Good, great, GREENEST
Green is the new black when it comes to structural and systems improvements in the home. Opting for eco-friendly interventions is no longer a question of preference but increasingly one of necessity. “Climate change and the knock-on effects thereof have very real consequences for the planet. By making small adjustments to our homes we can do our bit in ensuring our carbon footprint on this precious planet is a little bit smaller,” says Giel Viljoen, Principal at Leapfrog Stellenbosch.
What’s more, choosing with the environment in mind tends to be the most cost-effective option in the long run anyway, Viljoen elaborates. The initial capital outlay may be high but the compounded savings from more efficient systems, appliances and the like will eventually outweigh the start-up costs.
Most of a home’s eco footprint is linked to its water and energy usage. “By reducing and managing these two factors, a property almost immediately becomes greener and, by extension, more appealing for the modern, environmentally savvy home buyer,” Viljoen believes.
Right as rain
These days water seems to be on everyone’s lips. That’s because South Africa is a dry country and we’re starting to feel the impact of changing weather patterns on our annual rainfall. We know now, more than ever before, that water is a precious but finite resource.
“Reducing, reusing and recycling water at home needs to be one of our main priorities,” reckons Viljoen. Installing a water tank on your property is one way to save water. This water can then be used for watering the garden, washing cars or even flushing toilets. “Where possible, opt for a more sophisticated system that allows water to run off from the roof and gutters into the tank, rather than just having a tank that it needs to be rained into,” Viljoen says.
The number of rainwater tanks you install depends on your budget and how much grey water your household can realistically use. “There’s no point in having 8 water tanks that fill up and overflow in the rainy season, without a plan for using that water timeously,” Viljoen elaborates.
High five for low flow
Low flow is the way to go when it comes to the toilet and the shower. Research has proven that low-flow shower heads use up to 50% less water than ordinary ones. Similarly, a low-flow toilet uses less than 5 litres of water per flush, whereas a toilet that doesn’t have the low-flow system can use up to 26 litres of water per flush.
Make energy while the sun shines
In South Africa we enjoy an average of 2400 hours of sunshine a year. When you consider there are only 8760 hours in a year, that amounts to more than a third of the year. That’s a lot of sunshine and a great reason for investing in solar panels for your home.
Think about it like this; solar energy is the most renewable energy resource we have at our disposal and it’s free, provided we have the means to process it. “While the cost of installing solar panels, and the associated setup, can seem prohibitive at the outset, experts reckon that the cost of installation can be recovered in as little as three years,” Viljoen says. What’s more, it’s estimated that you save up to 60% on your monthly electricity bill right from the start.
Interestingly, solar panels also require very little maintenance, which is another reason to seriously consider solar.
How does your garden grow?
With all the sunshine we enjoy in South Africa, outdoor living is an important part of our lifestyle, and a lush garden is often central to enjoying the outdoors. Gardens are great, but can be very water intensive. The solution is to plant indigenous as far as possible. “Indigenous plants by their very nature are suited to our warmer climate and typically need far less water than plants and trees that have had to adapt to growing here,” Viljoen explains. “Indigenous plants won’t just survive, they’ll thrive, and they don’t need megalitres of water to do so,” Viljoen adds. Ask your local nursery about the best species to plant if you are unsure.
How much energy does it take to save the planet?
Energy (electricity) usage contributes significantly to a home’s carbon footprint, but luckily there are a number of easy interventions that can reduce the size of this print.
If you haven’t done so already, replace all incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps, as the latter use 75% less energy than the former and also last 10 times longer.
Installing a prepaid electricity meter is also an effective way to measure and manage your electricity usage. “Something about being able to see the units you paid for drop on the meter makes one think twice about using the tumble dryer, or making an effort to switch off non-essential lights”, says Viljoen.
Second time around
Most building materials – think bricks, timber, sand, clay, timber and metals – are all natural resources that have been processed in some way. This means that they are being taken from the earth and not being replaced. By the same token, building materials in perfectly good condition are often discarded, when it could be used again in another way.
When renovating or building on, consider using recycled materials wherever possible. “Everything from window frames to sanitary ware to bricks, floor tiles, doors and fireplaces can be bought second-hand. Reusing is far more efficient, and kind to the environment, than even using the most eco-friendly materials,” Viljoen confirms. And it’s often the most cost-effective way of building as you can get some real gems for a fraction of the cost of new supplies.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of interventions, even just one or two of these will help to make your home more eco-friendly. Ultimately the earth is the only home we have so best we care for it as best we can.
For more information on Leapfrog Properties visit www.leapfrog.co.za