Property investor advice column: Part 24
Resource efficiency needn’t cost a fortune
Minimising our environmental impact has become a great concern for many people – and it’s a growing imperative for many homeowners, too. More and more South Africans are interested in how they can reduce their water and electricity usage, and find more sustainable ways of living.
You don’t need to spend your life savings to be more energy efficient, though: in fact, you can take the first steps free of charge simply by better understanding your present consumption. ‘Awareness and family unity can immediately begin to increase performance with no cost to the homeowner,’ says Sathia Govender, an architectural technologist at Saint-Gobain. ‘These include steps such as turning the temperature of the geyser down, taking shorter showers, switching off lights when you don’t need them, optimising natural daylight, reducing the ironing pile and reconsidering the operation of the pool pump.’
To really impact your energy and water usage, however, some investment is required. Initially this may seem expensive but with product costs decreasing and electricity and water costs going up, retrofitting your home is increasingly making economic sense.
The cost of solar power, for instance, has lowered dramatically in recent years. ‘Five years ago a photovoltaic (PV) system cost R5 per kWh, compared to Eskom’s R0.50 per kWh,’ Govender says. ‘Today a PV system produces power at less than R1 per kWh, which is much less than what Eskom charges.’
Govender recommends installing a solar geyser, insulating the ceiling and sealing gaps around doors and windows as basic first steps. He also suggests looking at the efficiency of your large home appliances and your fittings. ‘The My Green Home campaign by the Green Building Council of South Africa highlighted that the change from traditional incandescent light bulbs to LED can reduce the lighting electricity demand by up to 75%,’ he says. ‘Installing low-flow showerheads and taps reduces the demand for hot water.’
For those willing to spend a bit more, insulating walls, foundations and floors can significantly reduce heat loss. Double-glazing your windows, installing skylights to improve daylighting and introducing smart meters to increase your awareness of energy usage are also viable options.
Before any major capital outlay, however, Govender recommends conducting an energy audit to help you understand where and how you use energy in your home. ‘You can then consider the initial investment against the reductions in utility bills,’ he says. ‘Refurbishing your home with sustainable and energy efficient solutions results in reducing energy consumption and a reduction in utility bills but it also presents a more comfortable lifestyle, including better sleep, improved productivity and healthier, calmer indoor environments.’
Next issue: how to form a homeowners’ association
Text Patrick Cairns