Eco-friendly home modifications are good for the environment, but that's not the only reason they're worth investing in. Here's a look at how having eco-friendly features in your home can make your life more comfortable and save you money.
Eco-friendly modifications often bring to mind the issue of elevated prices. On the contrary, eco-friendly and sustainable features needn't be expensive, especially if you start small.
With a good understanding of what passive design, energy efficient household fittings and proper ventilation can do for your home, you can decide which eco-friendly features you want to prioritise and which ones can be added over time.
1. Energy efficient fittings
Figure 1 refers to research by the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, which shows that refrigerators and air-conditioners consume the most energy in an average Malaysian home.
Ensuring that your household appliances are energy efficient, or using alternative heating such as a solar-water heater, will help to shrink your energy consumption levels even more.
Appliances incorporating sensor technology are also currently available in the market. Sensor technology has the ability to detect laundry load in washing machines, direct cool air from air conditioners to areas in the room with higher human activity etc. In 2009, Panasonic launched energy efficient home appliances with its proprietary ECONAVI sensor technology which intelligently and automatically controls power and water consumption.
You can also replace your regular incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient ones. LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs are about five times more energy efficient than a standard incandescent bulb, so you'll be able to potentially enjoy savings on your electrical bill as well as reduce your carbon footprint.
2. Improve your home's ventilation
If you have to constantly make use of the air conditioner to regulate temperature in your home, lack of ventilation could be a problem. In warm climates like Malaysia, fixing the problem can be as simple as providing cross-ventilation.
First, determine the direction the prevailing breeze comes from. Control the amount of air you let into your home by making sure breeze-facing windows stay open as often as possible. Windows installed higher to the ceiling can also help expel the hot air as it rises within the home. Ventilation fans can also be installed to draw hot air out of the house.
3. Insulate your home to regulate temperature
Insulation is basically the barrier that stands between a building interior and the heat of the sun. There are two types of insulation - bulk insulation absorbs heat and prevents it from entering the building, while reflective insulation reflects heat away from your home's interior. Installing reflective insulation under your roof and bulk insulation above your ceilings can significantly reduce heat transfer to the inside of your house.
Low-e (low-emission) glass works by filtering out UV (ultraviolet heat) radiation while allowing natural sunlight to enter the home. Double-glazed windows have two panes of glass separated by an inner gas pocket. The space between the panes of glass reduces the amount of heat transference through the windows and helps prevent heat from entering a home, reducing dependence on air conditioning.
4. Use shading tools
On a landed property, certain shading features could also reduce heat transference into a home. Planting trees to adequately shade the house from direct sunlight will help keep the home cooler during the day when the sun is at its hottest. You can also install awnings on the exterior walls to help shield the house from absorption of sunlight, resulting in cooler walls and an all-round cooler home.
The ideal green home combines both passive and active solutions, but this doesn't have to be expensive. Every step towards making your home more environmentally friendly contributes to lowering carbon emissions and, in the long run, reduces energy consumption as well as contributes to potential cost savings for home owners.