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10 tips for having a sustainable country house

It’s a concern that has dominated the past 12 months and looks set to dominate the headlines for the next few years and yet the subject of climate change can feel all too overwhelming. While the real fixes will require governments of the world to unite, there are some changes that we can all make at home to do our bit. Here’s our guide on how to make a house more sustainable.

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Insulation

Insulating the walls, floors and upgrading the windows to double (or even triple) glazed versions are the single most effective method of cutting down on unnecessary heat loss. However, where houses are listed, it’s not always possible to make changes: cavity wall insulation in older buildings is impossible and some conservation officers don’t approve of the glare that double glazed windows create, even if they are made of timber and to the highest standards. An alternative is to hang thermally lined curtains at the windows and over the doors alongside wearing extra layers! Thermostats should be set at 19 degrees, according to the Committee on Climate Change, an independent body which advises the Government.
 

Energy

Sourcing green energy isn’t as easy as everyone would like it to be—factors play a big part including location and the size of garden. Small-scale wind power is the cheapest source of Green energy but requires hurdling challenging planning permissions, works best when exposed to south-westerly winds and is more suitable to business rather domestic demands. Solar panels are another better option for smaller houses but require battery storage for the days when the sun isn’t shining. Meanwhile, you can switch to a Green energy supplier but in reality that means that you’ll still be taking supplies off the National Grid with the provider matching the amount used buying from a renewable source.

Some country house owners are turning to alternative sources of energy in the home such as heat pumps. There are three types: air source, water and ground source—the latter being the most efficient but costing the most to install and requires owning a large plot of land to accommodate all the pipework. Biomass energy is another option although, again it's not cheap to install and relies on the wood chip being sourced with Green credentials.
 

Household paint

Easily one of the most toxic materials in a home is the paint used on the walls—and don’t be fooled into thinking that a premium paint brand is environmentally friendly just because of its packaging. Do more research. Manufacturers, such as Edward Bulmer Natural Paints, are taking things back to before the petro-chemical world when paint was made with naturally occurring binders as opposed to by-products from the process of refining crude oil.
 

Furniture

The manufacturing of new furniture uses up precious natural resources, so many are turning instead to upcycling old pieces or checking out the local sale rooms, auction houses and antique shops. Not only is this route likely to be cheaper and more sustainable, but often the furniture will be better made and last longer too.
 

Be appliance aware

Choose only those which demonstrate a high energy efficiency rating (B or above) and make good use of them (for instance, only use the dishwasher on a full load).
 

Get rid of toxic cleaning products

Use natural cleaning products which reduce harmful effects on wildlife and animals (Ecover and Method are among the easily available brands to choose).
 

Buy sustainable bedding

Be aware that chemicals used to fire-proof mattresses and furniture are harmful for you, not only the environment. Companies such as Naturalmat specialise in using wool and natural materials and fireproofing them with essential oils instead. Meanwhile woollen duvets are gaining ground as they are organic, chemical free and hypoallergenic. Choose organic cotton or bamboo for bedsheets which don’t encourage the use of insecticide.
 

Harvest rainwater

Install water butts at the end of gutter drains to collect rainwater to use in the garden during the dry or summer months.
 

Make use of tech

Smart home technology can help reduce wastage in a home. Not only will a smart thermostat (controlled via an app) help to regulate the heating when not in the house but systems are becoming increasingly more sophisticated. Passive Infrared Sensors set up in rooms can establish the pattern of life of the occupants and adjust the heating and lighting requirements based on usage. They can even factor in the ambient body heat of a room in order to establish the correct temperature.
 

Country houses for sale with sustainable potential

Eco-friendly house near Lewes, Sussex
A house with Green credentials already in place, Branden Farm is eco-friendly five-bedroom modern home which stands in 12.5 acres of open countryside.
£1.25m through Winkworth Lewes



Rural holiday let business in North Kime, Lincoln
With a focus on taking fewer flights and more holidays the UK, owners of holiday homes are hoping to see more and more business over the coming years. Here is an attractive holiday let business of a five-bedroom house and four-bedroom barn with a further two-bedroom annexe all set in 3 acres of Lincolnshire countryside.
£1m through Winkworth Sleaford



Barn conversion in Calne, Wiltshire
Anyone wanted to convert their energy source to a heat pump needs to have a decent-sized plot to be able to accommodate the pipework and access. This well-designed five-bedroom barn conversion in a hamlet outside the town of Calne, in Wiltshire, has plenty of outside space.
£725,000 through Winkworth Devizes


 

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