Eco friendly homes are coming in vogue for those with a green persuasion. Whether it's because folk are seriously interested in saving the planet for their grandchildren, or simply to keep up with the Jones, it makes no difference; an investment in environmentally friendly houses makes good economic sense.
Then of course with the prices of utilities soaring for the home owner in many parts of the world, investing in green technology makes a lot of sense.
Utility companies will often score off residential properties.
For example in Spain the price of non-residential electricity is quite low at 107 euros per megawatt-hour, but more than double that for home owners.
In South Africa Eskom is planning to raise the price of electricity by 33% in 2018 to recover losses from corruption and inefficiency during the Zuma presidency years.
All of this makes an investment in a green home more attractive.
With the price of water in cities such as Cape Town set to double next year, that's assuming there's aqua to be had, an investment in water harvesting and storage doubly makes sense too.
So what are the issues to look out for when purchasing, or building, eco friendly homes?
Orientation is vitally important; our north facing home captures all the light and heat in winter from the low-slung sun; avoid east-west houses.
Keeping the warmth out in summer, and in during the winter months makes a huge difference to both the comfort and cost of running an eco friendly home.
In a brick under tile home, one is thinking of a hundred or more years, so recycled polystyrene is a good option. It's indestructible by termites. Those sheets would go under the concrete floor, in the cavity between brick or block walls, as a ceiling board and as a thermal blanket in the roof.
In homes with a shorter expected lifespan, paper recycled into sheets is perhaps a better option. A polyester blanket made from recycled plastic bottles is also an option above the ceiling.
Large windows with double glazing will let light and warmth in during the winter months, if the home is correctly faced south in the Northern hemisphere, and vice versa where I live in Africa.
In the summer, with the sun overhead, less direct heat penetrates.
This obviates or at least reduces the need for under floor heating and air conditioning.
If you are seriously interested in building an environmentally friendly house, and live in KZN, South Africa then think of contacting Ecobuilders.
This is Bernard Preston's home with a vacuum tubes on the right filling a hot water geyser, and part of his 5.1kW of PV panels above supplying electricity.
Harvesting rainwater has become a major issue for eco friendly homes, with many cities around the world is serious trouble. Whether it's climate change, or simply bad management of the existing infrastructure, and poor planning for the future, we need to become resilient in the face of these difficulties.
Storing that rainwater in above ground tanks is a poor option; they are unsightly, expensive and the water too warm in summer.
Better still is the building of an underground reservoir which works out cheaper in the long run, and we can easily store far more water.
That water is icy cold reducing the proliferation of any bacteria that might get into the reservoir from the roof, where birds' droppings can be a problem. Mostly the heat of the roof takes care of the bugs, and we've had no problems with drinking the water.
With sensitive charging equipment, vulnerable to both lightening strikes and utility surges, a solar powered gate motor should be a feature of eco friendly homes.
Depending on the amount of traffic, I actually recommend two 25W PV panels at 90 degrees, one to collect early morning sunshine and the other for the afternoon. A battery of at least 35Ah is desirable; good second hand electric golf cart batteries can be bought for a song.
I have both a sealed battery, and one which must be filled with distilled water periodically; both seem equally good.
This single 10W PV panel we found was inadequate during inclement weather.
Eco friendly homes are becoming a sought after acquisition, making investment in solar and water harvesting more attractive.
One could add other items such as compost heaps, a vegetable garden and even a worm farm for kitchen waste, but these can be added later at minimal cost.
Planting organic fruit trees take rather longer; purchasing a house with an established lemon and avocado tree would be a big plus.
Five cardboard boxes to separate paper, plastic, glass, can and tetrapak waste is not difficult.
Cooling during the day is no problem in eco friendly homes, but heating at night certainly is.
With surplus electricity being produced by solar generators during the day when it's hot, running an aircondition unit can certainly be considered environmentally friendly.
Compromise with heating at night, using either electricity from a utility power station, or a small woodstove; both contribute to greenhouse gases. Should one have to chop down trees specifically for the latter, that would swing matters in favour of the power station. Where there is surplus timber, then the woodstove would make more sense.
Here is a tree down in our garden blown down in a massive wind storm. After the chainsaw, I will use a hydraulic splitter to produce suitably sized logs.