How to turn your home into an eco friendly palace

Timothy Barber
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FINDING ways to make your home kinder to the overtaxed enironment has become an enormous topic since it grew so close to our hearts. <br /><br />These days, it&rsquo;s not even about simply doing your bit for the earth&rsquo;s atmosphere &ndash; it&rsquo;s about looking like a caring citizen of the modern world. To be found keeping extra lights on 24 hours a day, or chucking vast amounts of water down the drain never to be used again, is tantamount to social suicide.<br /><br />Here are some key points to consider when setting out to make your home a more environmentally considerate place, whether you&rsquo;re motivated by pangs of conscience or just by outdoing your neighbours. The good news is that whereas once going green meant living less comfortably, that has simply ceased to be the case. <br /><br /><strong>GO ENERGY EFFICIENT</strong><br />It&rsquo;s hardly news anymore, but lessening your energy usage is the best way to have an immediate environmental impact, and it&rsquo;ll save you cash. Lots of it. Everyone knows about energy efficient light bulbs but there are other steps you can take. <br /><br />For a start, get your insulation sorted out &ndash; around a third of the heat lost in an uninsulated home is through the walls, and if you have a loft, around 15 per cent of what you&rsquo;re paying for your heating could be escaping through your roof. Make sure hot water tanks are covered with an insulating jacket, and if you&rsquo;ve got an old boiler, get it replaced with a new A-rated condensing model &ndash; that alone could save you up to a quarter on your heating bills. And close the curtains &ndash; that&rsquo;ll stop heat escaping through windows (as will double glazing).<br /><br /><strong>USE RENEWABLE ENERGY</strong><br />Not everyone can install a wind turbine on their house, a la David Cameron, but renewable energy is nevertheless an increasingly viable option if you&rsquo;re prepared to spend a bit of money. Solar panels on the roof remain one of the best options (particularly if you have a south-facing roof), but can be very expensive to install. Other options include ground source head pumps, that use pipes buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground for radiators and heating systems; air source heat pumps, which can heat radiators or warm the air in your home by absorbing heat from the air; or solar water heating, with roof-based panels collecting heat from the sun to warm water for the house. Details of all of these can be found at<br /><br /><strong>RECYCLE WATER</strong><br />This week it&rsquo;s been rather obvious what an abundant resource rainwater is in this country, and a few water butts on drainage downpipes will harvest water for use watering the garden and car washing. More complex &ldquo;grey water&rdquo; recycling systems can collect and filter water from appliances like washing machines and dishwashers, as well as bath and shower water, to be reused in those appliances, the garden and in flushing the loo (you probably wouldn&rsquo;t want to bathe in it though). If you can bear to forego the indulgence that is a power shower, adopting low flow showerheads will reduce water consumption by as much as 70 per cent.<br /><br /><strong>BUY SUSTAINABLE</strong><br />Living in an eco-friendly home isn&rsquo;t just about saving energy and water &ndash; it&rsquo;s also about making sure the things that fill your home are from sustainable, carbon-neutral sources, and that&rsquo;s getting easier. A wardrobe made from non-sustainable wood on the other side of the world is hardly going to score points on the carbon footprint front &ndash; look for furnishings made as locally as possible. Wooden items should be made from sustainable timber, which should be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Eco-friendly paint &ndash; which uses water as a carrier instead of damaging petrochemical solvents &ndash; can be found now at mainstream DIY shops. And when it comes to curtains, upholstery and even bedclothes, try to avoid cotton, which uses more pesticide in mainstream production than any other material. Organic cotton&rsquo;s expensive, so go for hemp &ndash; which these days creates beautiful, luxurious textiles &ndash; instead.