We are now more aware than ever of the impact we have on the world in which we live and the connection between our individual energy use and the environment. How can we create energy-efficient homes?
It’s a simple cycle of causality – the power we consume affects the levels of toxic emissions from power plants, which in turn determines the impact of emissions on our ecosystem. Unfortunately, our desire to have the fastest WiFi, the best home automation system or the most cutting-edge fixtures and fittings seems to overshadow our ability to recognise the potential consequences of these luxuries on other, more far-reaching aspects of our lives.
However, we can still enjoy these comforts whilst not only doing our bit to help the environment but also saving ourselves a surprising amount of money. Never has the phrase ‘the current climate’ been more relevant.
BREEAM and LEED are the most widely recognised methods of environmental assessment. They certify sustainable construction in terms of both energy efficiency and responsible use of resources. Passivhaus is the most stringent standard of pure energy efficiency. WELL is used in conjunction with these and applies to the health and well-being of people.
There are a growing number of organisations across Spain which can help developers achieve high certification standards and provide technical support to owners planning an efficiency retrofitting project. This can achieve significantly higher levels of efficiency and sustainability, as well as adding value to a property. They can also help incorporate health and well-being measures from the WELL Building Standard that make the most sense and would have a bigger impact on the project.
In Spain, the Código Técnico de la Edificación (CTE) became mandatory in 2006, meaning that all buildings constructed prior to this date require an update in order to be deemed energy efficient.
So if you want to buy a home in Spain, feel free to enquire about energy-efficiency with your property advisor.
Here are some suggestions for how homeowners can create the most energy-efficient properties which will also save money in the long term:
Roof and cavity wall insulation can contribute significantly to preventing heat loss, but also contribute to cooling in warmer conditions.
Solar panels are expensive to buy, install and maintain but are becoming less so. They are increasingly popular because they harness the free energy provided by the sun, provide longer-term financial benefits from lower energy bills and add to the credentials of your eco-friendly home.
Double or triple glazed windows can also keep the heat in and the cold out, and technological developments in glass design and installation can react to different sun and temperature conditions.
Gaps in old walls and around windows can be major villains in the war against inefficiency. Most of the energy lost in an old building is by convection (air movement), not conduction (through surfaces). This means that airtightness is at least as important as insulation, and achieving optimum energy efficiency depends on taking action on both. It's an interesting technological challenge, because you don't want costly draughts, but at the same time you must have proper ventilation that allows your building to 'breathe' and prevents ‘sick building’ syndrome.
HEATING AND COOLING SYSTEMS
Switch to a modern, efficient boiler and watch your energy costs tumble as well as your carbon dioxide emissions. Modern boilers make much better use of resources and also have features and controls to match your needs, including sophisticated thermostats and temperature zoning.
This is another area that has seen major advances in recent years. LED bulbs may be slightly more expensive to buy but prices are coming down so you see the cost benefits even sooner. In short, they use less energy and last much longer.
Like lighting, appliances have seen significant improvements in energy efficiency. This is closely regulated, so there are plenty of energy rating measures clearly displayed on fridges, TVs and washing machines to help you identify the best option.
Your attitude towards energy use is also crucial to your levels of efficiency as a household. The best way to use less energy is to… use less energy. It’s the only 100% environmentally friendly option. But when there is no choice you can still change your behaviour. For example, by washing up smaller loads instead of using the dishwasher, turning things off instead of leaving them on standby, not leaving lights on and turning the thermostat down by a degree or two.
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