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Earth Saver: part 10

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In this instalment of Earth Saver, Clare’s Mum receives a huge heating bill, so she and Clare look at conserving heat.

Well, it’s decided. The holiday is off. Ben agreed that staying home would save money, and he was also keen on the idea of having a lie-in for once, instead of the usual ‘to the airport’ rush. Daisy also wasn’t keen on going on holiday, because she now has a boyfriend, and she doesn’t want to be away from him during Christmas. Both Dad and Mum have agreed anyway that we can’t really afford a holiday with Dad having lost his job, so I think, even if Daisy and Ben had protested, the holiday would still be off.

In the meantime, Dad is spending more time on the computer and phone as he tries to find another job, and Mum keeps warning us that we’ll have to cut back. Though we haven’t actually cut back on anything yet as far as I can tell.

Until today, that is, as Dad has just come into the living-room waving a letter. A bill. The heating bill.

Have you seen this?” he cries, giving it to Mum. She takes the letter off him, and I watch as her eyes boggle.

What’s wrong?” Daisy asks, looking up from a magazine.

It’s the heating bill”, Mum gasps, “Look at what we’ve been charged!

She shows Daisy the letter. Daisy squints at it.

Is that high?” she asks.

Not if you’re running a tropical greenhouse”, Dad says, “I’m sure that’s more than we paid last year around this time!

Clare!” Mum says loudly. I nearly jump right off the sofa.

Yes Mum?” I reply.

I think it’s time we started looking at conserving heat. Come on, let’s go…

Come along Robin, off to the Eco-Cave!” Daisy chimes, mockingly.

I wouldn’t joke, Daisy”, Dad replies, “We have to start saving money somewhere, and if we can’t save money on the heating, your allowance is going to be the first non-essential to go.”

Non-essential!” Daisy cries.

Mum and I share a glance, Mum rolls her eyes and we trudge out of the door, leaving Dad and Daisy to their argument.

On the way to the upstairs office, I stop Mum and point out that the first and easiest thing to do, would be to turn down the thermostat.

And”, I remind her, as I scramble out of the coats, “If you turn down the temperature by one degree, you save 230kg of carbon dioxide a year and 10% on your heating bill, according to the Energy Saving Trust.”

Okay”, Mum replies, “Great!

We should also turn down all the heating valves on the radiators”, I say, “Mine’s been on low  since the beginning of September, and I’ve just been wearing an extra thick jumper.

Has it?” Mum says, “And yet we’ve still got this bill?

That’s because the radiators in Ben and Daisy’s rooms, and in the bathrooms, keep being set too high”, I reply, “Even though I always turn them down when I’m in there.

Oh”, Mum says, “I wonder what the radiator is set to in the dining room? And in the hall? And the landing? And in the utilities room? We hardly ever spend time in those places.

Then we can turn those to low, and places like the kitchen, living-room and bathrooms can be reset to medium”, I say cheerfully, “You’re really getting the hang of this now, Mum!

Er…thanks”, Mum says raising an eyebrow at me.

Mum…” I ask, as I have a sudden, horrible thought.

Yes?

You and Dad don’t leave the heating on all day, do you?

Yes”, Mum says calmly.

All day?!” I cry, “It should be off. The house is empty when we’re at school and you’re out at work.”

No its not. Your dad’s still here”, Mum replies,“And he’ll get cold, just sitting in front of a computer. And also, I like coming home to a warm house…

But Mum think about! We’re heating a big, three storey, house! All day, with the temperature blazing at twenty-three!

Mum goes silent, then sighs.

You’re right”, Mum admits, “When you say it like that. It sounds ridiculous! No wonder, our bill is so huge!

So”, I continue, “All we have to do is reset the controls so the heating only comes on when we need. Like in the morning just before we get up, and just before we all get home. As for Dad, well the house should stay warm for a while after its heated, and if we found ways of improving the house’s insulation, it would keep more heat in and probably stay warmer for longer!

I race upstairs towards the office, followed by Mum, who catches up with me quite easily, as I stop to turn down radiators on the way.

In the office we start searching for ideas for insulating the house, starting with windows. I want to double glaze our windows, but Mum says we might not be able to because the house is a listed one and we may require planning permission. I’m not sure what all that means, but its obviously not good news.

Look at this though”, Mum says, pointing to the screen with a pen, “You can get something called secondary glazing, which is cheaper to put in and you can use on sash windows like ours. It’s not as well-sealed as normal double glazing, but its better than nothing.

And look, at this!” I say, cheering up, “Heavy curtains also keep in the heat during the night. Perhaps we should replace ours, or at least the the ones in the living-room. They’re so floaty and thin I bet they don’t keep much heat in.

The curtains?” Mum winces.

Yes”, I say, resolutely, “Mum we have to save heat, and money, as you keep reminding us. And  buying a pair of thick curtains from say, a charity shop, for the living-room would save both.

I suppose”, Mum says, pulling a face. “I prefer the secondary glazing idea personally.”

Ah, yes, Mum isn’t keen on buying anything second-hand that isn’t vintage or antique. That may have to change if we’re going to go completely green, and save money. Oh, well. One challenge at a time…

Next Sunday:

Clare’s parents decide to re-decorate the living room, and Clare has lots of eco-ideas.

Part one // Part two // Part three // Part four // Part five // Part six // Part seven // Part eight // Part nine.

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Environment

How to Build An Eco-Friendly Home Pool

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eco-friendly pool for home owners
Licensed Image from Shutterstock - By alexandre zveiger

Swimming pools are undoubtedly one of the most luxurious features that any home can have. But environmentally-conscious homeowners who are interested in having a pool installed may feel that the potential issues surrounding wasted water, chemical use and energy utilized in heating the water makes having a home swimming pool difficult to justify.

But there is good news, because modern technologies are helping to make pools far less environmentally harmful than ever before. If you are interested in having a pool built but you want to make sure that it is as eco-friendly as possible, you can follow the advice below. From natural pools to solar panel heating systems, there are many steps that you can take.

Choose a natural pool to go chemical free

For those homeowners interested in an eco-friendly pool, the first thing to consider is a natural pool. Natural swimming pools utilise reed bed technology or moss-filtration to naturally filter out dirt from the water. These can be combined with eco-pumps to allow you to have a pool that is completely free from chemicals.

Not only are traditional pool chemicals potentially harmful to the skin, they also mean that you can contaminate the area around the pool if chemical-filled water leaks or is splashed around. This can be bad for your garden and the environment general.

It will be necessary to work with an expert pool builder to ensure that you have the expertise to get your natural pool installed properly. But the results with definitely be worth the effort and planning that you have to put in.

Avoid concrete if possible

The vast majority of home pools are built using concrete but this is far from ideal in terms of an eco-friendly pool for a large number of reasons. Concrete pools are typically built and then lined to stop keep out any bacteria. This is theoretically fine, except that concrete is porous and the lining can be liable to erode or break which can allow bacteria to enter the pool.

It is much better to use a non-porous material such as fibreglass or carbon ceramic composite for your pool. Typically, these swimming pools are supplied in a one-piece shell rather than having to be built from scratch, ensuring a bacteria-free environment. These non-porous materials make it impossible for the water to become contaminated through bacteria seeping into the pool by osmosis.

The further problem that can arise from having a concrete pool is that once this bacteria begins to get into the pool it can be more difficult for a natural filtration system to be effective. This can lead to you having to resort to using chemicals to get the pool clean.

Add solar panels

It is surprising how many will go to extreme lengths to ensure that their pool is as eco-friendly as possible in terms of building and maintaining it but then fall down on something extremely obvious. No matter what steps you take with the rest of your pool, it won’t really be worth the hassle if you are going to be conventionally heating your pool up, using serious amounts of energy to do so.

Thankfully there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that your pool is heated to a pleasant temperature while causing minimal damage to the environment. Firstly, gathering energy using solar panels has become a very popular way to reduce consumption of electricity as well as decreasing utility bills. Many businesses offer solar panels specifically for swimming pools.

Additionally, installing an energy efficient heat pump or boiler to work in conjunction with your solar panels can be hugely beneficial.

Cover it!

Finally, it is worth remembering that there are many benefits to investing in a pool cover. When you cover your pool you increase its heat retention which stops you from having to power a pump or boiler to keep it warm. This works in conjunction with the solar panels and eco-friendly heating system that you have already had installed.

Additionally, you cover helps to keep out dirt and other detritus that can enter the pool, bringing in bacteria. Anything that you can do to keep bacteria out will be helpful in terms of keeping it clean.

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Features

4 Ways To Get a Green House in 2018

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green house and homes
Featured Image From Shutterstock - By Photographee.eu

Demand for green houses is surging. In 2020, almost 20% of all homes on the market will be green.

If you would like to buy a green home, this is a great time to look into it. Prices are still pretty low and there are a lot more financing options available than there were right after the recession.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, now could be a very good time to make the move! A number of factors in the housing market right now mean that you might be able to afford your dream home. Although in many parts of the country house prices are still rising, if you do your research and plan wisely, there are lots of good schemes to help you get your foot on the property ladder, or trade up to the house you’ve always wanted.

Interest Rates and Stamp Duty

Although the Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.25% recently, they remain very low, which is good news if you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage. However, rates may not stay low and it’s predicted that there’ll be a further rate rise during 2018, so don’t wait too long. Another factor that’s going to help first time buyers in particular is the Chancellor’s decision to abolish stamp duty for first timers purchasing properties for under £300,000.

Different options

For many people looking to buy a green home, raising a deposit of between 5% and 20% may not be a realistic option, in which case there are a growing number of schemes to help. Increasingly popular are shared ownership schemes, through which the buyer pays a percentage of the full value of the property (typically between 25% and 75%) and the local council or a housing association pays the rest, and takes part ownership. This is suitable for buyers who may struggle to meet the up-front costs of buying outright. There will often be a service charge or management fees to pay in addition to the mortgage. The Government’s Help To Buy scheme is a good place to start looking if you’re interested in this option. This scheme is now available to people looking to buy green homes too.

ISA Options

If you’re still saving for a deposit, another scheme is the Help to Buy ISA. You can get a 25% boost to your savings on amounts up to £200 per month with this scheme. It’s only open to first time buyers and you can claim a maximum of £3000.

Other costs

Green home buyers are going to run into a number of other ancillary costs, most of which are common to other homebuyers.

When calculating how much you can afford, it’s vitally important to remember that buying a house comes with a whole host of other costs. Depending on the cost of the property that you’re buying, you may have to pay stamp duty of anywhere between 1% and 5%. There’ll be estate agents fee if you’re also selling a property, although there are a wide range of online estate agents operating such as Purple Bricks or Right Move that have lower fees than traditional high street companies. Conveyancing costs to a solicitor can add another £1000-£3000 and you may need to take out life insurance and hire a moving firm.

There are other initial costs such as, fixing parts of the home that aren’t upto your taste. Getting new furniture to fill up all the new-found space in your new home. If you are moving away from the city, you need to consider the cost of transportation as well, as it can take up quite a lot over time. Take your time, do your homework and shop around and soon you could be getting the keys to your perfect home.

I hope this article was useful for you to learn more about the basics that you need to be aware of before you start the process of buying your first home. If you have any doubts with regards to this, let us know through the comments and we will be glad to help you out. If you have any suggestions regarding how we can improve the article, let us know them through the comments as well for us to improve.

Do you have any other reservations against buying your first home? Do you see your house as an asset or a liability? Do you think it is important for everyone to get themselves a new home? Let us know through the comments.

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