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7 Ways to Build a Greener Home: From Big Ideas to Easy Updates

Build a greener home - Eco luxury Boca do Lobo furniture
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If you choose to build a greener home it will not only be incredibly rewarding but it will also lower your bills, reduce your carbon footprint and leave you with an energy efficient home.

You can build a green home from scratch by adopting a fabric first approach at the design stage, or you can make your existing home greener with some inexpensive updates.

No matter what your focus is, the end result should remain the same - to create a home that is as environmentally friendly as possible. Here are seven ways you could make your home greener.

(MORE: Inspiring Eco Homes)

1. Build With a Fabric First Approach 

Build a Greener Home

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A fabric first approach is considered more sustainable than renewable energy systems because it doesn’t require you to install anything - it’s the building doing the work for you


A fabric first approach when self building is when you invest in the building's envelope to ensure high quality insulation, airtightness, solar gain and natural ventilation are factored in at the design stage.

You can even build to the strict criteria of Passivhaus standards if you want to ensure your home is as airtight as possible.

2. Insulate Your Home Well 

Insulating a loft

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Getting the insulation right in your home will increase its energy efficiency, which in turn uses less energy. 

For a self build it’s vital to adopt a fabric first approach and keep your home as airtight as possible, but any homeowner can make insulation updates. 

You can add cavity wall or solid wall insulation to older houses if they don’t have it and it’s always wise to ensure your loft is well insulated so heat can’t escape from above.

Under the Green Homes Grant you even can get up to £5,000 towards improving your home’s insulation.

(MORE: How to Insulate a Loft)

3. Use Natural Materials 

Exposed Stone Wall with Mortar Mix in House

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There are great sustainable benefits when building with natural materials as they help reduce the need for man-made resources which often require a lot of packaging and transporting.

The best way to build greener is to use wood, stone, recycled glass, reclaimed bricks and even straw! 

Natural materials to consider:

Look For Reclaimed Materials

To help reduce building waste look for reclaimed materials and items such as bricks, tiles, doors, stone and wood. Recycling older materials will reduce your impact on the environment 

  • Stone - working with stone is a great way to include natural materials into your project
  • Wood - one of the most sustainably sourced materials is wood. It's a fantastic renewable source and has minimal carbon emissions. Plus wood is versatile and strong
  • Straw - believe it or not building with straw is easy, it provides great insulation, is cheap, strong and long lasting - if maintained well it should last more than 200 years!

(MORE: Timber Frame)

4. Install Renewable Energy Systems 

Renewable Heat Incentive: Everything Explained

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Renewable energy is energy that comes from the earth's natural resources such as the sun, water and wind. These can be used to power your home to create electricity, hot water and heat.

Here are some of the best renewable energy systems to consider:

  • Solar Panels use the sun’s energy to heat your home. You can get solar panels that provide heat, electricity or hybrid versions of the two
  • Heat Pumps. There are two main types of heat pumps: ground source heat pumps, which extract energy from the earth, and air source heat pumps that use air. A heat pump will take heat from one source and transfer it to another (through a heat exchanger) and into your heating system
  • Biomass boilers are a good reliable way to heat your home using natural wood pellets or logs. They offer net-zero CO2 emissions and fuel prices that are very stable and not subject to global oil price increases.

(MORE: Renewable Heat Incentive)

5. Apply for The Green Homes Grant 

Green Homes Grant

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The Green Homes Grant enables homeowners to apply for funding to make certain green home improvements. These improvements can help drastically improve your home's energy efficiency and lower your heating bills.

Eligible improvements include:

  • Insulation (such as loft, cavity wall or floor insulation)
  • Low carbon heating (such as an air source or ground source heat pump, biomass boiler or solar thermal panels)
  • Energy-efficient replacement doors (replacing single glazed or solid doors installed before 2002)
  • Draught proofing
  • Double/triple glazing (only where replacing single glazing)
  • Heating controls

You can see the full list of eligible improvements at GOV.UK

6. Reuse Rainwater 

Harvesting Rainwater - water butts

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By collecting rainwater and reusing it, you will reduce your need for using excess water from the mains. 

If you don't want to spend a lot, you can install a water butt in your garden for as little as £30 and use the collected rainwater to irrigate your garden. 

If you are after something more substantial, you could go down the route of installing a rainwater harvesting system which could allow you to collect enough rainwater for car washing, toilet flushing and even clothes washing.

7. Go Greener with These Simple and Inexpensive Ideas

LED Lightbulbs

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There are lots of easy ways to help make your home more energy efficient without breaking the bank or undertaking serious building work. 

  • Switch to LED bulbs - LED light bulbs will help you save on your electricity usage and bills. They consume less energy than conventional light bulbs yet they are just as bright
  • Draught-proofing - seal up cracks and gaps with foams and tapes around windows and doors to help keep heat in and save energy
  • Insulating pipes and hot water tanks - use pipe wrap or foam pipe sleeves to insulate water pipes and wrap an insulating jacket around a water tank to keep water warmer for longer
  • Smart thermostats - save how much energy you use by allowing a smart thermostat to automatically adjust the heat depending on the usage and outside temperature
  • Turn your thermostat down - even if you are unable to do any of the above, by just turning your thermostat down by 1 degree you can reduce your energy consumption.

(MORE: The Best LED Light Bulbs)

Katie Corcoran

Katie is an experienced journalist and has renovated two houses including a 200-year-old cottage and a 1950s semi.