As politicians prepare for the monumental global climate change summit to be held in Copenhagen this December, The Telegraph reports that home owners are keen to do their bit and are becoming ‘increasingly interested’ in Solar Panels. The Telegraph suggests that home-owners are keener than ever to install Solar Panels onto their home, despite lack of support from the government.
Despite recent Government warnings, relayed by Professor David MacKay, which predict increased national power cuts within the next seven years and champion the installations of Solar Panels, the government has done little to help home-owners interested in having these installed.
In Germany the Government has helped over 130,000 homes with the cost of installing Solar technology. This is quite an achievement in comparison to the UK Government, as a paltry 1720 home-owners have benefited from the British Government’s Low Carbon Buildings Programme grants system.
However, the future is looking up (literally!) for home-owners who are going to undertake home improvement renovations and are willing to spend the estimated £10,000 to install solar panels. The cost has come down by around fifteen per cent within the last five years and also the Government has proposed a Clean Energy Cash back scheme, due to take effect in April 2010, whereby home-owners will receive cash back for generating their own electric and feeding the surplus into the national grid.
Recent studies have also showed that Solar PV cells have greater longevity than previously anticipated, based on cells installed in the sixties, which are now still running at eighty per cent capacity! Remember, if you are planning to make low carbon home improvements to your property then is it worth checking out the Energy Saving Trust and the Low Carbon Buildings Programmes to see if you qualify for any Governmental/grant assistance.
With 1st September 2009 looming and European Light Bulb Legislation coming into effect, the BBC has recently reported the ongoing trend of customers stockpiling old style light bulbs. Some shopkeepers have reported selling up to eighty light bulbs a day and shoppers have admitted to buying twenty at a time. It is suggested by the BBC that older customers in particular, are opposed to the new Eco Bulbs, claiming they do not give off enough light to read with.
From 1st September, 100 Watt Clear bulbs and opaque incandescent bulbs stop being manufactured. Shops are allowed to sell off their remaining stock, but it will be illegal for these bulbs to be imported. So once they are gone… they are gone!
However, the founder of National Carbon Footprint Day, Donnachadh McCarthy, suggested that perhaps the problem was people were not purchasing the correct size of the new type of money saving bulb. Consumers are reminded that, in the same way the old style bulbs were available in different wattages, the new style bulbs are too!
There are concerns mounting regarding the levels of Mercury in the new energy saving light bulbs. In particular, the disposal of these bulbs is a cause for concern. The Daily Mail reported last year about the dangers of Energy Saving Bulbs if they are broken and also how to dispose of them. You are advised to evacuate the room for at least fifteen minutes if you break one of these bulbs. Be sure not to inhale the dust, wear rubber gloves, wrap the bulb carefully and then take it to a council tip where it can be disposed of correctly.
Unless somebody has been living under a rock for the last two decades or so, the importance of making the home more environmentally friendly ought to be lost on nobody. However, wanting to make the home green, which basically involves reducing its carbon footprint, is easier said than done.
There are costs attached to making green home improvements and it is not always clear what actual benefits can be derived from using accepted green standards. For instance, solar panels will generate a measurable amount of green electricity for the home, whereas it is less clear how effective certain types of insulation are.
However, there are several thermal imaging survey companies based in Britain that can provide a more definitive answer on this. In fact, such companies will typically offer a complete energy audit for homes and businesses, which are useful for determining the areas that are especially prone to losing heat.
Wasted energy is a prime cause of larger carbon footprints, so being able to identify precisely where a structure is losing energy is vital in order to give it an effective green makeover. Displaying as red on infrared thermography devices, the most energy wasteful areas of a home tend to be located near the windows and upper walls.
Based on detailed thermal imaging, home owners are able to identify where to invest in their environmentally friendly home improvements. For instance, if external walls are showing excessive heat loss, cavity wall insulation and perhaps even a little brick work would be required. Furthermore, making the home a greener place will also help to increase its future sale price as the Government continues to push for a zero carbon community.
It is no secret that the UK housing market is on its knees, which has impacted economies all over the world. Consequently, home-owners and property developers find themselves in the unfortunate situation where they simply cannot afford to sell their homes at today’s prices because the market prices are so low.
This is also negatively impacting on potential buyers who are finding that properties are becoming harder to acquire. Notwithstanding these very real and pressing concerns, however, there is at least one good thing to come of this situation.
Indeed, home-owners and property developers are investing more into their houses in order to improve the future sale price when market conditions recover. Furthermore, many of these developments are tailored towards meeting the carbon emission and renewable energy targets set by the Government. Thus, the recovery of the UK housing market could arrive at a time when houses generally have become a whole lot greener and, therefore, a whole lot more investable.
Renovating a home in an eco-friendly way can be as simple as ensuring that doors and windows have double glazing fitted and that lofts are fully insulated in addition to cavity walls, through which plenty of heat can be lost. By reducing the wastage of energy in these ways, home-owners are also able to reduce their annual energy bills.
Nevertheless, greener home improvements include the installation of solar panels, which harvest renewable solar energy before converting it into electricity for home use. If a surplus of electricity is produced then this can be sold to the National Grid for even greater financial benefit. In summary, home improvements are popular at the moment and none can be more beneficial than those that will help the environment.
No home improvement can be as rewarding as one that helps to save our planet. Unfortunately, the installation of renewable energy forms such as solar panels can burn a significant hole in even the deepest of pockets. Equally, the current economic climate has left most of us more concerned about our immediate future than that of our descendants. However, as can be evidenced by melting ice shelves and the recent unseasonally hot weather, the meteorological climate continues to be affected by humanity irrespective of whether or not we have a financial crisis. Indeed, the British Summer of 2009 is set to be a scorcher and that can mean only one thing for everyone: a hosepipe ban!
Rainwater recycling is a relatively old concept that has recently been commercialized for domestic use. As property owners sit tight and ride out the recession, home improvements have been seen as a useful way of increasing the future selling value of homes – at least once the housing market has recovered to its former position. Water usage is something we will all need to manage carefully in the coming months and years, so a rainwater recycling installation will be both practically useful now and attractive to future buyers.
A rainwater recycling installation works in various ways and there are several different providers of such products. Freerain Ltd is one of the leading manufacturers and suppliers of rainwater recycling in the UK and implements a product that is relatively straightforward to install and efficient when in operation. It works by harvesting rainwater via standard downpiping, which is then fed through a stainless steel self-cleaning filter. A calmed inlet filling device ensures that oxygenated water passes into a reinforced polyethylene storage tank, which is managed by an electronic system and includes a stainless steel submersible pump that delivers water at a rate of 4,500 litres per hour. The end product is a collection of non-potable water that is otherwise clear and of a high quality, which can be used throughout the garden and home for various reasons. Freerain Ltd also offer an optional upgrade to full drinking standard!
Many new houses in the US are being built as ‘passive homes’ which use solar power differently to conventional green builds. Whilst an ordinary new home with solar panels feeds energy back in to the national grid, ‘passive homes’ work differently by collecting and storing heat energy from the sun and then keeping it in envelopes within the building which means there’s no need for a furnace or central heating. The buildings have dense, wide walls and their windows are South-facing. They’re also made from a number of heat storing building supplies including concrete.
Some experts claim that ‘passive heating’ is the most efficient way to heat a home because no energy or water is needed. Instead, the house is kept warmer in the Winter and cooler in the Summer months because of the ways in which the building stores heat. The technology to make ‘passive homes’ is not new and the earliest known build in the US was back in 1989 and the fruit of a civil engineer’s passion for green living.
These homes could be very useful in the UK where millions of pounds are donated by the Government to the elderly each Winter in order to keep the most vulnerable adults warm over the coldest months of the year. It’s believed that if they had ‘passive homes’ instead of living in conventional properties these expenses could be dramatically reduced.
Outside-facing walls are almost two feet thick on ‘passive homes’ and there’s plenty of light and air within them as the building’s South facing walls are fitted with plenty of windows. Even the landscaping of some of the US builds has been carefully designed so that trees and bushes help to block out the wind.
As the need for us all to have greener lifestyles increases, it’s believed that more contractors both in the US and here in the UK, will invest in ‘passive homes’ because the benefits for the environment and the savings they offer homeowners far outweigh the costs of construction.
An increasing number of DIY enthusiasts are combating rising fuel prices and lowering their carbon footprint by harnessing the power of the sun. Ecological fears and the recession have resulted in two trends permeating the home improvement industry; the first trend is the desire to damage the planet less by making houses ‘greener,’ and this could involve fitting solar panels and using renewable energy sources. The second trend is to save money, because in the UK the recession is hitting our purses hard.
Some of us take the time to compost left over vegetables, or have a water butt to catch rain to water the garden but now some people are actually creating their own green energy. Smart Energy UK are able to install solar systems which can supply a home with 70% of their annual hot water requirement and this not only reduces the amount of money a person needs to spend on their energy bill but also reduces the amount of fossil fuels (such as coal, gas and oil) which they are responsible for using each year.
Once installed, specialist solar devices provide an everlasting and totally free energy source for heating the water in your home. According to the Smart Energy UK website carbon emissions can be reduced by 2000 cubic meters per year using solar water heating for a single home.
Sarah Othman, writer for a number of home improvement websites, says that solar power is a useful tool and a good investment. She commented: “There are lots of benefits to using solar power in your home, obviously the main ones being financial and environmental. Some people think that in the UK we don’t have enough sunlight to benefit from solar panels but that isn’t true.”
She continued: “In winter you will still use the national grid but in the summer time you’ll see a big difference on your energy bills and feel great for doing your part to protect the planet.” She added: “You can even light up your garden with mini solar lanterns for those summer evening barbeques.”
Our own homes are responsible for more than 25% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into the atmosphere but whether you are choosing energy efficient appliances, or making larger changes to your home, such as building a conservatory, or converting your loft or garage into extra living space, there are a number of measures that you can take to reduce these harmful emissions and lower your energy bills.
If you are building a conservatory for example, it may be wise to accept that it will be comfortable to inhabit in spring, summer and autumn, but not perhaps in the depths of winter. This will save you the cost of a dedicated heating system in your conservatory, which can be hugely wasteful in any case. Similarly, if you are planning a loft or garage conversion, consider the use of the latest, energy efficient double glazing for windows and skylights and solar energy systems – such as solar water heating, or solar panels – for generating your own electricity.
Energy efficient appliances – cookers, refrigerators, etc. – can be identified by their energy labels and even something as simple as replacing traditional tungsten light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, or LED (“Light Emitting Diode”) lighting can have a major effect on your CO2 emissions. You can, of course, also make the most of the natural light entering your home by placing desks, work surfaces, etc. where they receive as much natural light as possible.
You may also like to think about insulation and draught-proofing in your home. Loft insulation – ideally to a depth of between 250mm and 300mm – and cavity, or solid, wall insulation are the types that spring immediately to mind but, especially if you live in an older property, you may also like to think about your hot water cylinder and hot water pipes, your existing doors, windows and floors. Even your letterbox can be a source of energy loss in winter so get that fitted with a draught excluder too.
In these days of environmental awareness designers are constantly looking for eco-friendly ways to improve the home such as installing solar panels on to rooftops in order to generate green electricity. Indeed, there are many green additions to houses these days but what about changing fundamental aspects of the home itself?
Italian kitchen design outfit, Valcucine, which prides itself on developing kitchen accessories with the lowest environmental impact has recently announced the development of a truly exquisite kitchen unit made from recycled aluminium.
Invented by Gabriele Centazzo, this 100% recyclable fitted kitchen comprises glass base units, aluminium work surfaces and mechanical joints. The concept underpinning the design is twofold: that it includes a composition of recycled materials and that it can be completely recycled if necessary. However, it is difficult to imagine consumers throwing this unit on to the recycling tip any time soon.
Indeed, the preliminary drawings of the design which debuts at Fuorisalone later this year depict a wonderfully simple, clean cut green (literally) kitchen unit that oozes both style and substance. Furthermore, the flexible construction allows for easy assembly and Valcucine has suggested that its INVITRIUM glass base unit will make reassembly a trivial matter. Additionally it would appear that most typical kitchen spaces, which are often somewhat narrow and elongated, will accommodate the gReenaissance’s long, straight dimensions.
As aforementioned the unit adopts a mechanical joint design which means that no glues or formaldehyde emissions are present. Furthermore the aluminium and glass surfaces provide complete resistance to water, steam and heat damage that affect so many other types of kitchen surface. So there should be no need to worry about setting down that saucepan anywhere…
According to Eco Friend, the use of recycled aluminium represents an 80% reduction of the energy that would be required to source primary aluminium, which is great news for anybody aiming to increase their use of green energy over traditional, environmentally damaging methods.
In conclusion the gReenaissance looks set to be an instant hit amongst home improvement enthusiasts and those who care about the environment.
Garden water features, of course, first started to capture the public imagination when they were incorporated into the garden designs produced by celebrity gardener, Alan Titchmarsh, in the BBC television series “Ground Force”. There is no denying that a water feature can add movement, a touch of drama, and soothing background noise to any garden but you do need to include it properly in your initial garden design, rather than as an afterthought.
If you wish to include a pond for example, remember that it should receive 5 hours or more of sunlight a day so that aquatic plants – and fish if you want them – can flourish. Overhanging shrubs or trees can choke a pond with fallen leaves but, in any case, it should be cleaned out at least once a year; spring is the best time of year for cleaning as plants have the opportunity to re-establish themselves in time for the summer months.
If you’d prefer a running water feature such as a fountain, stream, or waterfall, remember that you may need a tank to act as a reservoir and probably a pump to push water uphill at some point. Electricity for such a pump can be provided by the domestic mains via a suitable extension cable and transformer or, of course, via solar panels, which require no wiring per se. If you have a sunny garden patio, for example, you might like to consider a tiered cascade fountain which allows water to trickle gently from one tier to the next under the power of the Sun.
You are, of course, not limited to traditional water feature designs and nowadays there are any number of pebble pools, spheres and water walls – freestanding or incorporated in the wall of the garden itself – all of which are based on the principle of pumping water from a reservoir at the base of the feature to its highest point letting it fall under gravity and so on.