Rehabilitation for the home

by Nicky Gibbs [email protected]

Nicky Gibbs, together with her husband Richard, created RIMINI Projects. They offer project management services for all types of building projects, as well as promoting sustainable living solutions here in the Algarve and in the UK.

As we approach the winter and low season in Portugal, many of us are planning maintenance and renovation projects. Last winter was a reminder that benign as the Algarve climate is, it can bite occasionally, revealing all sorts of flaws in our homes, but particularly those related to damp.

Whilst economics means that most of us are avoiding capital outlay if we can, keeping our home, or indeed any type of building up together is essential; ensuring its appeal, whether for rental or resale, lowering the cost of maintenance and reducing annual energy cost and consumption

Taking a greener approach to your renovation, whether large or small, will save you money in the short, medium and long-term.

So here are our recommendations to keep in mind if you are planning a renovation:

Insulate, insulate, insulate! I know it’s not exciting and I bang on about it in almost every article I write! We may well live in a country with one of the kindest climates in the world, but insulation is as important in warmer climes as it is in colder ones. Not just keeping warmth in, but out too and these days existing buildings can be “wrapped” fairly easily.

Research suggests that 50 per cent of the heat (in winter) in a typical Portuguese home goes straight out the walls, windows and roof. Even if it’s only half-way accurate, you could be wasting 300 Euros a year, or more. Think too about updating and insulating pipes (if they are metal) to improve water flow, prevent leaks and improve heat retention.

Install double or triple glazing: Where there are windows, there is the potential for air leaks. Double-glazing will help reduce them. If your budget stretches to triple glazing and low-energy (low-e) glazing, then do – the extra spend will make a big difference, also helping reduce solar gain in summer.

Consider renewable energy systems: Solar is the most obvious renewable energy to take advantage of. Solar thermal systems can provide a significant contribution in terms of the hot water in the home; photovoltaic (PV) systems can generate some of your power, or be sold back to the grid as well as heat swimming pools; ground-source heat pumps and geothermal provide heating and cooling by harnessing the ambient temperature of the ground or air; biomass boilers powered by waste or recycled material provide heating and hot water.

BUT, before you consider any of these systems, insulate, insulate, insulate! If you don’t, although your energy costs are reduced, consumption won’t be!

Lighting: The most inexpensive way to reduce energy consumption for lighting is to replace incandescent light bulbs with low energy ones; increase natural light – if you’re updating windows and doors, consider increasing their size and/or number, but carefully consider their position, and shading in summer. If you want to go the whole way, an LED lighting system, whilst expensive will have a significant impact on reducing energy consumption.

Kitchens, bathrooms and living rooms: If you are planning a new kitchen, install ‘A’ rated energy efficient appliances and if your budget permits, a hot-water tap – much less expensive to run than a kettle!

In the bathrooms, install low/dual flush toilets, and low-flow taps and showerheads, but compensate by increasing water pressure. In the living room, update the TV, DVD/Blu-Ray players – current models are highly energy efficient, even on standby!

And wherever you are able, use natural materials and VOC-free paints.