Tips to ‘Stand 47’ your existing home and benefit from the same comforts

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The living comforts offered by Stand 47 are almost entirely as a result of the materials with which it was built. Perhaps you are not in a position to build your own Stand 47-type house from scratch. Don’t fret. It is not only possible, but also quite affordable and highly recommended to retrofit your current house to varying degrees, with identical materials and or/systems used to build Stand 47. In this way you can achieve similar if not identical living comforts, without having to build a new house.

In an endeavour to share our knowledge gained from building Stand 47 with as wide an audience as possible, during the next few weeks we will publish some practical tips on how to ‘Stand 47’ your home.

Tip 1: Insulate for thermal comfort

Without a doubt the most important comfort offered by a home relates to indoor temperature. A comfortable home is cool in summer, warm and inviting in winter. A well-insulated house requires less heating and cooling, and therefore uses less energy. Few houses in South Africa are built with the cold winters in mind and are insufficiently insulated. Whether you are planning a complete re-build of your house, a minor renovation or simply want a no-mess, no-fuss solution, there are plenty of options to choose from. So don’t hesitate, insulate!

Here are options of where and how to insulate your home for thermal comfort:

• Insulate the ceiling cavity in each of the rooms, as this is often where the most heat escapes. The thicker the insulation, the higher the insulating properties. Go as thick as you can (100mm will do the trick in a big room). Take a peek inside your roof cavity and if there is already insulation, check that it does not need replacing, or perhaps an extra layer. It’s the fastest and cheapest way to keep a constant temperature indoors.

• If you live in an area that experiences extreme temperatures, external cavity walls can also be filled with insulation fiber when they are exposed during a big renovation.

• If your renovation doesn’t involve breaking any walls or removing, insulation board can be retrofitted to interior walls. • You could also choose to apply a cladded insulation system called ETICS to existing exterior walls, which also facilitates the application of attractive facades and drastically reduces the transfer of heat and cold through walls.

• Ensure all geysers are insulated with a thermal blanket – and also all hot water pipes. Insulation products available in rolls or boards that can be cut to the required size are a simple, affordable and practical way to improve the insulation properties of your home’s walls and ceilings. Another key feature of your home that affects thermal comfort are the windows and doors.

• Windows and doors should seal tightly to prevent cold air coming in and heat escaping.

• Consider replacing existing steel windows with high quality aluminum windows – these are significantly more airtight and require no maintenance.

• Double glazed windows are ideal for areas that get extremely cold, but may not be an option on a tight budget. A highly effective alternative to double-glazed glass is Low Emission glass (Low E), which is coated with an insulating and transparent film. A glass thickness of 6.4mm also offers higher insulation properties than standard 4mm glass, and 6.4mm Low E glass has been very effectively used for double volume spaces with feature windows.

To learn more about some of the solutions mentioned above, you can visit the following sites:

Aerolite insulation: http://www.isover.co.za/pages/homeowner/a_intro.php

Geyser blankets: http://www.isover.co.za/pages/homeowner/g_intro.php

ETICS insulation system: http://goo.gl/CIQQuc

Aluminum Windows: www.inso.co.za or www.wispeco.co.za

Low E Glass: http://goo.gl/DgdHf5

www.mygreenhome.org.za

How to tame your energy-guzzling geyser

If, like some of us that have not yet installed a solar geyser, you were to audit your household’s electricity usage, you may be surprised to find that your electric geyser consumes about 35% of your household’s electricity. With an erratic supply of power from our national electricity provider and the increased tariffs that are imminent, the question being asked is whether it’s even possible to save electricity or money, without having to resort to cold showers.

Well fortunately the short answer to this question is yes. It is possible, and it’s also highly recommended. The way to reduce the cost of heating your geyser is to reduce the amount of energy required to heat the water, by keeping it warmer for longer. And the best way to do this is with insulation. By also insulating the cold and hot water pipes leading to and from the geyser, you can add even more energy savings into the mix. Simply by insulating your geyser and pipes you can save up to 58% of the energy used by your geyser system. It takes a 3kw, 150 litre geyser two hours to heat water to 60 ºC. With a geyser blanket, the water temperature will be kept above 60 ºC for about 6 hours, therefore reducing the number of cycles required to keep the water hot.

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Saint-Gobain Isover, the company that manufacture you Aerolite, have put together the nifty Geyser Pack for this very purpose. The pack consists of a geyser blanket made from 50mm flexible glasswool with a foil facing, five meters of snap-on pipe insulation in one meter pieces, as well as binding tape. These are available for purchase at most large DIY and building supply stores, for approximately R500. The installation video available online also offers step-by-step installation. The insulation is light-weight and the installation is quick and easy. The video also includes important information for first time home builders with regard to R-Value insulation regulations.

All bulk insulation has an R-value to determine its effectiveness. The R-value is the ability of the product to resist the transfer of heat and is the most important factor when selecting a geyser blanket. The higher the R-value the more effective the insulation properties of the product.

In addition to being manufactured according to ISO 9001 Quality Management System standards, the Isover Geyser Pack can add to the reduction of your carbon footprint.  It’s produced from naturally occurring minerals such as silica sand, which is a sustainable resource, and up to 80% recycled glass. And it’s non-combustible for extra peace of mind.

So whether you have sustainable design in mind for your  planned house, or simply want to reduce the heating bills this winter, remember that thermal insulation needs to include your geyser and water pipes.

 

PASSIVE DESIGN & ECO-AUDITS: GETTING DOWN TO ENERGY-SAVING BUSINESS

In light of the ongoing and worsening energy crisis, it goes without saying that energy efficiency should to be a prerequisite in the design and choice of materials of any new build or renovation of a home. Energy efficient building design takes into consideration the surrounding environment, the climatic and natural elements. This kind of architecture is referred to as Bioclimatic architecture: architecture that is connected with nature.

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Image courtesy of Isover.com

Passive Energy Efficiency (PEE) design also takes into account the orientation of the building in relation to the sun path. Appropriate techniques applied to the external building surface (envelope) and its openings will limit solar heat exposure in summer and maximize solar gain in winter. This will include using corridors as natural heat sinks from the sun’s radiation and the angle of the shading over corridors, widows and walls to control the ingress (amount) of the sun’s radiation. Compact buildings also reduce surface area and limits exposure to the elements. Passive design also provides for optimal natural ventilation and airflow for cooling in summer.

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If you’re not fortunate enough to be in the design phase of your dream house and you’re keen to go green (and save on your utilities bill), you can always brief the experts to do an energy audit on your house to see where the money is going, and to find ways of cutting down on usage to reduce costs. Conducting an energy audit can reveal a large potential for saving energy. Implementing the recommendations of an energy audit will usually lead to a saving of a minimum of 6.5% and can save you up to 50% of your home’s annual energy consumption. The cost of an audit can usually be recouped within less than six months. If you can’t or won’t spend the money on an energy audity by an external company, then you can do one yourself.

There are a number of resources available online to help, such as the “How to do a home eco audit” guide on My Green Home  website. This organisation is sponsored by, amongst others, the Green Building Council of South Africa (https://www.gbcsa.org.za/) and offers practical advice and useful tools to reduce not only your home’s energy consumption, but your carbon footprint too. There is also an inspiring case study of the Ngewana family, whose goals to reduce their electricity use by 40%, their water by 20% and the waste they send to landfill by 75% were achieved within 3 months. Watch their journey on Vimeo or go to www.mygreenhome.org.za and watch the full series of webisodes on how they achieved their energy saving goals.

Eskom may have the upper hand for the time being, but  at least we still have the power to change the way we view and consume energy.

FYI – It’s time to refresh your IAQ

It’s estimated that humans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors.

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Even in South Africa, where we spend a significant amount of time enjoying an outdoor lifestyle in summer, come winter we head indoors and stay there.  And with most of our houses having been built before the dawn of sustainable design, we also tend to close all windows and doors, draw curtains, switch on heaters and huddle around fireplaces to stay warm. Often those windows stay closed all winter, only to reopen in spring. By doing so, we happily and often unwittingly sacrifice indoor air quality (IAQ) for thermal comfort.

We accept that winter brings the cold and colds: Runny noses and tight chests that often lead to secondary infections that require antibiotics.  We assume that it’s par for the course. But what if that runny nose and those itchy eyes are not some germ  caught from a sneezing colleague at work, but rather as a result of the quality of the air at home?

Poor IAQ is known to cause headaches, fatigue and lead to concentration problems. It’s also believed to cause and aggravate allergies and asthma.  Some pollutants that compromise the quality of your home’s indoor air can come from a variety of everyday and unsuspecting sources: furniture, cabinets, shelving, paints, adhesives, glue and carpets. The list of culprits is quite long and can include cleaning products, detergents, air fresheners, copiers, printers, fuel-burning appliances such as gas stoves, new books, magazines and treated fabrics. Indoor air pollutants can range from nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dust, moisture and mould.  VOCs are hydrocarbon compounds that evaporate easily. Three-quarters of these VOCs found indoors are aldehydes.

Aldehydes are chemicals often found in glues and resins used in industrial processes to manufacture perfumes, lacquers and paints. Of these, formaldehyde is the most harmful. It’s found in a host of everyday household products: glues and resins in chipboard, wood panels, flooring and pre-pasted wallpaper, varnishes for parquet flooring, paints, shampoos, deodorants and curtains. Not surprisingly, it’s also found in cigarette smoke.

High concentrations of formaldehyde in the air can irritate the mucous membranes of the eyes and respiratory system, resulting in watery eyes, runny nose, dry throat and cough. And in 2011 the US Department of Health classified formaldehyde as a Group 1 carcinogen i.e. it is a known chemical that can cause cancer in humans.

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With this knowledge of how important good indoor air quality is for a family’s health, it’s a relief to learn that Saint-Gobain Gyproc has developed an innovative new product that actively works to purify indoor air. And it’s nothing short of pure genius.

Activ’Air is a patented plasterboard that improves indoor air quality by permanently removing formaldehyde from the air. Formaldehyde comes in contact with the board through typical air flow, and then chemically reacts with a special additive contained in the plasterboard. Once captured in the board, the formaldehyde is converted into inert compounds and is not released back into the air.  Being inert, these compounds won’t react chemically with any other materials, and are safe for humans and animals.

Activ’Air is the first plasterboard ever that has the ability to capture, convert and store VOC’s, and has a projected lifespan of up to 50 years. Testing by the independent ECO Institute in Cologne and the EUROFINS laboratory group in Denmark, prove that Activ’Air reduces aldehyde concentration by 70%.

The great thing about Activ’Air is that is accessible to all: it comes in standard 12.5mm plasterboard, 12.5mm fire resistant board (Gyproc FireStop) as well as acoustic ceiling board (Gyptone). Even if you’re not currently in the process of building or designing your dream house, you can still improve the IAQ of your home by simply replacing your existing ceiling system with Activ’Air.

Now that‘s a breath of fresh air.

For more information visit www.gyproc.co.za/systems/gypwall/activair/