Adding eco features to your home

If you're thinking about making some home improvements, why not consider adding some eco features? Renovating expert Michael Holmes looks at eco features to suit every budget, from wood-burning stoves to starting a wormery.

From harvesting rainwater to installing solar panels, choose an eco-friendly project to suit your objectives for the new year – and your budget.

Fit a wood burning stove

Burning wood is carbon neutral, so it’s a green way to heat your home compared with burning fossil fuels. By fitting a wood-burning stove into an open fireplace, you will reduce energy loss through the open flue. This will in turn reduce draughts and ensure you enjoy more than 80 per cent efficiency, compared with 20 per cent to 25 per cent for an open fire.

The latest room sealed stoves from manufacturers including Jøtul, which draw their combustion air from outside, rather than requiring permanent vents in the room, are even more energy-efficient, especially in a modern, airtight home.

Rainwater harvesting

Collecting and using rainwater around the home and garden helps reduce demand for more reservoirs and sewage plants. In addition to this, it can reduce your water bills too (see savetherain.info for details).

You can fit a plastic tank in your garden (above or below ground) to collect all the rain from your roof or terrace, and use it to water the garden or clean the car. For a small extra investment, you can fit a header tank in the loft, pump the rainwater up to it and then use that water for your washing machine, baths and showers and for flushing theWC. A full rainwater harvesting system can cost £2,500-£4,000 (rainwaterharvesting.co.uk).

A more inexpensive way to harvest rainwater is to collect water from your roof directly into a plastic butt, from only £60-£70. A downpipe diverter can be added to a downpipe to direct rainwater into a butt until it becomes full, after which the rainwater goes back into the ground drains. Diverters cost only £14-£15 (recycleworks.co.uk).

Greywater recycling

You can go further than simply collecting rainwater in order to reduce your water consumption by collecting the ‘greywater’ from your washing machine and bath and then cleaning it on site for re-use (freewateruk.co.uk). Costs range from £200 for a simple filtration system and tank, up to several thousand for a full treatment plant.

Use solar power

Since the introduction of the Feed-in Tariffs (FITs), which pay homeowners an incentive to generate electricity by using photovoltaic (PV) panels (energysavingtrust.org.uk), there has been huge interest in solar power. (Keep up-to-date with the latest tariffs at decc.gov.uk). Yet the cost and returns on PV panels is often less attractive than for a solar thermal system, which generates hot water for domestic heating and washing.

Thermal solar panels are a far less expensive technology, and with the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) due to be introduced in 2012, paying homeowners a tariff for every kWh of renewable energy they use, the payback time for thermal solar panels is set to improve further.

A correctly sized and designed thermal solar arrangement can provide at least half of the hot water requirements for the average household, saving £50-£60 per year. The cost of installing a system on a DIY basis using a kit ranges from £1,500 to £2,500 (heatmyhome.co.uk), while a professionally installed system will cost from £3,000-£6,500.

Start a wormery

An alternative to a composter, a wormery works faster and doesn’t produce any smells. Keeping kitchen waste and treating it at home in your very own wormery will reduce the amount of household waste going into landfill sites, as well as producing valuable fertiliser and top quality compost for your garden. Worm farms are small, compact and portable and cost from only £60-£70 (bucketofworms.co.uk).

In the gallery: The Jøtul I400 Harmony, with decorative plinth and narrow canopy, (H)110x(W)64x(D)51cm, costs £2,248.44. It can be room sealed as it can be outside air connected with an optional accessory.