Guest post by Marianne Pierce of behalf of QuikTherm
When it comes to building green, your first thought is probably the environment. That’s a good instinct. Your second thought may very well be the price – more specifically, that building green is usually more expensive. That instinct may be a bit less accurate. Let’s examine further:
Upfront Costs vs. Lifetime Savings
The assumption that building green is more expensive usually comes from a cursory analysis of upfront costs. While it’s true that the initial expense of most green solutions is higher than their non-green counterparts, there are hidden financial benefits to building green.
We’ll expand on these benefits in greater detail as we analyze various green technologies you can employ in your home and/or other properties. The primary financial benefits come from three different areas:
Generally, the longer you retain ownership of a given building (and thus the burden of paying for maintenance and energy), the more you’ll save by using green technologies. Higher resale value is, conversely, a benefit no matter when you install green technologies – as long as you can find a buyer willing to pay a premium for environmentally friendly, energy-saving features.
Insulation probably isn’t what comes to mind when someone mentions green building. That’s understandable – almost every building has insulation, so it certainly doesn’t strike one as being innovative in the same way solar panels are. Nonetheless, insulation is at the forefront of the green revolution.
As you undoubtedly know, most homes in the UK (and, indeed, in much of the world) are heated using natural gas. While most homes don’t have air conditioning, air con is much more common in businesses. Given that most electricity is produced using fossil fuels, any effort to stymy the use of electricity is a green effort.
That’s where insulation comes in – more specifically, the Passivhaus standard. The standards are a bit complex for our purposes here, but the theory behind them is sound and easily digestible. In short, if your home is exceedingly well-insulated, you’ll need little to no heat generated by a boiler or furnace. The same goes for commercial buildings – with sufficient insulation, air conditioning is far less important, too.
The cost of a house insulated to meet Passivhaus standards is generally about 10% higher than the cost of a home that isn’t as well-insulated – you can generally recoup these costs in about 10-12 years.
Passive homes are the way of the future, even though insulation is something we’ve had around forever. Even if you don’t meet Passivhaus standards, though, ensuring that your home is well-insulated can still be an energy boon. New windows, new doors, even something as simple as being sure to weatherstrip and caulk where appropriate – all of these things can help you save on energy.
When it comes to green technology, solar panels are probably one of the first things that come to mind. Surprisingly, solar panels tend to be less effective than some other green technologies when it comes to recouping costs and turning a profit – nonetheless, they’re a useful tool in the green builder’s toolbox.
The benefits of solar panels are obvious – they reduce the amount you’ll have to spend on electricity each year. Depending on where you are, the size of the array you purchase, and a number of other factors, you may recoup the cost of your panels in about 16-22 years, purely by reducing your energy costs.
Exactly how much you’ll save by using solar panels depends on how many sunlight hours you get per year, as well as on your power supplier. No matter who your supplier is, they must buy excess energy produced by your solar panels, as per the Smart Export Guarantee.
For homes that are quite well-insulated, heat pumps can be a tremendous boon. They don’t use fossil fuels to heat your home, instead, they extract heat from the ground, air, or in some cases, a nearby body of water. You might think of them as air conditioners working in reverse – in fact, heat pumps double as air con units.
Heat pumps are quite expensive to install upfront, and they can cost more per year than a condensing boiler. Your immediate instinct might be to say that means heat pumps may not be worth the investment, and you might be right, if it weren’t for the government’s intervention.
The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) offers you quarterly payments over the course of seven years for heating units like heat pumps (biomass and thermal solar units may also be eligible). Exactly how much you get from the RHI varies depending on the system you install, but many applicants get well over £1,000 per year – this can make the heat pump definatley worth the upfront investment.