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Keeping A Greener Home

Looking at a green home side-by-side with a non-green home, you probably couldn't tell which one was green. That's because "green" is not a style, it's more a way of living. A green home is built or renovated using an approach to design that reduces energy consumption. Green homeowners use less energy and could pay less for utilities, enjoy a healthy indoor atmosphere and a satisfaction that comes from knowing that they're helping the environment.

Your home can be made green, even if it wasn't originally built with that intent in mind. It's all about the choices we make - whether it's choosing to buy an energy efficient fridge, not leaving T.V.'s on standby or installing the latest solar power systems in our homes - it can all help to make a difference.

How to make your home greener

There are simple steps you can take to make your home greener:

Stop standby waste

Unplugging TVs, DVD players, computers, and other major electronics when they're not in use could keep thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air each year. Standby consumption is about equal to running a light bulb continuously. To avoid the hassle of constantly plugging and unplugging, here's an easy solution: Plug several electronics onto one power strip and switch it off. As for small gadgets like mobile phones, digital cameras, and hand-held vacuums - once they're charged, keep them unplugged until needed.

Light up right

Switching from traditional light bulbs to energy efficient bulbs is the easiest and most cost-efficient fix for saving energy.

Flush water waste

A whopping 40 percent of the water used in your home goes down the toilet. A low-flow toilet can cut the amount you use by half or more (and yes, it'll work just as well). A low-tech alternative: Put a brick or plastic milk jug filled with pebbles in the tank. The space it takes up reduces the amount of water needed to fill the tank, so you'll save gallons (and money) with each flush.

Fix drips and leaks

A leaky tap? Time to call the plumber. That slow but steady drip, drip, drip can waste up to 20 gallons of water a day. Replacing standard taps and showerheads with low-flow versions will help a family of four save 20,000 gallons a year.

There are plenty of other small but significant ways to conserve. Keep a jug of water in the fridge so you don't waste water as you wait for it to get cold from the tap, and turn the water off when brushing your teeth.

Using dishwashers

A lot of people think washing by hand is more environmentally friendly than running a dishwasher,but this is not necessarily so. You can save up to 20 gallons of water a day by waiting till your dishwasher's full to switch it on. You'll save even more energy by letting dishes air dry on the racks instead of using the heat dry cycle. Plus, most new dishwashers don't need you to prerinse. Simply scrape off food and load, and you'll conserve another 20 gallons.

Wash in cold

By washing clothes in cold water rather than warm or hot, you can eliminate 500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year. If cold water is not going to work with your kid's mucky uniforms, then opting for warm water over hot still saves energy and gets clothes clean.

To make laundry day even more energy-efficient, wait until you have a full load. Also rethink what constitutes dirty - kid's go through lots of outfits that wind up on the floor, and then you throw them in the laundry basket. Ask yourself, 'Is this really dirty?' If not, think of all the energy you'll save - for the planet and yourself - by not washing them.

Adjust the thermostat

Many people heat their home to a higher temperature than is necessary. By reducing your home's heating by just one degree - which you probably won't even notice, you could save 5-10 per cent off your heating costs.

This is especially important if you have improved your insulation in the home. It seems wasteful to have the heating on an hour before you get up, even more so if you have insulated your house properly and therefore don't need it.

Choose timber products for the home

If you are thinking of replacing your windows or doors, there is no greater, more natural or renewable material than timber. It is a fact that 97 per cent of the softwood timber used in UK building now comes from Europe. European forests are being replanted at the equivalent rate of 100 football pitches every hour. This helps to reduce harmful greenhouse gases as growing trees absorb Carbon Dioxide at a rapid rate and lock it up in the timber, even when the tree is felled. Continual replanting, growth and harvesting of timber is therefore an important part of ensuring the ongoing sustainability of our planet.

Look out for doors and windows that come with the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification (PEFC) logos, which demonstrate that the timber comes from forests which have a strict environmental policy.

Fit energy efficient doors

Around one fifth of the heat in a home can be lost through the doors or windows and it is vitally important that when you are replacing these you choose products that offer the best energy efficiency. Most manufacturers publish the U-Values of their doors and windows, which is the rate of heat loss through the product's surface. The lower the U-Value, the better the insulating rate, therefore replacing your windows and doors can play your part in reducing your household energy costs. Timber is a natural insulator and developments in timber window and door design as well as advances in glazing technology means energy efficiency is easier to achieve than ever before.

Fit double glazed windows

Many homes still don't have double glazing and it is one of the most effective ways to keep heat inside your home. When choosing windows, look out for Low emissivity (Low E) glass. This has a surface coating which improves its energy efficiency by allowing the sun's rays in, while reflecting heat back into the room. In Summer it works the other way by helping to maintain a constant temperature in the home, rather than requiring the use of air conditioning or fans that again require energy.

Use light to maximum effect

Make the most of nature's best heat source - the sun. Keep East, South and West-facing windows clear and unobstructed by curtains during the day in order to maximise your solar gain. By using the heat from the sun instead of domestic heating, you are reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere through power stations. This is good for the environment and great for you as research shows that properties with a greater amount of natural light also result in happier, healthier homeowners.

Another way to maximise the amount of natural light is by introducing patio doors to link the home and the garden.

Solar power

Using solar energy is the perfect way to make your home greener. The initial outlay can be costly, however, you will find that in time it will pay for itself many times over. Many people are under the false assumption that you need sunlight for solar panelling to be effective. This however is not the case. Even on a cloudy day, solar panels are able to capture solar rays and convert them into electricity.

Your homes green credentials will definately increase, as will the savings you will make on you electricity bills.

Check you have adequate loft insulation

If you have less than 270mm of insulation, then you can save money on your energy bills by topping this up. You can buy natural loft insulators for a truly green solution which are derived from wool or paper. Much of the heat in the home is lost from the roof. One sure way to prove the effectiveness of your loft insulation is to check if the snow melts when it lands on your roof. If it does then it probably means you need to increase the amount of loft insulation to prevent heat escaping.

Check you have cavity wall insulation

If you have uninsulated cavity walls, make sure you get them well insulated. You could save over 100 per year and pay back the cost in as little as three years. Check with your local council who can provide assistance and advice as well as a list of companies who could carry this out for you.

Put an insulating jacket on your hot water tank

This should cost less than 10, yet if everyone in the UK fitted one then Carbon Dioxide emissions would be cut by 0.45 million tonnes. If you do have a tank jacket, fit another over the top. The same principle can be used with people and jumpers!

Close your curtains at night

Make sure you have lined curtains and that they are drawn at dusk. This makes your double glazed windows even more efficient and reduces even further the amount of heat that could escape. If you have radiators underneath the windows, make sure the curtains are tucked behind the radiators so as not to block out heat.

Invest in draught excluders for letterboxes, keyholes and external doors Fitting insulation tape, brush seals and draught strips is highly effective in cutting down those nasty draughts. You can also plug the gaps between floorboards and around skirting boards, reducing draughts even further.


Recycling is an excellent way of saving energy and conserving the environment. Did you know that:

  • 1 recycled tin can would save enough energy to power a television for 3 hours.

  • 1 recycled glass bottle would save enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes.

  • 1 recycled plastic bottle would save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 3 hours.

  • 70% less energy is required to recycle paper compared with making it from raw materials.

There are three key factors when thinking about how to recycle - The 3 R's: Reduce: Waste reduction starts at the supermarket. By making slight alterations to your shopping list you can significantly reduce the amount of waste created in and around the home. Reuse: Many items found around the home can be used for different purposes. So before you throw those items away, think about how they can be reused. Recycle: Recycling in and around the home can be easy when you know how. By thinking carefully about what products you buy at the supermarket and how to recycle them is the first step towards efficient recycling.

As well as home recycling bins, there are many recycling banks across the UK that can be used to recycle different materials. They are located on streets across the UK as well as in supermarkets and outside housing estates.

Global warming and rising energy costs are a reality for all of us and by taking a few simple steps as outlined above we can help reduce our impact on the environment and protect the future of our planet.


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