greenhouses not the only place for greenhouse gas

Greener homes, older houses and the Green deal scheme

Rising fuel and heating costs, and a concern for rising “Greenhouse gases” threatening our environment, have prompted more and more people to attempt to become more green & to save light and heat, but how can this be done in an OLD house?

A recent speech about how we can ALL become more green in how we live and what we do, was presented by the UK government Energy and Climate Secretary, Edward Davey, who was pleased to tell people about the new  Energy Efficiency Deployment Office, which is dedicated to green issues and sustainable living.


The Energy Efficiency Deployment Office (EEDO) has been set up to drive a step change in energy efficiency.

Mr Davey said

“Saving energy ought to be easy. But for some households, it can seem overwhelming.

Two out of three consumers think their home is wasting energy. But only one in three is going to do anything about it.

Over a third of consumers don’t know that energy suppliers offer cheap insulation.
And two thirds of us don’t know what a smart meter does.

For families facing higher bills, more efficiency could make a real difference. Homes without insulation could save hundreds by getting lofts lagged and walls treated. “

A good point made was the fact that, what with everything else going on at present, including the recession, becoming more greener and environmentally aware, for many people, seems to be an interruption to our day and something that irritatingly “nags” at us in the background, like an old “fishwife”.

Green deal scheme

There is a new energy bill in place for 2011 and a new “Green deal” is available which, says the government, will help some people improve their homes to be more energy efficient.

Much of the UK’s housing stock was built before even the very notion of carbon offsetting and green issues became talked about, so yes, we can all move into the latest energy saving house, but what if we don’t WANT to move, or if we are not financially in a position to just “up sticks” and relocate just to save the environment? Can we be greener without making DRASTIC changes to our lives?

…..after all, WE didn’t break it; it was like this when we found it!

On a more practical note then, what if we can take steps to make our OWN houses more green, and offset or greatly reduce the much talked about “Carbon footprint”?

Is this possible?

In a way, yes it is, partly, and here’s how.

Why has energy saving become so important?

It was only a few years ago that Gordon Brown, who was then, the chancellor in Tony Blair’s government, attempted to introduce the Climate Change Bill, which lead to the Climate Change Act 2008.  The climate change bill ambitiously sought to cut UK emissions by 60% by the year 2050.

Is this viable in today’s “me” society? Or over time will we slowly turn into a “them” society? Is this compatible with capitalism? And just how easy is it to turn an existing house into a green one?

Guy Alexander Bell, editor of the online magazine “Never Paint Again” suggests some things we could to make our home, and our lifestyle within it, more green…………

Steps to make your old house “greener”, without breaking the bank.

With more “green” legislation coming into building design and construction, and into everyday life, more and more houses and commercial buildings are being built with “green” credentials; in fact it seems to be the new “cool”.

Things such as solar panels, better insulation, timber from sustainable sources, are just a few of the latest trends in building, but what about existing and older buildings? In this article we look at various steps that the average person can take in order to make their older house a bit more environmentally friendly for future generations.

How can a hundred year old house be green, or made to be green?

Putting aside the notion of actually painting the whole house green (Doh!) and embracing the literal sense, what can be done for older houses to not only make them comply with legislation, but to also save us money in reducing heat loss and energy consumption?

If we take the example a VERY old house, dating back to maybe 1600, it could be argued that these houses were far more “green” than modern ones, or even ones built over the past 100 years, but why is that?

Energy saving used to come naturally so why force the issue?

When a house was built, let’s say, 400 years ago, it was built with whatever was lying around (in the literal sense) at the time.

So if it was being built near a quarry, it would be made of local stone. If there were reed beds or hay etc nearby, it would have a thatched roof, making use of crops that would have otherwise been burnt or thrown away.

The notion of being “green” or “Environmentally friendly” was something that, many years ago, came naturally, and legislation etc was not generally needed.

There are of course still homes with thatched roofs today and, despite the fire risk, they can make a home feel very warm indeed, and a well thatched roof can save a fortune on heating bills as the insulation provided by the thatch, keeps the heat inside where it belongs.

If it was a house near the sea, many of the timbers would be recycled from old ships or boats, and in fact many buildings in established seaside locations in and around the British isles have some surprises in their lofts when you look!

Recycled building materials are not a new thing

Many an old ships mast was made into a staircase, and timbers were used in the roof and for lintels above doors and windows. The global transport infrastructure did not exist then and therefore lorries were not burning fossil fuels, nor polluting the air with carcinogenic and toxic fumes.  Building materials were sourced locally, or at least brought by sea, river or canal, from somewhere fairly nearby.

When undertaking home improvements on a more modern house, it difficult in today’s world to keep your green credentials. For example, what about all the car journeys to go and fetch the new items from the DIY shop?

What about the builders turning up in their old van? For a month.

What about the fact that the items (paint, tools, whatever you buy), have probably clocked up loads of “carbon miles” by being shipped around the world, and sometimes from countries with very poor human right records?

What about the “wind farms” so loved by EU governments, with “Teletubbies” style windmills popping on on hills everywhere. Do you realise just how much energy is consumer in making them, transporting them, and then erecting them?

Do you know how LITTLE energy they actually produce?

That’s not very green at all is it?

So how can you make an old house green?

Well if the interior is concentrated on first, simple steps could be taken by the home owner such as installing solar powered heating and power from rooftop or garden based wind power units. Setting them up can be expensive, but the cost is falling all the time and it should only take a few years for your electric to pay for itself.  In theory.

The use of RECYCLED materials, furniture and fittings around the home can be a simple, and often FUN way of reducing your carbon footprint.

Make enough power, and if you have a surplus, you can sell it back to the national grid, although how long it would be before the government find a way to tax that is another matter, although inevitable, it could be argued!

If we all generated our own electric like this, the need to build new power stations would diminish. You need to take a long term view on this, and it is only the most ardent “pioneers” who are doing this at present. Also why not use solar powered lights in the garden?

Energy saving tips for the inside of the house.

You could also hang curtains made from hemp and buy some new green-friendly furniture.

You could buy decent second hand curtains or even furniture from a charity shop (many sell nearly new ones at bargain prices), and from an ethical point of view, you’ve donated to a worthwhile cause. Re-use, don’t throw away, even if you can afford to buy new, do you really HAVE to?

Buy “A graded” energy efficient appliances such as dishwashers, fridges etc and these will save you money too. Take showers instead of baths. During the autumn months, install cheap and effective draught excluders to cut down on heat loss.

Have double glazing fitted if you don’t have it already, although wooden double glazing is better as UPVC manufacture is perhaps not as environmentally friendly as it could be.

Your plans could also include bizarre sounding ideas like chairs and sofas made from recycled bottles and cushions with recycled stuffing, deck chairs made of old milk cartons, and chairs made with removable, washable and replaceable covers.

Do you really need to buy brand new furniture?

If doing an extension or major refurbishment, you could also install wood floors made from reclaimed pallets; you could install long life low emission fluorescent bulbs, and install skylights roof windows or larger windows around the house to minimize daytime lighting needs.

And throughout the house why not use non-toxic, water-based paints?

Very importantly, make sure your loft is well insulated. Many local types of council in the UK run a “warm homes” scheme for people on low incomes.

This was in fact a little known piece of government legislation that enabled this and is covered in full under the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000.

Exterior energy efficiency.

The exterior of the house also needs attention if you truly want to live a greener life.

Use water catchment systems like water “butts” to harvest water for watering plants etc. Make sure all your windows are in good condition and are clean to let in the most light. Make sure there are no areas where damp can get into the house. Damp can not only make your house feel colder, it can also very badly affect your health (buy to let landlords take note please).

Make sure the exterior walls are in good condition and get them repainted regularly.

One option would be to choose a professional specialist company to apply a long life exterior wall coating. This specialist high performance paint is installed with either a spray or a roller, depending on the material used.

Not only can it cut down on spending money year after year repainting, it can also stop damp and make the inside of the house warmer due to not only cutting out wind chill, but also insulating properties too.

Most of these coatings are far thicker than paint and they don’t need to be redone every year, so that’s about 10 coats of paint at the same time, saving money and the environment in the long term, especially as many are made with natural dyes and resins in small to mid size manufacturing facilities instead of huge multinational factories belching out smoke and chemicals.

The best site to find out more info about insulating exterior coatings for houses is the world renowned The other benefit is that the work is done ONCE every 25 years instead of every year, thus less materials used in time, less van and lorry journeys, and less pollution. (and less money)

Extreme measures, with pleasing results.

Most of the heat in your home escapes out through the walls. We suggested a wall coating above, but there are 2 other services, available from THIS WEBSITE which can drastically reduce the amount of heat your home loses, PLUS, it can also eliminate exterior maintenance, AND repainting, saving you EVEN MORE MONEY!

The two amazing products are:

Thermally insulated rendering which Thermal Render Coatings from Never Paint Again are an insulated external hard wall covering which retains heat in the house and is ideal for cold homes, saving at least 40% of heat loss, meaning your heating bills will also be reduced massively. It also needs no maintenance or painting, and is guaranteed for up to 20 years!

Solid wall insulation which is ideal for homes built with no cavity, before 1920 and has excellent heat retention properties.

Do more research about how to make your house greener, get involved.

There are plenty of great websites out there that can offer some valuable help and advice to start going green, and staying green, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the whole world will take note, but its worth a go I suppose.

Why not help by living a Greener lifestyle?

There are other smaller things you can do to make your household and lifestyle less energy intensive, and more green, without resorting to dressing like a hippy and hiking around India.

Consider a hybrid (electric) car. A combination of an electric motor and a normal one. Few cars have them (probably due to pressure from huge oil companies to buy more fuel), but one day these will probably be the norm.

Don’t leave electrical appliances etc on standby. If you’re not using it, switch it off. Cup of tea? Don’t fill the kettle up for one cup, you’re throwing money away. Off on a plane? With cheap flights it’s tempting but think what you are doing to the planet. Why not holiday in the UK instead. (no, don’t laugh!)

Can we move to a society where we can all “carbon offset” anything we do that uses energy? Carbon offsetting is whereby if you chop down 10 trees to build a house made of wood, then you replant 10 trees (or even more) to “offset” what you’ve done. A very brave vision indeed, although if society will change for the better, only time will tell.

With summer around the corner, traditionally the busiest time in the UK for home improvement, just stop and think for a minute about what you’re doing!

Unless you’re mega rich, do you REALLY need that outside spa? Do you REALLY need to buy brand new chain store furniture? And why put a finish outside that you have to repaint every 2 years or so? What’s the point?

So what’s stopping you becoming green now?

updated Sep 2015: The green deal scheme has now ended

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