With climate change being an almost constant part of the news agenda (despite some denial of the phenomenon in certain quarters), issues of resources being depleted and environmental pollution contaminating the air and water, there is a need for sustainability in relation to home designs.
It is generally recognised that oil and gas are finite, and though they are unlikely to run out in the immediate future, there are many renewable energy sources that are contributing to generating electricity. Yet saving electricity and gas in the home also makes an important contribution to energy saving, leading to important advances in green technology and energy efficient home designs.
Traditional building methods are unlikely to disappear anytime soon, especially when builders are trying to cram as many houses as they realistically can onto a site as cheaply as possible. Those conventional methods can have aspects to them that cause health problems. These include paints, plastics, solvents and composite timbers that have chemical pollutants, alongside biological pollutants that can trigger headaches, asthma and depression.
This is not to say that such construction is necessarily a bad thing, but cheapness may lead to cutting corners, whereas green building looks to home aspects such as good ventilation design, using natural and non-toxic products and materials and breathable walls. Eco-friendly construction can also be a major factor in enabling a home to become highly energy efficient.
Good insulation is probably the most important way to have an energy efficient home. Heat can escape very quickly from many places, and it is important to recognise what can be done to prevent heat loss so that less energy is used and heating costs can be significantly reduced.
Double-glazing is now de rigueur for new houses, and it does prevent heat from escaping, though large, uncovered windows can reduce temperatures when the weather is cold and there is no sun. Triple-glazing adds an extra layer of insulation, and though it may cost more upfront, the potential for energy saving and a monthly reduction in energy costs can make it worthwhile.
Blinds and curtains for windows can be effective up to a point, and another energy efficient type of window coverings are plantation shutters. Usually made of wood, with plenty of choice in terms of the wood used, shutters are not only a stylish addition to a home but can also be made to fit any size and shape of window, fitting snugly to provide an extra layer of insulation when needed.
When the weather is warmer, shutters with adjustable slats allow as much or as little light into a room as desired, preventing an unnecessary build-up of heat. Getting the window coverings right can make a major difference to the energy efficiency of a home.
When draughts are stopped, the home remains warmer but heat rises, so if there is no insulation in the attic or loft, a lot of that heat can be lost through the roof. It is a false economy to ignore this sort of insulation, and it may be possible to find government grants at certain times to help defray the costs.
These have been popular additions to many homes, and though grant support to help buy and install them is no longer available from the government, the incentive is there to get a return by returning excess energy to the National Grid and being paid for it. This is a long-term investment for homeowners, but it reduces the reliance on fossil fuels with the consequent benefit to the environment. Burning fossil fuels pollutes the atmosphere and, when combined with emissions from vehicles, leads to damaging effects for people, especially those in cities.
Central heating is another benefit of modern home development, but many people keep their homes too warm. Cutting the set temperature by only one degree Celsius means that less energy is used and the cost is reduced. A thermostat can be adjusted for the time of day and night, and if the home is well insulated, heat will be retained for longer and it won’t be necessary for the heating to kick in as often. Heating rooms only when necessary is also energy efficient – there is not much point in heating bedrooms until people are ready to go to bed, so half an hour before that is ample time for a boost.
Energy is a precious commodity, and reducing use through an energy efficient home design is beneficial to the environment and also to the household budget.