Our advice on building a green home on a budget

With domestic buildings in the UK accounting for 12% of the nation's carbon emissions, it's clear more needs to be done to promote energy-efficient homes. With that in mind, the UK government has declared that all homes must be zero carbon by 2020.

But that's not the only reason for the rising popularity of eco-homes. They simply make sense; not only for the environment, but for the home owner as well. According to diynetwork.com, the energy efficiency of eco-homes can reduce energy bills by as much as 30%.

Of course, for many home owners the issue is what they'll have to pay to reach that stage in the first place. Well, the truth is you don't need spend exorbitant sums of money on solar panels and other posh-sounding gadgets in order to achieve energy efficiency. Here are a few ways you can make your home eco-friendly on a budget.

Insulation

Good insulation is key to ensuring energy-efficiency in your home. Providing insulation beyond the levels required by your building regulations will mean less heat loss, and less dependence on electrical heating.

Triple glazing on your windows is one way you can achieve this without investing in expensive building materials. The Self Build Portal recommends various products such as aerogels or vacuum insulated panels. But your best option is to use some of the cost-effective eco-friendly building materials listed on Selfbuild Central, such as:

  • Insulated Concrete Framework (ICF): Concrete may not strike you as an eco-friendly material, but it provides great insulation and is both fast and flexible when employed in construction.
  • Brick and block: Good old fashioned brick building methods can actually produce an efficient thermal mass that stores heat energy during the day and gradually releases it back into the home at night.
  • Timber: Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) are a new energy-efficient building material composed of timber. The panels are factory-produced off-site and cut to precise measurements using computer technology. According to Andrew Oriss of the UK SIP association, “a typical value of 94 per cent of the panel area is counted as insulation when calculating the U-value of building components”.
  • Natural materials: Some of the new insulation methods go so far as to incorporate natural materials like sheep's wool and straw bales. Don't be too quick to dismiss them. Willy and Wendy Graham used straw bales to great effect, significantly reducing the cost of their eco-home project in the Scottish Highlands.

Natural lighting

Promoting natural sunlight throughout your home - otherwise known as 'daylighting' - is a fundamental requirement of eco-homes. Skylights are a popular method of daylighting, but efficient placement of windows can be effective enough. You need to make certain that your windows are placed where they will receive lots of sunlight throughout the year - regardless of season. The size of the window and the grade of glass are also factors that need to be taken into account.

Renewable energy

There are a variety of ways to introduce sustainable energy into your home without having to harness the power of the sun. Installing a rainwater harvesting system is one example. These vary in price, depending on how sophisticated the system is, but the more basic varieties come at very affordable prices. The simple process of recycling rain water can make a huge difference, considering that the average family uses 150 litres of mains water a day.

So as you can see, there's no need to invest in highly complex and highly expensive systems in order to improve your home's energy efficiency. Incorporating some of the methods mentioned above will save you money up front; and improving energy efficiency will save you money in the long run and boost the value of your home.


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