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How eco-friendly is your holiday home?

Carbon aware holidaymakers are increasingly looking for eco-friendly accommodation. And the good news is that it doesn’t take much to make your holiday home a little more ecological. Don’t be frightened by the uber green, specially designed properties out there. You don’t need all your energy to come from solar panels or deep tunnels in the ground and have a circular air system and a lawn growing on the roof.

Instead there are some simple steps that will make even the most impractical holiday home a little bit greener.

  1. Recycling – make sure your holiday home has recycling bins and you leave instructions for your guests to follow so that they recycle their waste appropriately. Set up separate recycling bins for glass, paper, general waste and food. Either inform guests when the local recycling collection is, so they can put the bins out, or ask guests to empty bins at the local recycling plant before they leave. In a truly ecological house, there is no waste as everything is recycled!

  2. Energy saving – reduce your property's carbon emissions by introducing energy saving light bulbs. Not only are they cheaper, but the bulbs will burn longer and brighter than your old light bulbs. Also encourage guests to switch off lights in rooms they aren’t using during their stay.

    • Encourage your guests to wash clothes at 30 degrees when using the washing machine. Heating the water uses the majority of the electricity, so by doing a warm wash instead of a hot wash big savings are possible. Modern detergents are far better at removing stains and repeated tests have shown that washing at 30 degrees Celcius shows no significant reduction in performance for everyday loads.

    • If you want to know exactly which appliances are using the most electricity, purchase an electricity usage monitor or check whether your energy provider offers them for free. Change all your appliances to be A++ as and when they come up for replacement.

    • Don’t leave your television, etc., in standby mode. Devices can use up to 90% as much power in standby mode as when they are on, so it is a serious waste of energy when a device is left constantly on standby. If you keep forgetting, consider purchasing a PowerSafer - a device which automatically cuts power to appliances when they go into standby mode.

  3. Dial up/down the thermostat/air conditioning – lower your heating thermostat by a few degrees and make sure it’s on a timer. Likewise if you have air conditioning, leave instructions for guests so that they use the air conditioning in rooms they’re using and remember to switch it off when they’re out of the house. Think about installing ones that switch off once a window or patio doors are opened.

    • Don’t forget to fit a thermostat to your radiators so that they can be individually controlled. If you’re doing up a room, consider installing under floor heating as it’s more efficient than radiators.

    • If you have the room, consider installing solar panels so that you can generate more of your own energy.

  4. Insulation – make sure your house is properly insulated. 30 per cent of a house’s heat is lost through the roof. Check the insulation layer in your attic and consider changing your windows to double or even triple glazed. Even adding a few draft excluders will help! Keep your eye out for government grants and green initiatives. All the major energy providers provide discounts. Local authorities in the UK are currently offering 50% off loft insulation and cavity wall insulations.

  5. Water conservation – encourage your guests not to waste water. Installing a restrictor on the flow of your shower is one option. A lesser known culprit of water waste is our toilets. Every day millions of gallons of expensively treated potable water is flushed down the toilet. Modern cisterns use around 7-8 litres of water per flush, with pre-1993 models typically getting through 9-12 litres. This is far more than is actually necessary to flush a toilet fully. Installing a hippo bag into your cistern can reduce the amount of water used per flush by 1-3 litres. Even better would be to use rainwater to flush our toilets, but this isn’t practical for most people!

  6. Cleaning detergents – swap all household cleaning products including washing up liquid and washing powder to ecologically safe brands – like ecover.

  7. Shutters/ornings – if you’re property is in a hot country, consider using shutters or ornings rather than air conditioning and encourage guests to shut shutters in the day time to keep out the heat.

  8. Windows and doors – up to 20% of a house’s heat can be lost through windows and doors. Replace windows with double glazing and check for gaps in any old sash windows or wooden doors. Use draft excluders and line curtains.

  9. Boilers – make sure your boiler is still efficient and if it isn’t fit a new one. Having an efficient boiler can save you in the long run from both a cost and heat perspective.

  10. Swimming pools can absorb a lot of water and energy, particularly if heated. Whilst a recycling system can reduce the loss of water, they tend to be energy intensive, so before you rush to install one weigh up the water impact vs energy costs.

    • Fitting your pool with a UV treatment system is a more ecologically sound way to keep your pool clean than having to use lots of chlorine. UV light is not only effective, but also very efficient. It can disinfect water at about one-tenth the cost of other treatment methods.

    • If you’re thinking of putting in a pool, why not consider building a bio-pool. These types of pools mimic natural ponds and are split into two parts – where you swim and where plants grow to clean the water. They have various depths of water to move water thermally instead of using a pump. A selection of special, but usually locally growing, plants is placed strategically to make use of their cleansing as well as oxygenating properties.

    Swimming in a "green" pool is definitely within reach. Both existing and newly built pools can be environmentally friendly with just a few tweaks. There are also many things you can do that reduce your energy impact and also save you money. Here are the most important ones to look at:

    • Your pump - make sure it is on a timer. Reduce your run time in the winter to save on your power bill. Look into a variable speed pump. In California it’s compulsory to have a two speed pump. These pumps run at a lower speed to circulate, sanitise and filter the water.

    • Pool heating – if you need to heat your pool there are two ways that are greener. Electric heat pumps can be efficient in warmer countries where it can ‘steal’ hot air to heat the pool. But the most efficient way is to use solar heating. Regardless of the method of heating you may use - remember that a pool cover is essential for keeping the heat in your pool during the night as temperatures dip.

    • Chlorine generators (salt systems) - If you have a gunite pool, a chlorine generator is a must. These devices take salt and through electrolysis, make sodium and chloride, which is what sanitises the water. Because of the great demand for chlorine in a gunite pool, this investment will pay off in several years. For fiberglass pools, because they use far less chlorine, this added expense is not required.

    • Piping - if you are building a pool, make sure your builder understands hydraulics. In drain-free pools it’s important to find efficient ways to circulate your water in a way that reduces the wear and tear on your pump, and the length of the run-time on your pump system too. A pool with properly sized piping is one of the many small things that show the difference between pool builders.

    • Finally, cleaning your skimmer and filter are also helpful so that your pool can accomplish the filtration and sanitisation without straining the pump.

    These small steps can help you save money and reduce the energy consumption of your pool.

Author: Claire Howard-Jones, marketing director.

Date: March 2012