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11 Simple improvements to make your home sustainable and save money

It's such a hot topic these days that manufacturers, architects and engineers are all trying to use and develop the most sustainable ways of living. We all know we have to use less energy in a bid to lower the world's carbon emissions, but natural resources are also limited and we need to start living in a way that doesn't exasperate these finite supplies. There's plenty you can do in your home to begin living sustainably – many simply require a change in practice, rather than vast sums of money. Many will actually save you money.

Insultate

Insulating your roof-space, floors and cavity walls will slash your heating bills and lessen your demand for oil, gas or electricity – all good for your sustainability. There are a number of government schemes to make it more affordable, particularly if you are retired. Get some good, thermal curtains to stop draughts in the winter and seal gaps around doors.

Double up

Most houses are equipped with double glazing, but if yours isn't then consider getting it done. You lose a massive amount of heat through single-glazed windows so although the cost can be relatively high to double-glaze an entire house, it could save you money in the long run. It will also cut down on noise pollution. Some manufacturers also offer triple-glazed windows if you really want to boost sustainability.

Power up

Producing your own power is the one massive step you can take to make your home sustainable. It's no longer a far fetched idea either, with easily installed solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal piles all options. It will shield you from fluctuating energy costs and you can even sell excess power to the National Grid.

Save water

Make use of the one resource that does actually fall from the sky by using water butts to store rainwater. You can use this for watering the garden in drier times and washing the car, but you might also consider forking out for a water recycler, which can turn your rainwater into a quality suitable for washing and even drinking.

Energy savers

When buying new appliances, check their energy certificate and choose ones that use less energy. The rating is easy to see and colour-coded. An energy efficient fridge is perhaps the most important because it's on all the time and can be power-hungry. Start by buying energy-saving lightbulbs when the old ones run out.

Starting afresh

If you're planning a new home, choose natural materials like stone and wood, and opt for local products that haven't had to be transported too far. Orientate your house to make the best use of the sun's energy as it moves across the sky and speak to your architect about all the sustainable options you can install.

Compost

Don't throw your peelings and other organic waste into your normal bin to be dumped in a landfill. Start your own compost heap and add anything organic, apart from meat and dairy. Add dry leaves, newspaper and cardboard to stop the compost getting too wet and slimy. You can then use it for growing your own fruit and veg (see below) or for potting flowers.

Thirsty work

Choose taps, toilets and other plumbing fittings carefully and opt for water-saving varieties. You can also buy additions to older toilets to make them use less water when you flush, so you don't have to spend lots on this. Low-flow taps and showers are also reasonably priced. Fix leaks in any water pipes quickly so as not to waste water and money.

Ditch the dryer

Use clothes horses and take advantage of any dry weather to dry your clothes outside. Tumble driers can use a lot of energy and cost a fortune as a result. If you don't already have one, you could build a covered area where you can dry clothes even when it's raining.

Grow

Turn some – or even all – of your garden into a space for growing fruit and vegetables. Plan your garden carefully so that you have things growing all the time and preserve and store your produce so it lasts all year. Invest in chickens for eggs or meat, and if you get serious and have the room you could move on to larger livestock.

Repair

If something breaks then fix it – don't throw it away. It's amazing how often people dump things because of a minor break or bit of damage. You will learn new skills by repairing or “upcycling” old furniture and it could even turn into a lucrative hobby. Repairing is sustainable – replacing often isn't.

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About the Author

Robert Macintosh is a full-time journalist based in Northern Ireland. He has accumulated eight years’ experience since 2005, writing for magazines, newspapers and websites in various countries. Macintosh has specialised in politics and entertainment. He has an honours degree in social anthropology, an NVQ level 4 in newspaper journalism and an AS Level in photography.