Our homes are the place where we spend so much of our time. Our homes are the place that is most important to us and the place where we spend the bulk of our income. We all want a home that is of optimum comfort and practicality, so we are forever trying to improve and expand to meet our ever changing needs. Home improvements are an exciting and enjoyable prospect for most, but in an age when our actions are having a detrimental effect on our planet, it is essential that we consider how we go about everything we do; from traveling to work and what we buy for lunch to how our home is constructed and the types of furnishings we purchase for that home.
Eco-friendly home improvements aren’t just beneficial to the environment; they nearly always benefit homeowners as well. Being conscious of heat and light, for example, and improving your home so it requires less use of power, means that you are saving money as well as being kinder to the environment around you. Our planet’s resources are not infinite and it’s important that we all do what we can with our homes to care for the environment.
Here are some eco-friendly home improvements that will improve your life, as well as the planet’s…
Start by Renovating Your Windows!
You may enter through the front door, but it is the windows that play the biggest part in how the natural elements enter and exit your home. One of the best eco-friendly home improvements you can make is replacing your ordinary, or simply outdated, windows with double-glazing. Initially, everybody jumps to the conclusion that double glazing is just ugly or the end result of annoying, persistent sales pitches. But double glazing can, in fact, look great and provide some major benefits. It is one of the most energy efficient home improvements you can make; having airtight windows will insulate your home better than you ever imagined and you may even notice that the noise pollution in your home is reduced as well.
Curtains are another important factor when it comes to managing your windows. Curtains provide an extra barrier and reduce the amount of cold air coming in, as well as looking chic and cozy. High-quality, thick curtains are a sound investment and will help to keep heat in far better than blinds or ordinary thin curtains. If you love to sleep in on the weekends or work the night shift you'll find that these types of curtains will provide an extra bang. Just make sure that the type of curtains you choose can be pushed aside and held out of the way of the window easily, so that you can maximize light entrance when needed or wanted.
Many people opt for blinds for this reason, but all it takes is a small reshuffle of the room to give some space around the windows and a couple of effective curtain holders. This way, curtains can be freely pushed aside to allow light to flood the room, but also closed after dusk to help keep the room warm. Natural light is good for your health, but it also means you will use less electricity, lighting up all corners of the house until the evening.
Let There Be (LED) Light!
You are, of course, going to need to use lighting often when natural light isn’t having the desired effect or when the sun has set. It is the 21st century after all! But you can do even more than just making sure lights are turned off when you exit a room. Go into each room of your house and replace the bulbs with energy-saving bulbs. LED and CFL bulbs both use around 80% less energy than standard bulbs and last longer, while producing the same strength of light. It may seem like an unnecessary outlay at first, but it is a very cost-effective and eco-friendly home improvement tool. Changing your bulbs will absolutely save you money in the long run and be a heck of a lot kinder to the planet.
These days there are even wonderful, practical solutions for recessed lighting. LED conversion kits are available for existing housings and LED lights that mimic the look are available for new construction. The LED versions provide an extra bonus because they allow you to fully insulate the ceiling above them, thus saving even more energy than their outdated counterparts.
Loft Conversion and Insulation
Whether you passed, failed or never even went to science class, you’re most probably aware that heat rises. That makes the roof another culprit when it comes to heat and energy loss, but also a potentially wonderfully warm room of the house when utilized optimally.
Loft conversions are a thrilling home improvement that can lead to some real bang for your buck. If it’s an option for you or you’ve already converted your loft, make absolutely sure that you’ve insulated it effectively. Loft insulation is a simple yet very effective way to reduce heat loss and subsequently your heating bills. It lasts a lifetime and there is no doubt that you can recoup what you invest.
On average, over 50% of a home’s energy consumption goes towards heating and cooling — this also makes it a prime target for loss. Improving your windows is the place to start, but no matter how thick you think your roof is, insulating high-up rooms, such as lofts, is essential for a green home and will certainly help you to decrease your energy bills. If you are unsure of your needs, speak to your energy company about an audit.
Your Home’s Exterior and The Case for Permeable Paving
Of course, an eco-friendly house does not just need to care about keeping everything inside. How your home affects the world around you is very important — and one of the latest eco-friendly home improvements available is permeable block paving.
Permeable paving is a sustainable paving system used predominantly for driveways and garden patios - two home improvements that are becoming more and more common. Permeable paving is similar to standard garden or driveway paving, but has larger gaps between paving blocks, allowing for the movement of excessive water through the surface. Trident Permeable Block Paving, for example, looks like any ordinary block paving, but has a specially designed sub-base where water is able to drain away slowly. Permeable paving systems like this are better for the environment and your home’s safety, without sacrificing stability or durability.
Over the last decade, the UK has been hit by several large floods. The summer floods of 2007 in the UK, for example, saw almost 40,000 homes flooded — not by overflowing rivers, but by surface water runoff and overloaded drainage systems. More floods have followed over the last decade; 2015 and 2016 saw particularly damaging floods and more are predicted this winter. The best way to manage them is with permeable paving. It is a future necessity.
With normal paving, water builds up and causes floods or is wasted. Permeable paving allows rainwater to pass through cracks and the porous sub-base attenuates and filters water, which can then be collected and reused. Sediments are removed and water is directed to a settling pond, creating another ecosystem.
Though permeable paving can be more expensive that non-permeable paving, it is the only way forward and can be made cheaper by not investing in a drainage system.
Solar Panels - Eco-Friendliness Epitomized
Think of an eco-friendly home and the first thing that comes to mind is usually a home covered in solar panels. If you’re serious about doing your bit for the planet, you need to consider investing in solar panels! They may be expensive at first, but you’re bound to make your money back long-term and you are even able to sell the energy that you generate.
There isn’t a source of energy as clean and renewable as solar energy! Of course, where your house is located will largely influence how much power solar panels could collect for you, but as long as the sun hits your roof, it's worthwhile. By taking advantage of free energy from the sun, you can bring down your energy consumption and supply excess energy. Also, government grants, incentives and tax breaks are available to those who want to use solar power in their home.