ARTICLE Libby Schultz
There are plenty of low-cost ideas you can implement straight away – whether it’s energy-efficient lightbulbs, fixing that dripping tap, or using a plug-in energy monitor box to keep tabs on your appliance usage. It’s more a matter of having the right mind-set, because every small eco-step makes a difference.
How do I reduce my power bills?
How many thrifty home-owners does it take to change a lightbulb? You might be surprised at the savings – did you know that it takes 400% more power to run a standard bulb compared to an LED? An average-priced LED could save you $290 over the life of the bulb.
The Government’s Energywise website has a handy tool to help you choose the right lighting. Simply enter the type of bulb you’re using, and it will suggest energy-efficient replacements, as well as calculate your savings.
Another note on lighting – the more downlights you install in your home, the less effective your ceiling insulation will be. (This is because installers must leave a gap between the lights and insulation to avoid fire risk). So if you’re renovating, consider replacing your downlights with other types of surface-mounted lighting. Or at least ensure your downlights are the ‘CA-rated’ ones, which reduce the gap needed between lighting and insulation.
It always pays to be water-wise. Most Kiwi households have more water flow (not to be confused with water pressure) than they need. If your shower fills a 10 litre bucket in less than a minute, for instance, it’s wasting water.
According to a 2010 Consumer NZ test, replacing a 12litre per minute showerhead with one that flows at eight litres can cut your hot water bill by $153 a year.
The cheap fix is to buy a flow restrictor from your hardware store, or swap out your showerhead for an energy-efficient model. Nine litres per minute is the recommended flow.
Do I need to upgrade my electric appliances?
If you’re renovating your bathroom or kitchen, you’ll want to make sure all your new appliances have the right eco-credentials.
Kim Reiche, a home renovation consultant with Refresh Renovations, says there’s a simple way to compare products.
“Look for a blue label from the New Zealand Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme. You’ll find the WELS label on washing machines, dishwashers, toilets, showers and taps. It’s simple – the more stars on the label, the more water efficient the product is.”
Renovating the kitchen? Whether to go gas or electric will be your first choice. There’s no clear winner in the sustainability stakes – neither is particularly eco-friendly as a source of energy – so it might come down to your cooking preferences.
Generally, gas ovens are more energy-efficient than electric – but due to the gases they produce, it’s essential to have good ventilation and an air extractor. If you can afford them, induction electric hobs are the most energy-efficient type of cooktop (and those old spiral electric coils are the least efficient).
How do I control lights and appliances when not in use?
If you’re paying the bills, you might find it a tad annoying when lights and appliances are left on unnecessarily. Luckily, technology is now on your side.
Energy monitoring devices can do all sorts of clever things – from showing your real-time consumption and costs, scheduling appliances to turn on and off (also handy for home security), and cutting power to appliances that have been on stand-by too long.
Prices start from just $15 for a plug-in wattage monitoring device, or $70 for a wifi socket that lets you monitor everything remotely from your smartphone. For an overview of what’s available, check out the independent energy saving and monitoring in New Zealand website.
Sustainable outdoor renovations
Doing some outdoor renovation? There are numerous ways to stay sustainable. If you’re building a deck or other wooden structure, look for FSC certification, which tells you whether the wood is sustainably-grown.
Just because you live in the city doesn’t mean you can’t grow your own food. Consider building raised planter boxes – or incorporating them into your new decking structure.
Here’s a fancy new word to add your vocabulary - ‘xeriscape’ means to landscape for water conservation. It helps to plant drought-tolerant natives such as tussock grasses and flaxes, pohutukawa, and coprosma shrubs.
According to eco design consultant Nelson Lebo, drought-proofing your property relies on good water retention, and good drainage. He also notes that lawns are notoriously thirsty.
“Think about how much lawn you use on a regular basis, and consider converting the rest to gardens, wildflowers or other greenery.”
What is a Showerdome?
If you’re planning a simple bathroom renovation, consider getting a Showerdome installed. This simple Kiwi invention has long been eliminating steam from bathrooms across the nation – along with the damp-related nasties of mould, mildew and condensation.
And because there’s no steam created with a Showerdome, you won’t need to add an extractor fan in your bathroom budget.
Another product is the Unovent home ventilation system. This simple ducted home ventilation product was invented by engineer John Wadsworth – who, unhappy with a quote received from another home ventilation company, set about inventing a simplified version of his own.
Unovent is based on a single low-voltage fan mounted in the ceiling above each room. The typical cost of running the system around-the-clock equates to less than $1 per month. Their biggest seller is the 4-vent outlet system and can be ordered online for just under $1,400.
If you have a slightly bigger budget to work with why not read our mid-range project estimate for a healthier, eco-friendly home or read the high-end eco renovation project estimate if you are striving to make your house the next 10-star home.
Note: prices are rough approximations only, an Refresh Renovations cannot be held accountable for their accuracy. All prices in this article are exclusive of installation costs and any variations.
This project estimate article featured on page 92 of Issue 017 of New Zealand Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.
If you would like to discuss eco-friendly options and ideas for your next renovation project, please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your project. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too.
*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.