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Eco-friendly home upgrades that will see you score as much as the environment

Using hardwood in your home will help make it eco-friendly, and possibly increase the resale value. Photo: Pxhere

Using hardwood in your home will help make it eco-friendly, and possibly increase the resale value. Photo: Pxhere

Published May 1, 2022


Durban – Eco-friendly habits are being adopted in all spheres of life, and your home can also be a space that does more good than bad for our environment.

Not only will such enhancements to your home contribute positively to the world around you, but could also increase your property’s value.

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Upgrading what you have

Nest Seekers International’s chief economist Erin Sykes says some examples of upgrades that will add value to your home include solar panels; reclaimed hardwood accents; impact-resistant and dual-pane windows; and smart thermostats and lights.

“Taxpayers who upgrade to renewable energy systems for their homes, such as solar panels or geothermal heat pumps, may be eligible for a non-refundable tax credit of up to 26% of the costs for systems installed in 2020 through 2022.”

While reclaimed and repurposed wood gives a unique sense of history and texture to a space, she adds that smart thermostats and lights are just eco-friendly, but energy efficient.

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“Being able to adjust thermostats and lights remotely is a big win for busy folks or those who travel often.”

If one has to install impact-resistant or dual-pane windows, these will not only lower your insurance premiums in high wind areas, but have a “substantial impact” on lowering your energy bill.

“The gas between the two panes serves as insulation, thus trapping warmer air in the winter and cooled air in the summer, lowering your heating and cooling expenses.”

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Making your property more sustainable can go a long way towards attracting buyers who value these conveniences and amenities,” agrees Adrian Goslett, regional director and chief executive of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

“Whether buying new or improving your current environment, you can make your house more sustainable with some quick changes and some thoughtful investments to save on energy, water, and maintenance costs.”

In addition to some of the measures listed by Sykes, he says home owners should upgrade their water-efficiency measures.

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“Those with solar power will be able to heat your water sustainably without reliance on the grid. However, there are many other ways to optimise the way that your property uses this precious resource. For example, you could install a rainwater tank to reduce pressure on your local water supply systems and invest in water-wise shower heads in your bathrooms.

“It can also be as simple as adding a bucket to your shower to capture excess water for your garden, but if you invest in a proper grey water system to maintain your garden during times of drought, this could double as a way to invest in the resale value of the property.”

Home owners can also look into their municipality’s recycling guidelines or find out from a local estate agent where they are able to drop off recycling in their area.

“If you feel your neighbourhood is under-served, consider spearheading communications to introduce that recycling be collected from the households in your community for even more convenience,” Goslett says.

People with the yard space should also invest in creating a composting system to reduce the amount of waste the household creates.

“Investing in plants is also wonderful for naturally purifying the air, helping to dampen street noise, and can also provide shade to cool the home in summer, which in turn will lessen your property’s reliance on non-natural and expensive cooling systems. Planting your own fruit, vegetables, and herbs will also reduce your reliance on the local grocery which will reduce the amount of packaging waste your household produces.”

In South Africa, he says these green features are becoming increasingly popular among buyers, especially as a result of the ongoing load shedding and the prevalence of droughts in the country.

Building green

While most businesses and households are doing a “fair bit” to curb the effects of a rapidly heating planet, Hermann Haupt, vice-president of CHEP Sub Saharan Africa, says it is evident that “we need to do more in order to slow down the effects of environmental change”.

“Behavioural change now goes even further than the noble act of recycling waste and turning off power sources not in use. We need to scrutinise every business activity and consult with the relevant industry specialists to find ways to implement these in a smarter, environmentally sound way thus saving our planet for the generations to come.”

He says the use of raw materials is often overlooked.

“Wood is renowned for being one of the most eco-friendly and sustainable materials available. It enjoys its hierarchical spot in the sustainability chart given its ability to absorb carbon dioxide while growing. However, choose wisely when it comes to using wood. You want to look out for a brand which doesn’t only prioritise quality but, also prioritises the environment and its commitment to sustainability.”

Glass is also infinitely recyclable.

“Made from all-natural sources such as sand, soda ash and limestone, it never loses its purity, regardless of how many times it enters the recycling chain.

In terms of metals, Haupt says: “It has been reported that the roof on the Chrysler Building in New York is nearly 100 years old and has been cleaned only once. It is expected to perform well for at least another century. Zinc roofs in Paris have held up since the Napoleonic era.”

He explains that almost all metals are recyclable, and that the process does not impact the materials’ properties.

“This means, that the use thereof proves sound as far as eco-friendliness is concerned. According to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), steel is the most recycled material on the planet. Other highly recyclable metals include aluminium, copper, silver, brass, and gold which, makes this raw material ideal for consideration.”

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Yael Geffen, chief executive of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, believes that way in which houses are designed and constructed must be adapted to meet new demands and priorities.

While concrete has always been considered the most stable and reliable building material, buyers have become more environmentally conscious and the demand for eco-friendly building has increased dramatically.

“There are now a multitude of sustainable building materials available, from bamboo to composite plastic and these are likely to be increasingly popular features when it comes to selling down the line.”

She says the pandemic has turned the spotlight on holistic wellness and so there is a growing focus on how ones homes can impact their health.

“Buyers are already starting to look for features like low-VOC paint and more efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and insulation materials that can help improve indoor air quality.”