Green savings in small spaces

Greening your home or commercial space has significant long-term advantages. PHOTO: Corbis Images.

The general perception is that going green is costly. The reality is that there are many options to choose from. Some of these options are quite inexpensive and may be worthy investment considerations.

Small spaces such as apartments, townhouses and cluster homes can also easily be retrofitted, says architect Buhle Mathole of Kabu Design Architects.

  1. The first important thing to consider is lifestyle. Things to be considered include the following:
  2. Number of people living in a townhouse or flat,
  3. Their occupations,
  4. Daily routines,
  5. How many people are at home during the day, and
  6. Cooking methods.

Click here to calculate your energy rating.

Appliances usually take up significant space; however, there are great options to consider when you live in a small space. These include Microwaves and Induction cooker hobs instead of a conventional stove or hobs. A Light Wave Oven combines a microwave function, grill option and conventional oven functionality to significantly reduce cooking times and save energy.

Buhle has found that while many complexes are encouraging their home owners to recycle and practice energy efficiency, many clients still have questions about building green and what they can do to become sustainable.

“Cost is always a big question with the perception being that it is expensive. We always try to explain that there are different scales of greening. Generally speaking, building green adds between 5% and 10% to building costs. But, the way I see it, energy and water consumption is lower, which will result in lower utility bills, which will ultimately make up the costs. Some costs are recovered fairly quickly for instance, using gas for cooking on a daily basis saves a huge amount of electricity and can bring that number down,” she says.

Consider these valuable electricity-saving tips for small (and big) spaces:


  • Make it a habit to open curtains every day to allow natural light in, reducing the need to switch on lights.
  • When choosing paint use lighter colours. Covering walls with dark colours can increase the amount of artificial light required for the room and hence increase the amount of lights required and the output in wattage of those lights, both increasing electricity usage significantly.
  • Use heat reflective paint which makes rooms warmer. When properly applied, heat reflective coatings can reduce the amount of heat that penetrates the building. By reducing the amount of heat that enters the building, the load on the air conditioner is reduced thereby increasing the energy efficiency of a building.


  • In winter keep the doors and windows closed, use thick curtains to keep the heat in, block draughts with sealing tapes, and use insulation in the roof.
  • Instead of using a heater, try installing a closed combustion fireplace that burns renewable energy such as wood waste.
  • And, of course, the old trusted method of keeping warm– good thick blankets.


  • As far as reducing electricity from appliances around the laundry, stove and outlet sockets. 49M’s advice is to shrink the pile of ironing by ironing only essentials.
  • Avoid using the tumble dryer – the sun is very good at drying clothes, towels and sheets.
  • Don’t use hot water In the washing machine. Put it on the coldest setting and use a liquid detergent as this absorbs more easily in the colder water than the powder versions – it is good for clothes as well.

About 49M
The 49M campaign was launched in March 2011 as a response to the country’s constrained power system. The campaign encourages individuals and corporates to lead energy smart lifestyles thereby saving the planet and their pockets. South Africans are encouraged to join the campaign by visiting to pledge their support. Go to the 49M Facebook page or tweet @49MillionSA.

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