How to make your home more environment friendly

Sort it: Whether we rent or own a home, there are lots of little things that can be done

Mark Lowen (left) and  Joe O’Carroll of Gaelectric Energy Solutions with their solar roof installation on the roof of Butlers Chocolate factory in Coolock, Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Mark Lowen (left) and Joe O’Carroll of Gaelectric Energy Solutions with their solar roof installation on the roof of Butlers Chocolate factory in Coolock, Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

Every year Earth Day takes place in April, a national event conceived originally to encourage people to focus on their environment after founder Gaylord Nelson, then a US senator from Wisconsin, witnessed the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.

Nelson maintained that humans had an obligation to protect the earth and share its resources with future generations. Today Earth Day is marked every April 22nd in 192 countries around the world by about one billion people.

And clearly due to huge population increases, the demands on the planet are increasing. Demands for food, or fuel, for water and for manufactured products are all putting serious pressure on our planet.

Then there is the waste. Plastic waste. Currently about 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year to make bags, bottles, packages, and other commodities for people all over the world. Unfortunately, only about 10 per cent of this plastic is properly recycled and reused. The rest ends up as waste in landfills or as litter in our natural environment.

So what can we do within our homes to help? Whether we are renting or home owners, there are lots of little things that can be done. And it makes sense. It’s a bit like running a business; you are in a constant battle to keep your overheads down, so running your home should be no different.

1. Look at energy

Think about your energy consumption. How much energy do you use and where do you get it from? It might be worth seeking a quote for solar panels. Think about turning down your heating by a degree or two, maybe more. The weather is improving after all.

And when it comes to hot water. If you are mixing it with cold water in the shower, then it’s likely you could handle the overall temperature being dropped a notch or two.

2. Recycling

Take another look at the way you are recycling and how efficiently it’s done – could you be doing more? If you have children in the house, make them aware of it, and get them involved in separating waste.

3. Grants

Remember there are grants available from the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (seai.ie) that would take the financial sting out of having your attic insulated, your walls insulated or your boiler upgraded.

4. Temperature

By sealing draughts around the house you can radically improve the general temperature. Could your front door or loft hatch do with some new seals? Replacing draught seals or putting on additional ones is a really easy and cost-effective way to stop a leaky front door.

These self-adhesive strips are very simple to apply. Or maybe you need to bite the bullet and change your external doors and windows. Again look at the cash-back grant available via the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme which was extended in the last budget.

5. Efficient lightbulbs

Think about how lights are managed around the house. The incandescent bulb is being phased out. Commit to never buying another inefficient bulb again, and make the switch to LEDs, CFLs or halogens. Most energy-efficient lightbulbs, such as CFLs and halogens, are available in various configurations and although they cost more to purchase, they are far more energy efficient thus reducing electricity costs.

For example, a CFL lightbulb uses 80 per cent less electricity than an equivalent incandescent lightbulb and typically lasts eight to 12 times longer. A new halogen lightbulb uses 30 per cent less electricity and lasts twice as long as an ordinary incandescent lightbulb. According to the SEAI, replacing three 100W incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs, and using three hours of electricity per day can save an average household up to €43 per annum.

6. New appliances

If you are shopping for new appliances, always look for “A”-rated products, which have met guidelines for energy efficiency, it could save you up to €100 per year.

I’ll leave you with a quote from American philosopher Henry David Thoreau.

“What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”