Whether you want to introduce a few simple changes, or are planning a major extension or home-improvement project, it’s now easier than ever to lower your bills and reduce carbon emissions through your choices of design, materials and appliances. Advances in technology have enabled manufacturers to introduce energy- and water-saving features into mainstream appliances, while reclaimed and recycled materials are no longer only niche products.
Depending on the type of system, underfloor heating tends to be a more energy-efficient option than radiators, as rather than heating from the top of the room down, as radiators do, it warms the lower part of the room first. It also tends to have a lower running temperature, keeping energy bills down. Your choice should be considered at the initial design stages, as it may affect other key elements, such as flooring, which needs to be compatible with underfloor heating. Reclaimed terracotta is an ideal choice.
The air inside your home can be 70 times more polluted than the air outside, according to Ecos Organic Paints. This is because chemicals from objects such as carpets, MDF furniture and cleaning products are released into the air all around us. Ecos’ Atmosphere Purifying paint
is designed to absorb and neutralise these chemicals, and filters them to a concentration as low as one part per million, which is as effective as an electrical air filter. Once applied, it carries on working for five years.
Low impact materials
‘The first thing to consider when designing a greener kitchen is the recycling of the cabinetry that is being replaced,’ says Sam Shaw, head designer and director at Sustainable Kitchens. ‘If you are replacing an old kitchen, consider if any of it can be reused in the new scheme, especially if it is made with real wood. The beauty of wood is, the older it is, the nicer it will look if sanded back and re-sealed. Anything you don’t want to keep should be offered to the Freecycle network.
‘It’s great to give reclaimed furniture a new lease of life, too. Tired dresser bases, for example, make fabulous kitchen islands when painted and fitted with new worktops. However, it’s likely that most of your design is going to be made from new materials.’
So, here are the key things to look for when buying new:
- Always try to source local materials when you can. Why buy a pendant light, hinges or door furniture from abroad when you can buy local, and support UK designers and manufacturers?
- Think about where your worktop is coming from – natural stone is probably shipped from Australia or Brazil, if not Italy. Look at concrete or recycled glass as an alternative, because all the raw materials come from the UK.
- Always buy timber products with an FSC or PEFC classification so you can feel sure that the timber has come from well-managed woodland. Never buy tropical hardwoods.
- Use paint and varnishes that are water based and with low or zero volatile organic compounds.
Energy saving tap design
People typically overfill their kettles, which is costing UK homeowners £68 million per year, according to the Energy Saving Trust. An Insinkerator steaming hot-water tap is the perfect energy- and water-saving appliance to include in a new kitchen, and can also be easily retrofitted in an existing space. If you typically boil 10 cups of water a day for hot drinks, cooking or cleaning, an Insinkerator steaming hot water tap is around 20 per cent more energy-efficient than a kettle — using less power than a 40W bulb.
If you are extending or renovating, consider the advantages of energy-efficient glazing. The Energy Saving Trust has lots of advice on its website (energysavingtrust.org.uk), including looking for the British Fenestration Rating Council (BFRC) rating when choosing your windows. The BFRC is the national system for rating energy-efficient windows — visit bfrc.org for more information.
Milestone Eco Design is Britain’s first producer of totally green and recycled kitchens. Its range includes designs made from PEFC or FSC timber, and this Eco Elite kitchen (below) in English natural ash is crafted from one tree, including the handles. Each kitchen is made from a blueprint to ensure the grain pattern continuity works throughout the unit runs.
Prices start from £260 for a 60cm base unit with door. Other ranges include K.O.R.C, which consists of doors made from recycled materials, such as fridge liners and yogurt pots. The company can also supply tiles and work surfaces made from recycled materials, as well as sustainably sourced wood flooring.
If you are choosing wood for your work surfaces, ensure it’s from a sustainable source. Alternatively, look at the latest materials that include a high recycled content.
As a large consumer of chipboard, Bushboard ensures that all of its material carries the PEFC or FSC certification, guaranteeing that it comes from properly environmentally managed and sustainable sources. It also offers shorter 300cm and 410cm surfaces to reduce over-specification of products, resulting in fewer offcuts and less waste having to go to landfill.