight, prefabricated materials (cross-laminated timber is one) as they’re going to speed up the construction and add thermal benefits to your building. Hempcrete is the very next thing when it comes to sustainability. Not only that it comes amazing insulating and soundproofing abilities, but it also maintains the air in your house a lot healthier, preventing the develop of molding and damp.
Is sustainable renovation doable?
When it’s difficult for you to warm/cool down your house, a renovation for sustainable purpose is going to give you a more comfortable and functional residence.
It’s important that you focus on the “building envelope” so that you get separated from the prevailing weather conditions. You may have to add more insulation or install double glazing but it’s all going to worth it in the end as your house is going to get warmer/cooler when it’s supposed to.
Smart design plays a fundamental part into creating a more sustainable home. You may want to open up some space for better ventilation, but too much open space could lead to a loss of energy. You should go with the flexible and smart design options that open/close space off to heat designated spaces.
Are you ready for the upfront costs?
At the end of the day, you still need to know if turning your house into a sustainable one is going to worth the extra buck. Truth be told, it relates a lot to the size of the new build or renovation, but also to the area you live in. For instance, building a house in the country is always going to be cheaper than building it in the city.
You can use some local and recycle materials to build a small house. Add the innovative design in the equation and you get yourself a cheaper way to build a new house. Don’t forget to add on the spending list the rainwater tanks or the energy systems. Spend time to see what’s out there and what fits your budget and needs the best way.
Side note: solar power matters
Even though powering your new home with the sun sounds all roses and rainbows, there are some things you need to consider before buying the solar panels.
Here are some aspects that count a lot when going solar:
- Define your budget
The size and number of panels, the roof access, the geographical location, the height, material and type of panels- these are all aspects that count when going solar. A small system may be around $3500, whereas a bigger one may get to $13, 500 (and higher than that).
- Know your energy usage
It’s a great idea to look through your energy bills and decide how much electricity you’re using and when you’re using it. If you’re not using that much electricity, a smaller system is going to be a better choice.
- Identify the best angle
North-panels are going to get the most sun. you’re going to have to use some tilted frames if the roof is flat or on a steep pitch. Getting the best angle from the sun is fundamental. When you use the most electricity during the day is also important, so keep that in mind. Don’t forget to pay attention to any trees or buildings that may give shade.
- Get an idea about all of your systems
As grid-connected systems use solar power, you’re going to have to draw from your electricity supplier on a dull day or during at night. The battery back-up systems are going to store the electricity generated throughout the day so that you can use it at night. When you go with stand-alone systems, you’re also going to have to use a generator for supplementing the supply.
- Ask the questions you need
You need to make sure that your energy supplier is solar-friendly. You should know if they’re going to pay you for the excess electricity you generate. It may have an impact on your daily connection charges. You should also ask the solar panel company to give you all the costs upfront.
- Get all the estimates you need
If you’re going to buy more panels, you may have to pay a lot more for each. However, it may be cheaper overall when you take the installation and their output into consideration. Seek that your supplier offers you all the options and don’t be afraid to ask around. You may get better prices elsewhere.
- Don’t overdo it
Gone are the days when solar panels were expensive so they’re not over the top anymore. In addition, you can also get something back by selling excess to the grid. Don’t buy more panels as you may not get all the money you invested back.
Keep in mind that you may reduce the power and water bills down the road if you’re going to pay more in the beginning, at the build stage. Reducing your footprint in every possible way takes a lot of commitment, but it does mean less to clean, less energy load- less everything altogether.
How to make your home eco-friendlier?
No matter if you’re planning to renovate or to rent, there are many eco-friendly changes that can help you live in a more sustainable home.
Here are some of the most common ideas when going green:
The rainwater tanks
You may cut your water usage even by 40% when using a rainwater tank. It’s a good investment to make especially for the drought times, when you can still keep your garden alive and watered.
It’s important that you sit down and look at how much water you actually use, how you use it. Take a look at your property to see if you really have the space for a water tank. If you have enough space for a larger tank, you may even plumb it into your house, using the water for flushing the toilets or for the washing machine.
The rainwater tanks are an amazing choice for the eco-conscious consumers, especially when they’re renovating/building a new home.
Get a water saving toilet
You may save some water and money by installing a toilet with lower flush volume. Most toilets out there use around 3 gallons of water for each flush, but you can find nowadays toilets that use less than 1 gallon of water for each flush.
Look for a toilet with 3, 4 or 5 stars. The more stars, the less water that toilet is going to need. The 5 star toilets come with built-in hand basin so that you may wash your hands as well.
Insulate the walls and the ceiling
One of the most effective ways to make your home more sustainable is to insulate your home. Use batts for insulating the ceiling. They’re easy to install during construction so keep that in mind when renovating.
As for the walls, remember that you may need to hire an electrician to check wiring when choosing the pump-in cavity insulation.
No matter the upfront spending, it’s still going to count so much for the future electricity bill.
Install energy saving windows
A single-pane window isn’t able to offer any insulation, which is why installing double-glazed windows makes more sense. However, you need to do it at construction stage, so that you keep your spending under control.
In the case of double-glazed windows, make sure you also get thermally broken aluminum, PVC frames or timber. As for the current windows, you may add some extra panes and seals on the windows frames in order to reduce the risk for air leaking.
Some heavy curtains with a pelmet or tight-fitting honeycomb blinds can mean the world for a window’s performance. At the same time, add some awnings and shutters in the summer time, as you want to cool down your home a bit, without the help AC.
It’s time to try the passive design
Passive design uses the climate in order to eliminate or reduce your need for the artificial heating/cooling in your home. It reduces your greenhouse gas emissions and saves you plenty of money on the long run too.
Here are some tricks to try:
- Passive design uses the features of your house. The roof, the walls, the windows and the floor need to be insulated and well-sealed in order to reduce the heat loss.
- Skylights are going to give you the light you need, but also let cooler air inside. By contrary, the shades are going to keep the sun away when you’re all hot. When you’re using building materials with higher thermal mass (concrete is a good example), without forgetting about the passive design principles, you may easily regulate the temperature in your home.
- If your house has just the perfect orientation, you’re going to be able to catch the sun in winter and cool down the home in the summer.
Start using compost systems
Once food waste goes to a landfill, it becomes anaerobic, producing methane (a greenhouse gas way stronger than CO2). If you compost your food waste, your household is going to generate weekly a lot less methane.
You need to get on-ground compost bins so that the bugs and worms can actually get in and eat the food waste. You can go with tumbling composters that don’t need access to soil, as the composting is happening inside the barrel. Another option is the worm farms and the bokashi bins that are both self-contained, small and safe to use indoors as well.
Get new energy efficient appliances
You may save a buck by switching to energy-efficient appliances. Did you know that your appliances are using almost a third of your power usage?
Look for the Energy Rating Labels next time you go shopping. The more stars you find; the less energy they’re going to use. Freezers, fridges and TV do need the highest amount of energy so make sure you need any of them. Remember to turn your appliances off as you don’t want to waste more energy.