CAPE TOWN 260108: Solar heating and skylights help cut lighting and geyser bills. Leonard Gardner, built their first solar water heater – it lasted 20 years, and the new one should do too PICTURE: SUPPLIED

Durban - There are many costs associated with “green” homes – both in retrofitting applications and initial design and construction. However, when you go green you reap the benefits over time, directly and indirectly.

Geyser insulation

Geysers can be responsible for up to 40 percent of a home’s energy consumption, so it makes sense that this should be one of the first things addressed when looking to make a home as energy-efficient as possible. A geyser blanket is an additional layer of insulation designed to be wrapped around the geyser. Most products available typically consist of a 50mm layer of glass fibre insulation with a reflective foil sheeting cover on one side.

The thicker the insulation the better (100mm to 150mm is not much more expensive but it is twice or three times as effective). Hot water pipes leading out of the geyser should also have a layer of insulation wrapped around them. Ideally the full length of all hot water pipes should be insulated, or at least 3m to 5m of all hot water pipes leading away from the geyser.

Solar water heating

Solar water heating or solar hot water systems comprise of several innovations and many mature renewable energy technologies that have been well established for many years. Eskom has a rebate scheme that makes the initial outlay of the system more affordable.

The obvious benefits of installing such a system include energy saving for the user, which directly translates into a decrease in electricity usage, which in turn saves them money as well as reducing their carbon footprint. Solar water heating systems are designed to deliver hot water for most of the year.

Because of being a popular choice for making homes more energy efficient it is not uncommon to hear of people building their own solar water heating systems from scratch – solar water heating building kits are also readily available as are plans on the internet coupled with video tutorials. DIY solar water heating systems are usually cheaper than commercial ones, but it is advisable to explore the subsidy available from Eskom, which includes installation costs and workmanship guarantee.

Solar panels

SA is blessed with one of the best climates in the world in which sunny days are by far the norm rather than the exception. Batteries can be charged using solar panels instead of using mains power, achieving permanent saving as well as a permanent reduction of demand on the grid. Solar panels also enable homeowners to endure power failures that persist longer than a day because batteries will charge as soon as the sun comes out again even if the power doesn’t return.

Ceiling insulation

The installation of ceiling insulation in a home allows for a warmer home in winter and a cooler home in summer, which is ideal for the SA climate. Because heat is a form of energy, it always seeks a cooler area, flowing out of the home in the winter and into the home in the summer. Insulation creates a barrier and reduces heat flow, therefore a thermal insulated home requires less energy for heating and cooling and as a result an increase in energy efficiency. The “greenest” material for ceiling insulation is said to be cellulose fibre (recycled newspaper). A well-insulated home will increase the overall comfort of the home and also add to its resale value.

Light bulbs

The easiest and most accessible way to make a home more energy-efficient is by changing all incandescent and halogen light bulbs to either compact fluorescent lamp or light-emitting diode bulbs. Fluorescent lighting is one of the most efficient forms of lighting in domestic applications. Fluorescent lights emit high amounts of light for a given amount of electricity consumed (they use about one-sixth of the power of an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light).

The two most popular types are the older strip or tube lighting, and the modern small energy-saver bulbs, which last far longer than incandescent bulbs (up to six times longer than normal incandescent bulbs).

Other options

Water usage can also be reduced through the installing of low-flow taps and dual-flush toilet cisterns.

The installing of skylights, atriums and glass façades drastically reduces the need for artificial light in a home while adding a pleasing aesthetic touch. Another retrofit option for many would be the installation of double-glazing. - The Mercury

l Supplied by Just Property Group