Bills everywhere – fuel, rent, school fees, those new scatter cushions in the living room… Some bills, let’s face it, are written in stone and there’s no way to tweak the paying price. However, when it comes to others (such as your electricity bill), you would be surprised at what you can do to pay less.
Let’s look at the following term: energy-efficient housing. For a number of homeowners who embrace sustainable living worldwide, this is fast becoming a way of life: doing their part to trim power costs without significantly affecting their lifestyle. And this entails more than simply switching a light off in an unused room (although that is important as well!).
Let’s explore the options (some more cost-effective than others) and see what you can do to minimise your monthly heating and/or cooling costs.
We’ve all seen them somewhere, displayed on the roof of a house or building, greedily gobbling up the sunlight. So why not consider it as an option for your home?
Solar panels go a long way to reduce your carbon footprint and save on your energy costs. But how do they work? Solar panels are photovoltaic (PV) cells, and they harness the power of sunlight, transform it into energy, forward the energy to an inverter, where it get converted into electricity to power your home.
Keep in mind, though, that this is a big step to take, and involves more than sticking some cells on the top of your roof. Additional wiring will have to happen, and the placement of the panels on your roof is imperative to building a proficient system. So, should you consider this option for your home, be sure to contact the professionals to assist you.
An essential element in an energy-efficient house is thermal insulation whenever your heating or cooling system is running. Most of your heated or cooled air escapes through your ceiling or the attic (if your house has one). If your attic insulation is not complete (or missing entirely), it needs to be replaced.
But choosing the right type of insulation will depend on:
a) your budget, and
b) the best way to trap the air and keep it inside your home.
Therefore, consult with an insulation contractor to assist you and help with the installation, since some types of insulation (such as blown-in insulation) can be harmful to your lungs.
Consider this: Plant-based polyurethane foam used for insulation. Made from natural materials such as bamboo, hemp and kelp, it offers high resistance to moisture and heat, plus helps protect against mold and pests. Plant-based polyurethane foam also insulates much better than fibreglass or polystyrene.
It’s a fact that nearly 17% of a home’s energy usage is because of a water heater – shouldn’t there be some cost-effective ways to save on these expenses?
There are! Selecting the appropriate water heater for your home (or pool) is a start – here is where you must ask the water heater experts for advice. Then follow this up by some simple DIY tricks:
• insulate your hot water pipes
• lower your water heating temperature
• wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket if it’s not insulated
• install low-flow fixtures in your sinks showers.
A more expensive way to save on hot water would be to add a heat trap configuration to the hot water plumbing line that exits the heater. This will minimise heat loss, because hot water continually flows up.
Tip: the cheapest change you can make is to your behaviour – it’s not necessary for the water to keep flowing while you are scrubbing dishes or washing your hair in the shower, so turn it off instead.
We know that windows also do their part to complement your home’s decor, but they are also able to reduce energy costs. How? Your window treatment can help by reducing the amount of air you’re losing (in winter), or keeping cool air inside your home (for those hot summer days).
Your window treatments can also help to block the sun’s rays from heating up a room, which in turn will give your air conditioner a break on sunny days. So, what choices are we looking at here? Blinds, curtains, drapes and shutters. However, hard window treatments (shutters and blinds) are the key elements that will help reduce your energy costs, as they are more effective at keeping heat and air inside than soft fabric curtains.
But why not combine the two? Have your blinds closed, with some complementary curtains covering the blinds, for an effective layer window treatment.
Tip: look out for gaps around windows, doors and fixtures – these are the main culprits when it comes to air infiltration, so have them fixed to save wasted energy.
Another technology that is pure genius is cool roofing. This improves the heat dissipation and will lower the temperature in your house during summer considerably. In addition, it is also safe for the environment, as it lowers heat in the atmosphere.
How does this work? The roof reflects the sunlight, deflecting the rays away from your house, thus reducing the heat in your home.
Roof installers make use of certain types of materials when installing a cool roof, such as those made from asphalt shingles and metals.
While this might be a costly step, you will soon start saving on your energy expenses, as your cooling bill in the summer will be lowered by better regulating your home’s temperature.
Some additional benefits of cool roofing include:
• a 15% energy reduction
• a decrease in air pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions
• cooling your home without prolonged use of an air conditioner
• a decrease in carbon emissions.
For some unique roofing ideas, see what the experts over at Organic Roofs can conjure up.
Forget that light switch and use daylight whenever possible. Why not consider a skylight for rooms without any windows? An effective one means you won’t ever need lighting in the room during the day.
A skylight does much more than add natural light to your house – it can also increase the efficiency of your home and improve your heating and air ventilation. And it can deliver a healthy dose of vitamin D straight to you in the comfort of your own home.
A skylight can also add more privacy. In today’s age where homes are continuously being built closer to one another, home owners fight for every bit of privacy available. Well, a skylight will provide sufficient lighting to a room where privacy and light is of the utmost importance (for example, your bathroom) without you having to worry about your nosy neighbour taking a peek.
However, depending on your house structure, a skylight may or may not be the best option. Before you take a big chunk out of your roof, consult with a professional.
A smart landscape can also help to save you energy. How is this possible? Simply plant some trees on the side of your house that faces the sun. The shade will block the sun’s rays, helping you to cut your cooling costs in the summer.
And in the winter? The bare tree branches will allow the rays to reach your house, providing you with that much-needed warmth.
Just make sure to keep giving your landscape the love and attention it requires in order for your trees to survive until the next season.
Let's see some more inspiration when it comes to ideas for your garden/landscape.
Tip: plant native and low-maintenance trees/plants that don’t require a lot of watering, saving you some digits on your water bill!
Remember your science teacher explaining to you how white reflects the radiant energy rays of the sun, and that black absorbs them? Well, they were right – and that tip can also help you cut down on your energy costs.
Just as you will feel cooler wearing a light-coloured shirt in summer, the same way your room will cool off in a light-coloured paint coat. Light paint colours on walls and ceilings reflect more light, helping you to make your rooms brighter, plus reducing the need to add additional lighting.
The same will apply to your roof – the hotter your roof, the hotter the rooms underneath your roof. A light-coloured roof and/or reflective coating will reflect the sun’s rays, lowering your cooling costs.