Friday, November 20, 2009

How green is your home?

I don’t mean green just by means of the numbers of potted plants, though that is important as well. Let’s talk a bit about using electricity and water to as minimum a level as possible, apart from efficient garbage disposal, pest control and similar without using too many chemicals.

When you select a new house, first study the wind patterns. Throw open all the windows and note the wind direction and velocity. If you’re one of the many who’ve selected a house in a building hemmed in by other buildings, chances are you won’t have much to say with respect to views and wind. Hence, whatever breeze floats in should be maximised to give you the utmost in comfort and usability.

If you’ve purchased a flat, you can easily make a few adjustments such as reducing the width of a particular window which lets in the most air. There is a principle called Venturi Effect, in which a narrow opening placed in the direction of a gust or a moderately strong breeze, causes a pressure situation at the opening itself, hence causing the incoming breeze to gush in with force. The point is not the force of the wind, but that the Venturi Effect causes more breeze to come in due to the pressure build-up.

Here’s a tip: in place of opening the shutters to the widest, try sliding your window shutter leaving only a slit open. If you have wooden shutters, try tying them together leaving only a narrow slit open in between. This last is a better deal for those living on rent and who can’t modify the structure in any way.

Alternatively, try fitting a simple screen comprising a wooden frame and a thin cotton cloth. This is used in some cultures living in hot cultures and where cooling breezes are hard to come by. Simply use this screen by periodically spraying the cloth with water; do not make it dripping wet, moisten it. When any breeze ventures in, the wet screen keeps dust particles out and cools the breeze when it comes in, so do enjoy clearer air from this particular window.

Pest-control is the best option to begin with. Try this when the house is totally empty, or just before you move stuff into your wardrobes and cabinets. If you’re moving stuff from a previous place that may have been infested with pests, wait to call the pest control person till after all the stuff is put into shelves and cupboards. This way, you’ll ensure that any new arrivals are dealt with at the earliest.

Once the pest control is done, and depending on what kind you got done, the house should be free of pests for at least three months. In the meantime, get rid of mosquitoes and flies by burning neem agarbattis in a strategic corner of the room every evening. Close all the windows and doors and switch the fan on when you do this, so that the smoke permeates every surface. Flies can be gotten rid of by soaking neem leaves in a plate of water, especially at the dinner table.

Once a week, spray the insides of your cabinets with a bug spray, to remove all breeding sites.

Electricity usage:
These are basics, but please follow them through. Do not forget to switch off appliances the moment you leave the room, use hot water geysers only till such time that you need that much hot water, and do not leave your computers on forever. The appliances taking up the most power are computers, geysers, microwave ovens and such.

If the house is your own, you could install dimmers for your light switches. A great idea to save power is to install CFLs instead of the usual light bulbs. They last longer and cut down on consumption.

Water usage:
In the light of the recent water cuts imposed on the city, it is more than a crime to waste even a drop of water. Storing water is also illegal, but that is the only way we can get through the day if we get water only for a few hours every day.

Some high-end building constructions install household taps with in-built sensors so that water wastage is minimised. Other ways of saving on water is to use waste water well. Dishwater can safely be used for watering plants, since the chemicals in detergents are broken down in the soil. The same applies to water left over from soaking clothes in soapy water. Alternatively, reuse stale water in the toilet or for a cold bucket bath.

Try not to wash your car, kitchen surfaces, bathroom tiles etc. with running water. Instead, spray the surface with a spray bottle, wet a big sponge and pour a few drops of liquid detergent on it. Use the sponge to clean the surface and wipe off the soap with a dry cloth. If there is a film of soap left behind, wipe off the same with a newspaper.

Yes, they’re not very nice, but do have bucket baths, not shower ones.

They’re not just pretty, they’re pretty useful. Put up such medicinal types like basil and kadipatta so that you can brew the same in your food and when making cough medicines. Put a small plant in the kitchen window so that it purifies the air a bit when you cook. Try not to have plants in the bedroom window if your bed is very close by – you should not be breathing in the CO2 coming out of the plants at night.

When you’re looking for manure for your plants, include the leftover parts of vegetables that you cut but cannot use, such as the stalks and rotted parts. Put these in the middle layer of the soil. Also, tea water and water left from soaking meat are good for watering plants.

Air purifying:
There’s no real need for airconditioners, unless you have very little ventilation available. But apart from fans and ACs, you can purify the air available to you by means of incense sticks. Also try keeping a bowl of potpourri. Like I said before, use neem agarbattis and also dhoop sticks – they keep mosquitoes away and purify the air. Even a neem water spray around the house once a day will keep the air pure.

What are your good ideas on the subject? Do write back with your suggestions.