How to buy an energy-efficient home
Growing numbers of buyers are on the hunt for energy-efficient homes, driven by factors including greater awareness of climate change, wanting to reduce consumption, cut costs, live more sustainably, etc. Here are five things to look out for if you are in the market for an energy-efficient home.
1. Size and layoutBigger homes typically require more to run and therefore costs are higher for utilities like water and electricity. But it is not only the size of the home that matters - the layout plays a part too. Open-plan designs often allow for the natural flow of air, good ventilation and natural light, but can be tricky and expensive to heat and light. A home with more defined rooms and dedicated spaces, could be easier to keep warm and bright. Take into account the climate of the area where you are looking to buy, and think about your lifestyle when deciding on the energy-efficiency of a home.
2. Direction facingConsider the configuration of the home and look at the direction that the different rooms face. Ideally, you want the areas where you spend the most time, like living areas and bedrooms, to face north in South Africa, so that they benefit from maximum light and warmth during the day. This could lower your heating costs in winter, and you could use awnings, blinds and block-out curtains to manage the summer heat.
3. InsulationInsulation is often overlooked, but it can make a huge difference. It cuts costs by reducing the need for heating and air conditioning, yet lets you enjoy comfortable temperatures in your home all year long. If you find a property that you are keen on, look carefully at the insulation when you go and view the place, or get a professional opinion. If the insulation isn't up to scratch, there are quick and easy fixes versus more expensive ones, so get good advice before making a decision. For example, simply adding ceiling insulation should not be a big deal, but double-glazing all windows or installing custom-made retractable shutters, would cost considerably more and you would need to budget accordingly.
4. LightingUsing more sustainable lighting options could cut your energy consumption considerably. For example, LED bulbs use roughly 75% less energy than traditional incandescent lightbulbs, and have a much longer lifespan. So, simply replacing all lightbulbs in the home with LEDs would already make a significant contribution and be better for the planet too. When you go and view a property, also look for things like skylights that let in natural light and reduce electricity use during the day.
5. GardenGardens and outside areas can be costly contributors to your energy expenses. Irrigation systems, pool pumps, outdoor lighting... it all adds to the running costs of a property. So, bear this in mind when you're house-hunting. Look out for landscaping that is designed to conserve water, including the use of water-wise and indigenous plants and trees, rainwater harvesting and solar-powered lights.
Buying an energy-efficient home is not only about saving money - it is also about living more sustainably and being kinder to the planet.