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Top tips for a green home makeover

Roof – The roof provides an enormous amount of space that can be utilised to capture the elements’ power i.e. wind and sun. The sun’s radiation can be ‘tapped’ as solar energy to heat water or converted into electricity. There are many types of thermal solar panels – such as flat plat collectors and cylindrical evacuated tube collectors – whereby the heat radiated by the sun is turned into hot water. Photovoltaic (pv) panels convert the sunlight into electricity via an inverter. Direct sunlight is not required to generate electricity via pv; solar thermal is dependent on sunlight to heat water. Ideally, both systems should be installed on a south (or south west) facing roof. Solar thermal installation adequate to heat an average three-bedroom house will cost £4-5,000. A 3kW pv system that would produce enough electricity for the average family’s use costs around £12,000 to install. Grants of £2,500 are available through the Low Carbon Buildings Programme.

Living Room – In the UK, space heating is traditionally provided by gas central heating (radiators) or through gas or electric fires. None of which is a very effective as the heat generated is often ‘local’ to the source of the heat. Consequently, such methods are expensive and additionally generate high CO2 emissions. Good insulation is the key to creating a pleasant (18-20C) ambient temperature. Grants are available for cavity wall (and loft) insulation for qualifying individuals the Government’s Warm Front scheme. Underfloor heating is an increasingly viable option, which if allied with the renewable energy source of ground source heat, or air source heat, will tick quite a few green boxes. An electrical cable mat system of underfloor heating, which are designed for use in larger rooms, costs around £225 for 5m2 of covering. Ground source heat pumps cost from £6,000 upwards; a 3kW air source heat pump can be purchased from £700 plus VAT through Trianco.

Kitchen – If we assume your home and hot water is conventionally heated through mains gas (90% of homes in the UK are) then installing a condensing boiler could save you up to £150 a year and reduce your home’s CO2 emissions by around 50%. Following the introduction of a law in April 2005, all gas boilers sold today are condensing boilers. Condensing boilers achieve their high efficiency by recycling and abstracting the heat from the exhaust gases whereas, in non-condensing boilers, the heat present in the exhaust gases is wasted to the atmosphere. Condensing boilers are priced from approximately £450-£1,050 and must be fitted by a registered gas installer.

Bathroom – Water conservation can be practised through the installation of air-flow taps and showers, and if your toilet is the older style (pre-1991) by fitting a displacement device which will reduce water use when flushing. Newer dual flush systems should not be tampered with. You can go one step further by recycling your grey water (from baths, showers and sinks) for reuse in your toilet or for use in your garden – although it should not be used for irrigation untreated. The cost of an installed system can run to £1,500-2,000. Note: grey water systems are not always the easiest items to install in an existing home, so conserve water in the first instance at all costs.

Garden – Rainwater harvesting is a straightforward and inexpensive way to irrigate the garden. Rainwater harvesters can be a simple as fitting a downspout from your guttering into a recycled plastic water butt (priced from £29.98 at B&Q), or a more sophisticated model such as those sold by BigGreenSmile.com. These systems are priced from around £1,000. To reduce rainwater run off in the first place consider installing a ‘green’ roof. Made from sedum, which is specially grown grass for use on roofs, the benefits include improving the building’s thermal performance – cooler in summer and warmer in winter – and providing a natural habitat for wildlife. Green roof systems cost from around £28 per square metre from suppliers such as Green Roof.

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