How to Make Your House Eco-Friendly
What is ‘eco-friendly’?
In the modern era, greater emphasis than ever before is placed on the idea of eco-friendliness. With so much of human behaviour having a detrimental impact on the natural environment, whether it’s a discarded crisp-packet or an industrial-scale chemical disaster, more and more of us are looking to ways we can limit our own personal carbon footprint.
Since we spend so much of our time in our homes, it’s from here that much of our efforts should be focussed. By making changes to both our behaviour whilst at home, and to the structure of the building itself, we can substantially improve our overall eco-friendliness. In this article, we’ll examine ways in which this might be done.
When it comes to running a home, one of the most significant expenses is heating. The more easily heat is able to escape the building, the more energy will need to be used in order to maintain the temperature. And the more energy used, the greater the overall impact on the environment – and of course, your energy bills.
The eco-friendliness of a building hinges largely, therefore, on its ability to retain heat. In this respect, the areas of greatest vulnerability are windows – and in particular, wooden ones which have been in place for a long time. As the seasons pass, wood expands and contracts in response to changes in temperature, and the eventual result is a gap between the glass and the wood, through which heat can escape, and cold draughts can enter during summer. The same is true of wooden doors.
Identify problem areas using a special scanner, which detects sudden changes in temperature at distance. You can then take remedial action by either replacing the door or window entirely, or by plugging the gap temporarily with sealant, or a draught excluder. In the long-run, the former option is almost always preferable – but in older, listed properties you might pay a premium for a window that matches the exterior of the building.
One of the most famous means of preventing heat from escaping through windows is through double-glazing. This involves installing two (or perhaps even more) panes of glass into the window frame, with a layer of inert gas like argon trapped in between. This helps to prevent heat from being transferred from one side of the glass to another, and thereby improves energy efficiency. Again, listed properties might struggle to obtain planning permission for such an installation, as double-glazing tends to create an unsightly distorted effect on the window when it’s viewed from the outside.
Cavity Wall insulation
During the Victorian era, a wall was a simple thing – a layer of brick, followed by a layer of cement, repeated until the wall was complete. In the 20th century, it was realised that two layers of brick, separated by a space called the ‘cavity’, could produce far more effective insulation. Then, later still, it was realised that filling this cavity with an insulating material could improve things further. If you’ve a cavity that’s not insulated, then installing cavity wall insulation represents an easy way to improve the energy efficiency of your home.
Life at home wouldn’t be particularly enjoyable if it were to proceed in total darkness. And thus, lighting comes alongside heating as one of our chief sources of energy expenditure. In order to be more eco-friendly, we can get into good light-reducing habits. Don’t leave the light on in rooms you’re not using, and turn all of your household appliances, like games consoles, TVs and computers, off when you’re done using them. If you don’t need too much light in a room, you might also use a dimmer switch to dial things back a little bit.
Switching out your existing light-bulbs for newer, more efficient and eco-friendly replacements might also be a good idea – but you’ll need to take into account the environmental impact that comes with manufacturing the new bulb, as well as the efficiency savings that might be accrued once it’s been installed. In order to do this, the best approach is normally to replace the bulbs in your house as they fail, rather than going out and replacing your existing ones immediately. This will ensure that you’ll have gotten the maximum possible usage out of your bulbs.
That said, light bulb technology has progressed tremendously in recent years, thanks to the emergence of the LED light bulb. These bulbs consist of several high-powered light-emitting diodes, placed with a small package that’s designed to replicate a more traditional halogen light. LED bulbs are more efficient than their antecedents by several orders of magnitude, and are growing more so with every passing year, thanks to Moore’s law (the same principle which sees our smartphones and computers exponentially grow in power). The next time a light bulb goes in your home, be sure to replace it with the most powerful LED light there is available.
Of course, being aware of the extent of a problem is the first step toward fixing it. For this reason, you might also consider investing in a smart meter, which will provide you with a detailed breakdown of your energy expenditure, and help inform your decisions on how to curb it.
Water is another utility that we simply can’t do without. Unlike the other factors we’ve mentioned thus far, there are few technologies which significantly impact out water usage; water, by and large, is water. But there are ways in which we can reduce our water use by making tweaks to our behaviour.
Showers are far more water-efficient than baths. Shower quickly, and this is all the more so. Long, luxurious soaks should therefore be infrequent occurrences, and short showers should form the basis of your daily wash. Running taps should be eliminated, lids should be placed on saucepans, and kettles should be filled only as much as is required. Each of these basic steps will shave vital pounds off your energy bill – and help to reduce your environmental impact.