There are many ways in which home DIY projects can help a home to become more environmentally-friendly, with the added benefit of reducing utility bills. Electricity and water are two of the key costs associated with home ownership, and reduced consumption of these valuable resources can save a significant sum of money on bills over a long period of time. This article contains some tips on how to make a home more energy-efficient.
Insulation is one of the main ways in which the amount of energy used to heat a property can be reduced. An un-insulated roof can mean losing up to a quarter of the heat in the property. It might not seem significant at first, but over a long period of time these costs can add up to something very significant.
You can buy modern insulation materials from DIY centres and special providers, who can also give you advice on installation. Sustainable insulation materials are also available, which are made from recycled or sustainable materials such as wool, hemp and flax.
You could also consider insulating your hot water tank, as this will help to reduce energy use, as will ensuring that heat is not escaping through windows or walls that are not properly sealed.
One of the best ways you can be environmentally-friendly is to recycle, and try to make use of every scrap of anything that might end up in the bin. It’s surprising just how much waste can be recycled, and composting is one of the best ways of reducing waste.
The best place to compost is somewhere where shade is provided – perhaps beneath a tree, for example. The shade will prevent the compost from drying out too quickly. Be careful not to position the compost heap next to an acidic tree such as pine, black walnut, eucalyptus, cypress or juniper. It can also be a good idea to position the compost somewhere where drainage is available, and somewhere close to a tap or hose, so the moisture level can be easily controlled.
The easiest way to compost is with a heap. The heap should be about 6 foot wide, and ideally around 5 to 6 feet high. This is important as small compost heaps will not become as warm as larger compost heaps, so the materials will take longer to decompose. As the matter deteriorates the heap will sink and spread. Ideally you should add to it continually and try to keep it around this size.
Compost heaps look untidy and can also smell bad, so many people use compost containers which help to keep the garden looking tidy and also serve to contain some of the nasty smells associated with composting.
There are loads of compost containers available from garden centres and the like, but they can also be built inexpensively at home from old shipping palettes, fencing, chicken wire or leftover wood. Simply tie four or five shipping palettes together to create a container, or simply by looping and attaching wire mesh. You can also use a plastic bin, although you should drill 30-50 holes to increase the air flow. If you’re using a compost container then ensure that it has good drainage, as stale moisture will cause unpleasant smells.
Composting in the garden is a great way to reduce the amount of rubbish that is thrown away, and can also produce highly-nutritious soil for gardening purposes.
Fresh water is becoming a scarcer and more expensive resource all the time. It costs homeowners a lot of money each year, and represents a significant chunk of unnecessary energy usage. Cutting down on water consumption can be a great way to reduce outgoings and become more environmentally-friendly. Simple things such as turning the tap off while brushing your teeth, or being careful not to over-fill the kettle can help to reduce water consumption, and collecting rain water for use in the garden is another way in which you can reduce the amount of water you use.
Electricity use can be another key issue within the home, and proper use of lighting can reduce electricity bills and help a property to become greener. The best way to reduce electricity usage is just to ensure that lights are turned off when they are not being used, and that all light fittings have an energy-saving light bulb installed.
If you’re looking for more drastic ways to reduce electricity and light use, then you could consider installing light sensors. These sensors detect when natural light is available and will disable any lights which are left on. It means that you can leave a light on all night if necessary, safe in the knowledge that it will switch itself off when the sun rises. The sensors and their installation could require some investment, but savings will be made for years to come.
You could also consider making adaptations to a property to make better use of natural light. Mirrors can help reflect light around a room, while making small adaptations to curtains and blinds, so they don’t block the edges of a window, can help to bring more light into the property.
Instead of saving energy, you could consider generating your own! Solar panels are one of the most popular ways in which homeowners are becoming energy generators, and excess power can be sold back to the national grid at an agreed rate. Installing solar panels is a pretty significant investment, but one which homeowners should easily see a return on over the long term.
If you are considering installing solar panels, make sure that you do it safely. Working on rooftops and at height can be extremely dangerous, and you should ensure that any work you carry out is done so from a safe, sturdy and secure location, such as a cherry picker or other type of access platform. Alternatively you could consider using ladders and some scaffolding.
If you want your DIY projects to be environmentally-friendly think carefully about the materials you will be using. Some DIY materials contain toxic substances, or come from unsustainable sources. As we become more aware of green issues we should become more picky about the materials we use and their environmental credentials.
Wood should come from sustainable sources, or should be reclaimed. Bamboo can be a good hardwood substitute, as it grows very fast, maturing in just 5 years, unlike a hardwood tree which can take between 50 to 150 years to mature.
Use paints and finishes that have fewer toxic substances. Read the label and ensure that your DIY project is as environmentally-friendly as possible. Avoid products with hazard signs on the label, as they contain harmful ingredients. Paint which has a European ‘Ecolabel’ contains fewer toxic substances.
About the author: Alan Cairns writes on a number of subjects including DIY and working safely at height. Universal Platforms are London-based aerial platform experts, offering mobile elevating work platform training and scissor lifts hire. Photo used courtesy of Hammer51012.