Sustainable Homes – A Guide

With the constant rise in costs of living, many households are now looking at ways in which to reduce these costs. One of the ways in which this can be done is to learn how to reduce your costs by making your home less reliant on outside resources, such as power, water and other heating methods. This can be done by one or a combination of many different methods, such as solar power, solar hot water heating, water and waste recycling and also the growth of fruit and vegetables at home. This article will examine these such methods and also determine how you can save money, how these methods can help you to live healthier and also how we can all reduce our carbon footprint.

Electricity Costs

There are various ways in which you can reduce or even eliminate the costs of buying electricity for your home. Some are simple and some require an up front capital investment. The very first thing that you can do is to ensure that all non essential items are switched off when not in use. There are also other options such as -

__Energy Efficient Light Globes__

Energy efficient light globes can help you reduce your power use. New globes can emit the amount of light that once was emitted by regular 60 watt globes using only 10 watts. This can give you a significant amount of savings when averaged out over a year, which can be up to 10% 1)

__Air Conditioning__

Depending on what region you live in, you may need to use air conditioning at some stage of the year. It is important to use your air conditioning only when required, but to also run it at normal temperatures. You will save more by leaving your air conditioning at a stable temperature than by switching it on when it gets hot. Doing this will make your unit work harder, thus using more power. It is just as important to ensure that you are not losing the cooler air by keeping outside doors closed, and it can also be beneficial to ensure that your doors and windows have good seals 2).

__Solar Hot Water__

The use of hot water can make up a significant portion of your power bill. The use of solar hot water can save you money, especially in the long term. Solar hot water systems work in a similar fashion to solar panels by collecting the sun's rays. The water is heated on solar panels which are usually mounted on the roof and sent to a holding tank, which can then be used in your home. This type of system is recommended especially in areas which receive good deal of sunlight. The more sunlight that is available will help to repay your initial investment quicker. A basic system will cost around $3,000, and can pay back it's investment in around 4 years 3).

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Solar Hot Water System 4)

__Solar Panels__

Solar panels have been a popular addition to many homes over recent years. Solar panels harness the energy from the sun and turn it into usable electricity. This occurs when the photons, or particles of light collide with atoms, which in turn frees electrons causing a flow of energy. These panels are also often called photovoltaic panels. These are usually mounted on the roof or somewhere where there is good access to sunlight and uses a converter to convert this into conventional power 5). There are two types of solar power system. The most common one is where the power which is harnessed is fed directly back into the mains power grid, for which the electricity company will pay you a fixed rate. The second system is where you keep all of your harnessed power for use, but in order to do this you need to have several storage batteries. Prices for solar power systems can vary depending on where you live, but the investment in such a system will prove to be profitable in the long run.

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Roof Mounted Solar Panels

Water Recycling

Many households waste much of their water. You can help save money and help you house become self sustainable by harnessing the water that will normally go to waste. There many ways in which this can be done, such as -

__Storm Water__

When it rains, all of the water that runs into your gutters will go down into storm water drains and to waste. You can direct the water which runs off into underwater tanks for storage or simply direct the water to your garden areas or swales. This water can replace regular drinking water for providing water to your garden, whilst also ensuring that the water seeps back into ground water systems instead of running off into the ocean.

__Grey Water__

Grey water is the water that is used to flush your toilets, used in the shower, in the kitchen and in the laundry from your washing machine. An average family can produce around 200 litres of grey water per day, so it makes sense to put that water to alternative use, such as watering your garden. There are several different systems that are available, and can range in price from a few hundred dollars for a laundry only system to around a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousand for a fully automated system 6). Which ever system you choose will benefit not only your bank balance but also reduce the amount of pressure on local water systems and help the environment.

Grey Water Tank 7)

Waste Recycling

You can help reduce your living costs and help the environment by properly recycling your waste. Ensure that you sort out your waste carefully and dispose of it as per the recommended method by your local government. Any food scraps you can keep and place in a compost bin, which you can use as organic nutrients for your garden. You can purchase a compost bin from your local hardware store for a small price or you can use an old plastic bin or similar.

Growing Fruit And Vegetables At Home

Growing fruits and vegetables at home are a great way to not only save money but also reducing your environmental footprint. Fruits and vegetable which you buy at the local store are often transported from different parts of the country. This means that there are energy costs of transporting the produce, whilst you are also paying a mark up on the price of the produce due to it being handled by several different resellers. You can also save on watering by using watering systems as mentioned in the water recycling section. Fruits and vegetables grown at home often taste better than their mass produced counterparts and are free of herbicides and pesticides. With global food supplies dwindling, it is a good idea to be able to have the skills to grow your own produce. You can get information about which fruits and vegetables that you can grow at home at your local garden centre or nursery. You do not need to have a big back yard to grow your own produce, you can grow on your balcony or roof in pots if required, and eating fresh fruit and vegetables can help increase positive health outcomes, with several studies showing that eating fresh fruit and vegetables can help to reduce the risk of cancers, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases 8).

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Home Garden Bed9).

Conclusion

This article has highlighted that it can be simple to reduce your everyday living costs by following a few simple guides. These suggestions are suitable for most types of homes, and you do not necessarily need to spend large amounts of money to reduce your home expenditure and carbon footprint. Growing fruits and vegetables at home not only does this, but can also give you better tasting food whilst improving your health.

Environment | How To

1)
Landlord Specialists, 2012, 'Benefits on Using Energy Saving Light Bulbs', Available: http://landlordspecialists.com.au/benefits-on-using-energy-saving-light-bulbs/
2)
About.com, 2014, 'Saving Energy', Available: http://saveenergy.about.com/od/homecooling/
3)
Energymatters.com.au, 2012, 'Solar Hot Water Frequently Asked Questions', Available: http://www.energymatters.com.au/renewable-energy/solar-power/solar-hot-water/solar-hot-water-faq.php
4)
Roof Mounted Solar Hot Water System by RaBoe licence CC 3.0, Available: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Solardach_2011-by-RaBoe-06.jpg
5)
Physics.org, 2014, 'How Do Solar Panels Work', Available: http://www.physics.org/article-questions.asp?id=51
6)
Greywateraction.org, 2014, 'Cost of a Grey Water System, Available: http://greywateraction.org/content/cost-greywater-systems
7)
Grey Water Recycling Tank by Will Douglas Shearer licence CC 3.0, Available: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Underground_Grey_Water_Recycling_Tank.tif
8)
Harvard Public School of Health, 2014, 'Vegetables and Fruits', Available: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vegetables-full-story/
9)
Raised Garden Bed by Srl licence CC 3.0, Available: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Raised_bed.jpg

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