By Siobhan Chesher

Environmental concerns are playing an ever-bigger part in property marketing. It’s not just about cleaner, greener new-build homes seizing a big chunk of the property market, either.

Homeowners and landlords are choosing to perform environmentally friendly renovations that reduce their properties’ carbon footprints.

More and more often, you’ll see a home’s green credentials mentioned in estate agents’ marketing materials. And Home Reports have to contain details of a property’s energy efficiency.

Green tech is always advancing. Here’s a few hints for improving your home now and an insight into cutting-edge equipment that could be the next big thing.

Be a bright spark

It feels almost like stating the obvious: solar panels cut your electricity bill and help save the planet.

The panels are cropping up more and more often on domestic roofs. It makes sense – why waste that space when it could be powering your telly.

As a bonus, any excess electricity you generate can be bought back by the National Grid. The initial outlay will pay for itself in savings and cashback over the panels’ lifetime.

They come in all shapes and sizes, with their efficiency getting better all the time. Tesla have even launched solar shingles in the United States – you can literally roof your house with solar panels.

And remember, the panels still generate power on cloudy days so you don’t need to live in the Nevada desert to get the benefit. Indeed, solar panels have delivered almost a quarter of the UK’s power demand on occasion.

Modern-day water wheel

Hydroelectric power has been big business in Scotland, Canada and Scandinavia for decades. But now it’s been scaled down and could soon be adapted for home use.

US firm Verterra Engineering’s V-Pod entered testing in South Carolina early this year and is initially targeted at hospitals, businesses and utility providers.

But remember where solar panels and wind turbines started out – and they are increasingly appearing in a home setting.

Of course, the V-Pod only works if your home’s next to a river or stream, and may require permission from your local council or environmental protection agency, but keep an eye out for its evolution.

Charging ahead

Storing all that green energy has been a problem until fairly recently because of the lifespan and expense of large rechargeable batteries.

Sure, some windfarm schemes stored their energy by using the electricity to pump water up to reservoirs so it could power hydroelectric plants when there is demand from the National Grid.

But that’s changing. After all, the range of electric vehicles is getting longer as the efficiency of their lithium-ion batteries improves. Adapting that for home energy storage is no problem.

In fact, Mercedes has developed a home battery the size of a suitcase that they have been selling since 2015. And US firm ElectrIQ have a home battery that can hold 10kWh.

Big Brother is lighting you

It’s not just about making and storing power – it’s about using it only when it’s right. That’s where energy management systems come in.

Connected home tools such as Hive put people in more control of their energy use.

But big business is pushing ahead with self-adapting technologies such as bulbs that only come on when an area is occupied.

They also optimise heating and air conditioning. Some even note individual employees’ preferences and adapt to them.

Homes are sure to follow suit. A house that looks after you and your bills has got to be an estate agent’s marketing dream.

Share and share alike

Some developers are working on shared heating systems, reasoning that running one big gas boiler for a group of homes is more efficient and environmentally friendly than each home running its own smaller boiler.

This could initially be a tough sell until property marketers can convince buyers of the benefits to their pocket and the environment.

The home that heats itself

Passive building design is where architecture shows just how clever it can be by cutting down on the need for heating and lighting.

The trick is to let the maximum amount of daylight in. You store this energy in something with a large thermal mass in warm weather – concrete is good for this – and it keeps the home cool.

When the weather turns chilly, the stored energy leaches back out as heat.

Other techniques, such as keeping the home airtight, aid this ambient process. Good insulation is also key – green roofs, planted with grass and wildflowers, are pretty and effective at this.

Behind the green door

Concrete is the builders’ friend and the environment’s enemy. It’s strong and tough and the favourite material of the construction industry. But it pumps out the greenhouse gas CO2.

The damage this causes is one of the reasons for a shift towards sustainable building materials and greener alternatives to concrete, such as AshCrete, Ferrock and HempCrete.

There have also been moves, mainly among self-builders, to reuse construction materials such as masonry left over when sites are cleared.

And there are moves being made by some developers to only use wood from sustainable sources and to use roof coverings made from recycled plastics.

And for the green fingered…

Cape Town’s water crisis should get us all thinking about conserving our drinking water – daft as that may seem when it’s always raining where we are.

But seriously, why go to all the trouble of cleaning water so it’s safe to use, then pour it down the sink? Gro Water Sensors, which featured at CES18, are helping gardeners eliminate waste.

Their starter set of sensors, irrigation controller and watering kits for sprinklers, sprayers and potted plants makes sure plants are kept hydrated – and without waste.

So, big changes are arriving every day. Let’s look forward to a greener future.

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