Make your home more sustainable

Homeowners all over the world are becoming more aware of the environmental issues affecting the planet.

So much so that sustainable living has become a key element in new residential projects and home renovations.
While purchasing a new house with cutting-edge eco-friendly materials might be costly, there are many cost-effective methods you could apply to make your home greener.
This guide will provide you with helpful solutions on how to make your home more sustainable. 

Woman adjusting home thermostat

Here’s what this guide covers:

  1. Eco-friendly ways to control the temperature in your home
  2. How to minimise waste in your home
  3. Sustainable home design ideas
  4. Government incentives for sustainability

Eco-friendly ways to control the temperature in your home

Controlling the temperature of your home will maintain it at a pleasant, consistent, and regulated climate for the entire family to enjoy.

While a thermostat or air conditioning is typically used to adjust home temperature, there are other excellent hacks to keep your home cooled or warm when you need it the most.

These are just a few of the numerous simple methods to make your house more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly to help you get through the coldest or warmest months of the year.

How to use less heat when it's cold

  • Get a programmable thermostat
A programmable thermostat can prevent you from wasting heat energy when you are not at home. It operates by changing the temperature automatically at the periods you choose.
  • Use insulated curtains
Investing in insulated curtains can help keep the cold out and the warm air in on those cold winter evenings. Insulated curtains also minimise your demand for heating, reduce stress on your heating system, and contribute to a more calm environment in your home.
  • Throw some soft area rugs on the tiles
Rugs are natural insulators owing to their low heat conductivity, which helps decrease heating expenses when there is a temperature disparity between the indoor air and that under the floor. Rugs enhance thermal comfort and energy savings in this way.
  • Get a hot water bottle
Water bottles are ideal for keeping your body warm on cold days or nights when you're snuggled up on the sofa or in bed with a nice book and a cup of hot tea. Hot water bottles can help you relax, alleviate tension, ease aches and pains, and get a good night's sleep in addition to keeping you warm.
  • Keep unused rooms closed
Keep the door closed if you aren't using a room frequently. More areas and rooms need more heat and energy to warm up.

How to cool your house down the most eco-friendly way

  • Install ceiling fans
Using a ceiling fan will help you in keeping cool. Try cleaning and dust your fan on a regular basis, and set it to rotate counter-clockwise in the warmer months to efficiently cool the air
  • Keep windows closed during the day
During the day, opening windows brings in unwelcome humidity and heat. Ventilate your home at night or by using fans instead.
  • Place ice or cool water in front of a fan
A bucket of ice in front of a fan works just as well as a DIY AC unit. As the air travels over the ice, it cools and circulates pleasantly cool air around the room.
  • Upgrade your light bulbs
Replace all of your incandescent, fluorescent, and other light bulbs with LED bulbs. LED light bulbs are more energy-efficient than traditional incandescent lights and are regarded as more eco-friendly. They are also more robust and have a far longer lifespan than standard bulbs.
  • Make use of cooling beddings
There are several different types of cooling mattresses available to keep you sweat-free during warm temperatures, such as moisture-wicking coverings and permeable foam cores. Adding cooling blankets and pillows will help you sleep better.

Cotton sheets are also a less expensive option. Cotton is more breathable than other fabrics thus it will keep you cool at night.

When and how to heat your home

Q: Is it cheaper to keep your house at constant temperature?

Setting your thermostat to a constant temperature is an inefficient method to operate your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.

Because heat is transported from a high concentration zone to a low concentration region, the energy required to keep the temperature at the hotter part constant includes the energy leaked to the opposite end. The greater the temperature differential between the two locations, the faster heat is lost to the surroundings.

In other words, the higher the temperature inside your home relative to the outside, the faster energy escapes. Maintaining this energy leakage can significantly increase your electricity bills making it expensive to keep your house at a constant temperature.

The easiest way to remember to change your thermostat to a more efficient setting is to do so when you leave for work and then change it back when you come home. This 8-hour routine is an effective method for reducing energy leakage. Small adjustments like this can cut your power cost by 15%.

Smart thermostats, a high-tech trend in home heating, allow homeowners to regulate temperatures remotely and conserve energy.

Q: Is it better to heat one room or the whole house?

Heating a single room in a smaller home is generally not beneficial, since it is better to heat the entire house. In bigger homes, a single room may be worth heating separately. If your home has an open-plan layout, with your stairway, hall, or dining room integrated with your living room, heating only one area will be inefficient.

Because not all heating systems are created equal, the method you use to heat your home has the most influence. While wood-fired and gas-fired heating may appear to be less expensive, using an electric heater remains simple and efficient when there is no loadshedding. However, electrical heaters are not energy-efficient. They use lots of energy and it's also very easy to end up overheating the room.

Q: What is the most environmentally friendly heater?
  • Intelligent thermostats
Heatmiser thermostats are high-end smart thermostats made in England. These modern thermostats are designed to appeal to people who want a system that can be operated remotely, from a wifi-enabled thermostat with a matching smartphone app to the NeoStat master control system.

The Nest Learning Thermostat learns and adjusts itself to your comfort level using smart learning technology. The thermostat also works in conjunction with the Nest smartphone app, allowing you to remotely alter the temperature so that your house is warm when you get home, or to set the temperature down to conserve energy while you're gone. The Nest thermostat will also notify you if something is wrong with your systems such as if the temperatures are so low that your pipes may break.
  • Floor insulation
Marmox Insulation Boards - People are searching for home heating that is both efficient and comfortable in these energy-conscious times. Marmox Insulation Boards transfer heat upwards into the space and serve as an excellent foundation for low-cost floor heating systems. Marmox Insulation Board improves heating efficiency - you'll notice a change in your utility cost, with verified savings of up to 50%.

KlimaBoard is a lightweight, reinforced polystyrene floor insulation board. They are frequently installed beneath electric floor heating systems to decrease downward heat loss into the concrete slab, therefore increasing warming times and lowering energy usage.
  • Infrared heaters
The Striking Energy G4 heaters are made out of 98 per cent recyclable components, resulting in a more sustainable future. It is South Africa's sole heater that employs best-in-class Miro reflectors. This reflector has been shown to reflect 95% of the IR emitter. The heater thus absorbs just 5% of the energy. Objects, not the air, are heated.

Voltex, a leading electrical solutions provider in South Africa, offers a broad selection of infrared heaters that not only keep you warm in the winter but are also energy efficient and allow you to bask in the sunlight like rays. These heaters quickly warm all required objects and surfaces in a space, making the most of the heat provided. They do not cause unpleasant air recirculation and, most importantly, do not emit carbon monoxide or burn oxygen, making the heated atmosphere healthier.

Controlling the temperature in your home is an effective way to save money and energy. Finding the ideal solution to meet your heating and cooling requirements can assist you in achieving your goals of making your home more environmentally friendly.

Adult woman holding reusable bag with organic vegetables

How to minimise waste in your home

Your domestic waste is disposed of in landfills and incinerators which release harmful chemicals and greenhouse gases into the environment. This sadly endangers human health and destroys wildlife habitats. You may substantially minimise your carbon footprint by reducing your waste with a little organisation, thinking, and ingenuity.
  • Use less paper
Just as most businesses have embraced a green approach to their everyday operations, homeowners have also taken the initiative to make their homes more environmentally friendly.

Switching your monthly bills to online statements is one method to use less paper. Fewer billing statements mean less paper demand and less air pollution from production. As a result, the need to cut down trees is decreased, therefore saving the forests.

Using less or no paper is not only better for the environment, but it also saves you money. You don't have to spend money on paper supplies for your projects or printing important papers regularly. These can be kept on hard drives or in the cloud. If you work from home, using less paper frees up more space in your home office.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle
We should not misuse the earth's resources since they are not limitless. Instead of tossing away household garbage, you and your family should practise the three Rs and reduce, reuse, and recycle.

In the next decade, the South African government wants to reduce the quantity of plastic, cans, paper, and glass that ends up in landfills by 70%. To achieve this goal, households must make recycling a regular habit.

Recycling old newspapers and magazines lying around the house is a good place to start. Purchasing remanufactured ink and toner cartridges or rechargeable batteries, for example, is a great way to reuse products.

Another simple daily practice is to purchase a coffee mug instead of tossing away the styrofoam cup.

Don't forget to recycle your old electronics because they may be damaging to the environment too. Most companies offer you a discount on a new purchase when you take in your old devices.
  • Compost food waste
South Africa wastes 10-million tonnes of food every year. You may believe that your leftover food is a waste of money and a societal issue. Food waste, on the other hand, is a huge environmental issue.

When you throw away food, you throw away all of the energy and water it takes to cultivate, harvest, transport, and package it. If your spoiled food ends up in a landfill and rots, it emits methane, a greenhouse gas that is even more strong than carbon dioxide. You can calculate what your food waste composting impact has on the environment.

To help reduce food waste, compost any leftover fresh vegetable and fruit peels for your garden. You could even start a worm farm and create an organic garden fertiliser. Cooked food, particularly meat, seafood, and dairy, require a more appropriate on-site food waste composting solution, such as a Bokashi food waste recycling bin.
  • Go green when shopping

Change begins at home, and what better way to preserve the world than to start living a greener lifestyle? Going green when shopping may be accomplished in the most basic of ways. From taking reusable grocery bags to the supermarket to ensure a plastic-free shopping experience, to buying online and supporting companies that provide a variety of eco-friendly and organic items.

Online shopping is beneficial for the environment. Packages are delivered to several persons in the same location, reducing the need for you to use your vehicle to the mall. You also use less fuel, contribute less to local pollution, and decrease your vehicles wear and tear.

Make it a practice to reduce the amount of waste you and your family generate at home. This can help you live a healthier lifestyle while also lowering your carbon impact. On the bright side, following a zero-waste philosophy can help you save a lot of money in the long term.

Sustainable home design ideas

Building sustainable homes is a priority for the greatest architectural companies and homeowners who can afford the high expenses associated with it. While some homeowners choose simplicity, others can go above and beyond the greenest of dreams.

Minimal style bedroom with big windows for natural light

When considering a new interior design, lighting is an important factor in making a building more sustainable. As bi-fold doors and huge picture windows become more common in houses, it is critical to consider energy efficiency while installing them. All windows are energy rated, with A++ being the highest.

Aerial view of a private house with solar panels on the roof

The sun is the best source of low-cost, clean energy. Make use of the topography and light levels within your land in the most effective way if you are building a home from the ground up. The position of your house on your property will have a big impact on how often you can utilise your solar panels and how much power you can gather.

sustainable home design

Modern homes preserve nature's beauty by planning and building around it. Tall, strong trees, the smooth and rustic texture of their bark, bank slopes, and the unparalleled vistas they provide inspire many building ideas.

Meera Sky Garden House

Homes with green roofs mix in nicely with their natural environment. Turf is a common building material in regions such as Iceland due to a lack of trees, and strong turf walls were beneficial to fend off the cold.

In tropical climates such as Singapore, green roof houses can assist to minimise overheating. Grass absorbs far less heat than typical roofing materials, resulting in less thermal storage in the structure itself. This minimises the need for cooling systems.

An energy-efficient designed green roof may allow you to grow plants and herbs, as well as collect and filter rainwater for your kitchen and bathrooms, all while insulating your home.

Tree growing on money bag and house model on a pile of money concept

Government incentives for sustainability

The South African government's strategic framework for sustainable development identifies strategic actions to re-orient the country's development route toward a more sustainable path.

The five strategic priority areas for achieving the required level of sustainable development are as follows:
  • Improving systems for integrated planning and implementation.
  • Keeping our ecosystems healthy and managing natural resources wisely.
  • Economic growth may be achieved through investing in long-term infrastructure.
  • Creating sustainable human settlements.
  • Responding to growing human development, economic, and environmental issues in a timely and suitable manner.

Tax incentives for solar power

Solar power is frequently regarded as one of the preferred alternative energy sources by South African property owners. One of the primary reasons is that the majority of areas receive more than 2 500 hours of sunlight each year, with typical solar-radiation levels ranging between 4.5 and 6.5kWh/m2 in a single day.

Because of the unpredictability of load shedding and rising electricity prices, many homeowners and business owners are turning to alternative energy sources. Even though the upfront expenses of installing solar electricity are hefty, they can save you money in the long run.

Taking this into consideration, the South African Revenue Services has implemented various tax breaks for the use of solar energy over the years. One of the most important incentives is laid forth in section 12B(h) of the Income Tax Act, No 58 of 1962, which permits a taxpayer to claim a deduction for the expenditures paid for the equipment used in the generation of electricity from photovoltaic solar energy.

A look at section 12B allowance for renewable energy machinery

The Income Tax Act No. 58 of 1962, Section 12B, allows for a capital allowance for moveable assets utilised in the production of renewable energy. Deductions for any assets you possess, such as machinery, plant, implement, utensil, or qualifying item, must be made on a 100% basis over a one-year period (previously 50/30/20 over a three-year period).

To be qualified for the s12B(h) deduction, you must fulfil the following three requirements:
  • You own the assets (or they were purchased by you through an instalment credit agreement);
  • You are using the assets for the first time, and
  • They must be used to create electricity from certain renewable energy sources, notably wind power, solar energy, and hydropower.

Incentives to build green in South Africa

Several initiatives have been put in place by the government to promote investment in green buildings and technology. The introduction of rates policies permits refunds or reductions in property rates on structures that meet the relevant requirements and have a Green Building Council certificate.

Even more, the Section 12L energy efficiency savings tax incentive allows small and big enterprises to save up to 30% on their energy expenses.

Companies such as Solarent provide a rent-to-own option to homeowners who wish to avoid the high upfront cost of establishing a solar hot water system. You can maintain a solar geyser on your roof for a monthly debit of R399 and a deposit of R1800, and once paid off after three to five years, it is yours.

If you are looking for an investment to supplement your income, Fedgroup allows you to own a solar panel on an urban solar farm. You may buy a panel for R5000 and receive monthly incentives.

Incentives for the tourism industry to go green

The Department of Tourism provides private businesses in the tourism industry with a resource efficiency incentive programme called the Green Tourism Incentive Programme (GTIP).

The goal is to assist private sector tourist companies to progress toward sustainable water and energy resource management while adhering to responsible tourism standards.

The GTIP supports businesses in lowering the cost of investing in more energy and water-efficient processes while enhancing their long-term competitiveness, profitability, and operational sustainability.

The GTIP, which is handled on behalf of the Department by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), provides eligible tourism companies with up to full reimbursement for resource efficiency audits undertaken by the National Cleaner Production Centre of South Africa. They also provide money to qualifying small and micro companies on a sliding scale ranging from 30% to 90% of the total cost of implementing qualifying resource efficiency measures, with a maximum award of R 1 million.

Claiming your tax incentive on energy savings in South Africa

The government's energy efficiency tax savings incentive is aimed not just at assisting businesses in reducing their carbon footprint, but also at minimising demand on South Africa's finite energy supplies.

While residential households are excluded from applying, your company's energy measurements must be kWh equivalent in order to be eligible for the incentive. The verified and measured energy efficiency savings must be achieved during a 12-month period known as the implementation/assessment period and must be compared to the previous 12-month baseline measurement period.

To qualify for the incentive, your company will need to get an accredited specialist to examine your business. A South African National Accreditation Systems (SANAS) approved Measurement and Verification (M&V) Body, which allocates an M&V expert to the project, verifies and measures the baseline measurement and savings.

Renewable energy is the way to go for both individuals and companies. With the government incentivising the use of renewable energy, it becomes increasingly appealing as a way to save money and the environment.

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