With the climate emergency looming over us, and many people out on the streets calling for change, you might be wondering how you can do your part to protect the Earth.
If you’re looking for ways to lower your carbon footprint, the home is an excellent place to start. Households are responsible for about 27% of the UK's carbon emissions and almost a third of the nation's total energy consumption. By making smart changes to both your design and fittings, you can help better protect the environment we all need and love.
Here’s our top tips for creating an eco-friendly home…
If you’re serious about making your home eco-friendly, then say hello to ‘Passivhaus design’ - aka the gold standard!
It’s basic principle is that a home should exist at a comfortable temperature of 20C all year round, without the need for (or using the minimal amount of) heating / cooling. For example, no radiators, no air con, no wood burner.
When talking about Passivhaus design, you’ll hear the term ‘fabric-first’ a lot, and it's the key to what makes this design so energy-efficient. It’s the idea that the building should be designed to do the work, without the need for cardon generating add-ons. In order to create this, a home is designed to be ultra air-tight, with a system of ventilation to stop the heat captured from the insulation from becoming overwhelming. This heat comes from both solar energy and the heat we naturally generate from our bodies.
To achieve the Passivhaus standard, the energy required for space heating must not exceed 15 kWh/(m2) .This is determined by calculating the maximum amount of heat that can be delivered using the fresh supply of air at the minimum required ventilation rate.
If you wanted to create your own Passibhaus home in the UK, your architect will need to focus on the following…
- ensuring very high levels of insulation
- the installation of extremely high performance windows with insulated frames
- an airtight building fabric
- ‘thermal bridge free’ construction
- a mechanical ventilation system with highly efficient heat recovery
- and accurate design using the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP)
If you’re looking at renovating or building your home, ask your architect if they’re familiar with Passivhaus design and whether or not this would be possible with your home.
Generating your own energy
No surprise but where your energy comes from is a big consideration for creating an eco-friendly home.
While many people have heard of solar panels, there are actually a range of options out there. Meaning you can customise your energy source to both your home and the environment you live in. Some options to consider are…
Solar PV: solar panels are becoming common across the UK and offer a budget friendly way of generating your own energy - not to mention they can be used in rural and city homes alike. However, without storage batteries, you’re unlikely to be able to generate all your energy from these alone. Plus, the Government has stripped back the benefits of the Feed-in-Tariff scheme.
Solar Thermal: another cheap option, this allows you to heat up your water supply using the sun’s energy. However, you will need a large storage tank, meaning no combi boilers.
Photovoltaic Thermal: gives you the best of both worlds, allowing the sun to generate both hot water and electricity. Though more expensive, this is your best chance of using solar power fully throughout the year.
Biomass: uses combustion to create energy from natural products, usually wood. Whether you’re using wood pellets, logs or chips, there’s plenty of ways to feed this system on a range of budgets. What’s more, investing in one now means it’s likely to power your home for over 20 years - though you will need space, as they are bulky.
Air Source Heat Pump: replace your boiler with what is essentially a fridge in reverse, taking cold air from the outside and heating it up. They can’t provide the high temperatures your classic boiler provides and really should only be added to homes with proper insulation.
Ground Source Heat Pump: allows you to extract solar energy from the ground and turn it into heat. This is an expensive option, and would ideally be added to a home with both proper insulation and a secondary energy source.
Wind Turbines: A big investment, yes, but if you’re self building on a large plot of land, creating your own wind turbine could create all the energy your home needs.
Hydro Power: If you’ve got a stream on your land that you want to put to good use, a hydro turbine can generate all the energy you’ll need all year round - providing the rest of your home's energy-efficient too.
You’ve created green energy, now make sure you don’t lose it.
Good insulation is key for any eco-homeowner, and the good news is that once you invest in this area, you’ll see the money come back round in lower household bills.
To be a true eco-warrior, you’ll not only insulate your home but use materials that are good for the environment. Materials like…
- Wood fibre
- Sheeps wool
- Thermally insulating blocks
It’s also important to look at your glazing too, as a lot of heat can be lost through out-dated glass. Consider updating to double glazing as a bare minimum, or even triple glazing. Think about solar gain too - how much heat is getting trapped in those summer months?
One of the major considerations for green home design should be the use and management of water.
To make sure you’re doing your best to eliminate waste, you can start small by going with low-flush plumbing. There’s also many ways to recycle water, such as the re-use of greywater or treating your waste and using it in reed beds. Ask an architect if your green space could include a natural filtration system or even get a eco-specialist landscaper on board.
Want to push yourself even further? Some homeowners are now using composting toilets. When managed correctly, you not only cut down on water usage, you also reduce the amount of waste that needs treating. However, proper ventilation is required to stop the toilet stinking up your bathroom, and you’ll need to dispose / compost your waste correctly in order to stop it becoming a pollutant itself.
Creating an eco-friendly lifestyle
As with all good design, you should be thinking about how the way you live your life influences the design of your household. For instance, if you’re the sort of person who really values living an eco-friendly lifestyle, how can your home help this?
You might consider getting your architect to add…
- Secure bike storage
- An electric car charging port
- Space for growing your own food
- Home office to reduce commuting
- Garden roofs
- Vertical gardens
- Storage for recycling
- Harvesting rainwater system
- A diverse and wildlife friendly garden
- Space for a wormery or other compost
To name just some of the ways you might customise your home.
Ultimately, by taking the time to create your eco-friendly space, you learn more about what changes need to be made to housing as a whole. Individual action is important but major housing reform will be essential to any Government policy moving forward. Therefore, the better acquainted you are with the ins and outs, the easier it’ll be to demand better from the big players in housing!
Want to learn more about going green with your home? Book a consultation with our team. Our experts can help advise on changes you can make - big or small - free of charge!