Britain is making a change to a more environmentally friendly nation. See what people are doing to reduce their energy usage and make their homes healthier for themselves and for the planet.
Maybe it’s the Brexit effect - after all, the UK Government has pledged to deliver a ‘Green Brexit’ and has launched a new 25-year environment plan – but all the signs point towards a renewed focus on becoming greener and healthier.
But once ‘Veganuary’ is over and our New Year resolutions are distant memories, what environmentally-friendly improvements will we be making in our homes this year?
One trend that has been growing for some time is the idea of the ‘healthy home’. In 2018, a home that is good for humans and the environment will make use of natural building materials such as sustainable timber and sheep’s wool insulation. Good ventilation, whether natural or mechanical, is vital to remove toxins and improve air quality, while plentiful natural light, thermal comfort and good acoustic design also contribute towards the health and wellbeing of occupants. Heat recovery ventilation systems will also enter the mainstream, as householders aim to cut energy bills while maintaining good air quality. They can re-use up to ninety-five percent of the heat from air extracted from bathrooms and kitchens, although specialists are needed to ensure the system is correctly designed and installed.
A recent survey found that, due to economic uncertainty over Brexit and record house prices, nearly sixty percent of homeowners would choose to improve their current home rather than move. With many homes already extended to the max, one of the fastest growing types of ‘extension’ is now garden buildings; not just sheds, but summer houses, home offices and even recording studios. The latest thin multi-foil insulation products will help maximise space in a fully-insulated, energy efficient garden building that’s comfortable all year round.
Installation of solar panels has stalled since feed-in tariff rates were slashed; however, that might be about to change. A number of connected developments mean solar PV will begin trending again: First, a wide range of aesthetically pleasing solar roof tiles is now available, in designs to match every architectural style and with a lifetime guarantee. Second, the availability of affordable home storage batteries means that electricity can be stored and used when needed – a huge benefit for many households who are not at home during the day. Third and most important, electric cars are big news... finally.
The Government plans to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, so electric car infrastructure in the UK will grow rapidly; in London, the number of charging points will double in 2018. Installing a vehicle charging unit in your garage makes a lot of sense if you can also generate and store your own electricity, so look out for solar PV packages in 2018 that include panels or tiles, battery storage and a vehicle charging unit. Installing solar PV tiles is an especially attractive eco option if you’re already planning to extend or re-tile a roof as part of a refurb or home extension.
Refresh Renovations UK Operations Manager Tom Bentley agrees that eco-tech is definitely on the rise, saying “People are a lot more open to it and the trend is only going one way, especially as the costs come down and the ‘me too’ factor becomes ever stronger”.
With compulsory metering being introduced in many areas, using less water is now about saving money as well as saving the planet. Bathroom and kitchen refits this year will be all about replacing old fixtures and fittings with modern, water- and energy-efficient versions. Low-flow taps and shower heads, reduced capacity baths and ultra-low-flush toilets are now the norm but for eco minded households, the trend is towards grey water recycling and rainwater collection.
Grey water (from baths, showers and hand basins) can be collected, treated and used for flushing toilets, usually cutting water consumption in half. Sustainable drainage systems are a legal requirement for new developments and are costly to implement to existing homes; however, some elements are simple and cost effective, such as installing a green roof or collecting rainwater in water butts for use in the garden. These features can easily be incorporated into an extension or refurb design to reduce your home’s running costs.
We can’t all live in a top-of-the-range Passivhaus, but these trends demonstrate just some of the many opportunities to make our homes a little more energy efficient and eco-friendly. How can you incorporate green ideas into your next home extension or refurb project?
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