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Going green? Start with simple steps

Published Oct 5, 2012

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Johannesburg - There is a growing awareness among home designers of the importance of reducing energy costs and creating a home that is eco-friendly, says Nancy Todd of the Rawson Property Group.

“If you do have funds or can get a loan, it does pay to install a heat pump and solar heating as a first step towards sustainable living. These will reduce your energy expenditure by 40 percent – geysers and pool pumps are the big consumers of energy – recovering the capital outlay in less than three years.

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“Again, if you have funds, it pays to install double glazing on those façades that are regularly exposed to sunlight or to noise. Here, too, you can achieve significant savings on energy, said to be in the region of eight percent to 12 percent by most installers.”

In addition, says Todd, it is always a good idea to install an extra layer of insulation in the ceiling.

“The cost of this works out to less than R30 per square metre and it will help you contain an extra 20 percent to 40 percent of the heat in the room below. It will also help to keep the room cooler in summer.”

What can you do if you do not have the sort of funds of which Todd is speaking but would like to get on the sustainable living bandwagon?

The first step, she says, should be to start collecting your own glass, tin, plastic and paper in separate containers – and if this is too big a task, at least concentrate on the glass and the plastic. These should then be delivered to a recycling depot and will contribute to SA’s recycling transformation.

Tip number two, says Todd, is to start your own earthworm farm. All that is needed is a plastic bucket with holes in the bottom and a few earthworms, which can be bought from most nurseries at a very low cost. Vegetables, fruit and other organic off-cuts should then be fed into the bucket regularly, where the earthworms will devour them and will excrete a plant-nutritious “worm tea” which, if poured on to lawns and flowerbeds, will give a boost to all vegetation.

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Earthworm farms work best, says Todd, when complemented by compost heaps – even small gardens should have one of these. It should be fed with plant and grass cuttings and turned over regularly. The resulting compost will do much to help you mulch up and enrich flowerbeds.

In addition, said Todd, homeowners should start growing their own spinach, tomatoes, herbs and other vegetables, even if it means putting them in among the existing plants.

A further good piece of advice is to install a grey water system draining off the home’s baths, sinks and other used water which is then fed to the garden. A grey water system for the average three-bedroomed home, says Jeremy Westgarth-Taylor, CEO of Water Rhapsody, will usually cost between R8 000 and R12 000. Savings in water will pay for the system.

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Todd, who has taken many of the steps she recommends, says the cash savings have been significant, she’s had fun and her garden is flourishing. - Saturday Star

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