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How To Design An Eco-Friendly Home

  • Francesca Baccarella
    6 minute read...

How Do I Build an Eco-Friendly Home?

In this day and age, we all recognise the benefits of having a more-eco-friendly home but not many realise they can actively take steps to build a home that reflects these needs. There are several elements that contribute to an eco-friendly home. The first we usually think of is energy efficient. Consumption of energy through heating, hot water and electricity are all things that can be addressed.

When building your home, using the right materials is key. Sometimes the upfront costs may seem daunting, but in the long run, it will all be worth it to live in a cost-effective and eco-friendly home that provides a sustainable way of living. It may be worth noting that some people are using Passivhaus planning packages, that have extremely high standards of insulation to achieve this but are more costly. There are many ways of insulating your new build house to very high standards that will use less energy and save costs, it’s about achieving the right balance for you and your budget.

Alternatively, we have created a list of suggestions that you could incorporate into your own designs below:

1. Eco-Friendly Lighting and Energy Efficient Appliances

By optimising the use of windows to increase the amount of sunlight in the home you can reduce the need for artificial lighting. Combine this with the use of eco-friendly LED lightbulbs and you could save up to £80 a year and reduce your carbon footprint. An LED light bulb can reduce energy consumption by 80-90% and last around 100,000 hours.

In addition, by installing energy efficient appliances you can make further saving. Today all major manufacturers provide eco-friendly options for washing machines and dryers, dish-washers, fridges and fridge freezes and many other appliances. Just make sure you research and chose the best options for you. 

2. Install Water Saving Fixtures

On average, more than 6,300 gallons of water are wasted per household every year. By installing a few handy devices around-the-home you can save money and protect the environment. Devices such as low flow high-efficiency faucet aerators and water-efficient shower heads can make such a difference. 

You could also install a greywater diverter that recycles water from showering or rinsing laundry into a storage vessel. The water can then be used to flush the toilet or water the lawn or garden. Just be sure to use environmentally friendly products that will not leave any harmful chemicals in the water, such as those from products with micro-beads, stain lifters, bleach, and soaps.

3. Invest in Proper Insulation

By investing in proper insulation, you can keep your home cooler during the hotter months and warmer during the cold months, reducing the need to run your heating and cooling systems. 

Heat rises so it is important to make sure you have effective insulation in the roof. You should aim to incorporate 270mm of mineral wool tucked between the joists and don’t forget to insulate the loft hatch. 

You may wish to consider using structural insulated panels (SIPs) which consist of an insulating foam core sandwiched between two structural facings, typically oriented strand board (OSB). SIPs are manufactured under factory-controlled conditions and can be made to fit nearly any building design. These panels are used as an alternative to a wood frame construction. The result is a house that is extremely strong, energy-efficient and cost-effective. Building with SIPs can save you time and money.

Make sure your windows can efficiently hold in the heat. More energy is often lost through the gaps around the window frames than the glass itself. The newest double or triple glazed windows are important to ensure your house is efficient.

4. Use Recycled or Sustainably Sourced Materials

For this it helps to think outside the box. You can use recycled materials such as plastic in your home or natural products such as straw bale, sheep’s wool and lime. Sustainably sourced materials such as certified timber and materials with a low carbon footprint (such as how much carbon dioxide was produced when making and transporting the item) are also important to consider. Bamboo is very appealing to use for an eco-friendly house as it’s highly renewable being one of the fastest growing plants on the planet. Other examples that are less traditional include; recycled cork panels for flooring, recycled glass tiles, Newspaper wood and denim for insulation but we’re sure there are many more great materials you could include.

Another notable material that you may wish to use is Enviboards. Enviboards is a UK based company that offers a product called Fireboad which is a fire-resistant board made of materials like magnesium, sawdust and fibre cloth that can be used instead of timber for things such as wall lining, internal partitions, roof lining and underlay systems.

5. Solar

Of course, when discussing how to make your house more-eco-friendly we couldn’t miss out solar panels. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need full sunshine for solar panels to work, which is good news for those of us in the UK, rather just natural daylight can be enough to provide some energy, although the more sunshine there is the more you get out of them. Solar power doesn’t release any greenhouse gasses and except for needing a source of clean water to function, it uses absolutely no other resources. Installing solar panels may be expensive but in the long run, saves a lot of money and energy consumption. It is much better for the environment as it is a clean source of energy helping you reduce your carbon footprint. 

5 reasons why

6. Geothermal Heating – Heat Pumps

The government has recommended a variety of sustainable heating alternatives, from wood-pellet boilers to electric or infrared radiators. But their preferred option is heat pumps which can massively exceed the 94% energy efficiency of gas boilers. Heat pumps extract heat from its surroundings – the air, the ground, a nearby body of water. Heat that would otherwise have gone to waste.

Geothermal heating and cooling systems work much differently than how a traditional furnace heats. A furnace burns fuel to create heat, whereas a geothermal heat pump exchanges heat between the ground or water source and the air to heat the home. Because the temperature below ground stays constant around 50 to 60 degrees year-round, it can be used as a heat source. The fluid within the ground loop absorbs the heat from the Earth, then cycles it to the heat pump where its heat exchanger transfers the heat from the fluid to the air.

The benefit of using this system is it offers lower operating costs with homeowners saving approximately 70% a month on energy bills versus conventional heating. It’s environmentally friendly as it doesn’t consume any fossil fuels and has a highly efficient use of electricity. It also has a long life as it lasts longer than conventional equipment.

7. Build Smaller

Being efficient about the size of your home will automatically make it more eco-friendly because fewer materials will be used for the build and more efficient because less power and heat is needed. Be creative and resourceful with your design. Smaller homes have a lower impact, reduced costs and maintenance and are more efficient because their square footage and layout are more compact, practical and functional than big, traditional homes. They do require more thought and planning, but if you build them around your green lifestyle, the result will be more functional and cost-effective.