December 22, 2014

Ground Up Green Ideas For Home

So there I was. Seated and sweating bullets. You see, I’d been asked some questions about the future by a journo of the future. He asked about the collision of technology and “eco-friendliness” in the years to come – and as usual that got me to thinking. How should a household step into a tech savvy green future. What would my GHP or “Green Home Philosophy” be?

The way I see it, and I may have mumbled about it before, is that you have two options for your home. The first being the most media friendly, “hero” model if you will. This is where the household spends excessively by attaching all manner of panels to the pointy bits on top of their homes. This option is set to get even more expensive with the reduction in government handouts. Solar power is an amazing concept and solar boosted hot water is tried and true – but. And there’s always a but. No smutty jokes intended.

The alternative is the GHP. In keeping with the TLA’s we’ll call it the GUA. Or the “Ground Up Approach”. It’s simple, less credit card intensive, and a more logical approach to reducing your carbon footprint. To take part in the GUA all you have to do is stick to the four tenants.

  1. Dirt.
  2. Water.
  3. Walls.
  4. Roof.

So we start with the dirt. The base. The stuff your house sits on. Depending upon your abilities, or your ability to manipulate the green-thumb in the household, you’ll be looking at the layout of your home’s greenery. We’ve chatted about this before but it’s worth mentioning that well placed trees, hedges, or even bamboo will create a shelter for your home during the summer months. Any reduction in the peak temperatures inside your home will equal substantial cooling bill cuts.

Along with the savings created by natural shade you can also see the benefits of growing your own staples. An enclosed vegetable patch with seasonal produce will, obviously, see you pay less at the grocery store (have you seen the price of bananas lately). Depending upon the space and the time you’ve got on your hand you could end up with fresh and potentially free vegies and herbs all year round. The kids will love helping out and the patch will largely look after itself if it’s done the right way first.

From the dirt we move on up to the water. With a little “maker” ingenuity or a plumber friend you can tap into the downpipes of your home and harvest enough water for all of your not so personal needs. Watering the garden, washing the car, flushing the toilet – all covered.

Grey Water System

You can start off small with a gravity fed system utilising small barrels and a bit of hose. Later you can move into larger tanks, pressure pumps and possibly even filtration good enough to make the water potable.

With water being one of our most precious resources it makes sense to have this so high up on your list of green initiatives. The great thing is that a lot of the bits and pieces you’ll need can be begged for, borrowed or re-purposed in a MacGuyver kind of way. Sweet.

Now we’re starting to ramp up our endeavours. We’re talking walls and windows. As you’d imaging there is a huge amount of energy flowing in and out of each window. The aim of the game is to keep the heat out in summer and the warmth inside when the snow’s about. One of the few high end options was to replace your old windows with double glazed windows. These work well but the sheer cost of the renovations may have you eyeing off the alternatives.
The alternatives to double glazing are excitingly simple and a damn site cheaper. Try external canvas awnings that create a cool space or buffer during the heat of the day. Companies like Clear Comfort produce a “faux” double glazing effect that utilises some transparent tape and plastic sheeting to create the insulating airspace. Lastly you can use heavy window blinds to keep your centrally heated air inside your house. Super simple things that will pay for themselves in the short term.

Lastly, we find ourselves at the hero end of the green renovation spectrum – and strangely the place that most people like to begin with. The roof. But before we mention the solar power systems and the solar boosted hot water you should look inwards first. The insulation in your roof will save you a shed-load of energy and has probably already been installed – if it hasn’t, do this first.

Then comes the big expensive stuff. Things like the sun powered gizmos. The trick for young players here is to do your research. Make sure your setup is maximised for your purposes. Power outputs, inverters that match your solar array, will it be grid connected or a standalone system. These are the tricky conundrums – ask experts, not just “the bloke who does the thing”.

So there we have it. A simple philosophy that starts with the basics and ends with a slice of the green-tech revolution. Start simply. Save the dollars and then finish with a crescendo.Just don’t do it all at once.

In a nutshell what we’re saying is that you should start passively and save energy before you start generating it.

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Comments

  1. Hey Davey, great article. But I LOVE my solar panels to bits. Couldn’t be happier each electricity bill as I see my neighbours shuddering with jealousy. But, selfish materialism aside, I love the fact that nobody suffers for my power use. Of course, just because I collect power ‘free’ (now that I have invested in the expensive rig) doesn’t mean I waste power. I am just as strict on myself as ever. You are right – planning from the ground up is essential.
    Cheers,
    Wendy

  2. Thanks Wendy!

    I’ve spoken to people with both grid connected solar and battery only setups and they all say that they are constantly aware of their own energy consumption – this is a fantastic thing.

    I just hoped to make people realise that if they don’t have the dollars for the solar setup they can always start with the logical and simple things first – it all makes a difference.

    All the best,
    DW

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