Open the door to sustainable living

Open the door to sustainable living

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Everyone seems to be talking about sustainability, but what can you do to make your house "greener"? Expat Mortgages shares some tips.

From 525 million euros in new government subsidies for home insulation, to an experimental eco-renovation of a 1733 Amsterdam canal house - these days everyone seems to be talking about sustainability. We might not be able to do much about building new wind farms or cleaning up heavy industry, but there are things that individuals can do to contribute to cutting our overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Worldwide, the earth is now around one degree warmer than it was in 1880, and the annual mean temperature in the Netherlands increased by 1,7 degrees celsius between 1906 and 2015. But the coronavirus has proven that we can live and work in different ways, reducing our air and business travel, and showing us the possibilities (and challenges) in our own homes.

“We believe that everybody is willing to help and contribute to solving the problem ,but probably a lot of people ask themselves: where do I start and will it cost me a fortune?” says Fabrizio Brancacho Taico, a new expert in sustainability that recently joined the team of Expat Mortgages.

“While some tools can help restructure people’s habits and ways of living, there are a lot of ‘one-time’ changes people could make to contribute to a more sustainable world, for example when it comes to their home.”

Whether you are prepared (and financed) for a big change or just a few smaller ones, here are some ideas to consider.

Solar panels

More and more private individuals are equipping their homes with solar panels, and even if they are listed buildings, this is now possible. A typical cost is around 5.000 euros (for a saving of 500 euros and 1650 kg of CO2 per year), you can reclaim the VAT costs and get cheap government loans if you also carry out another energy-saving measure. Meanwhile, any extra energy you produce can be sold back to the grid.

The shell: Walls, roof, floor and windows

Cavity wall insulation will set you back 5.000 euros (check if you need planning permission), but it will also save 500 euros and around 1,550kg of CO2 per year. Most houses are built with an inner and an outer wall, which can be filled with special insulation - helping to stop it from leaching 20 percent of its heat simply through the walls.

Roof insulation will cost a similar amount (and this is something you should always check when buying a home because houses built before 1965 were generally not insulated at all!). There are all sorts of materials that can be used, such as wool, wood shavings and hemp fibres, which also help with moisture regulation.

Floor insulation typically costs less, at around 1.500 euros for the average home, and can save 150 euros and 650 kg of CO2 per year. You might notice the difference instantly with warmer feet. And don’t forget your windows, as there are all kinds of high quality, insulative glass available now. For all these measures, houses vary wildly and it is worth asking a building expert for advice.

Heat pumps

There is some debate about heat pumps, but it’s important to note that it is only worth looking at this option if you have already brought your home insulation up to a very good standard. A pump, which works by extracting heat from the outside air and transferring it to the house (or vice versa), typically costs 4.500 euros and saves 210 euros and 1200 kg of CO2 per year. You may need a permit, and there are rules about how close it can be to a neighbour’s house (to limit noise pollution).

Other tips

Your mum probably told you to turn off the light when you left your room, and luckily there are all sorts of gadgets nowadays to automate electricity use as part of a smart home. Think about smart thermostats on radiators, energy-saving lights, or plugs and devices that don’t need to use up electricity on “standby” mode.

Mortgage lenders offer extra incentives for you to “green” your house, and if you plan to do this you can borrow 106 percent of the value rather than the normal 100 percent. There are various government subsidies and funds for individuals or for home associations (VVEs) if they are planning to carry out several greening measures.

The Expat Mortgages team is ready to help you discover the possibilities and advise you on what best fits your specific situation. Schedule a meeting with one of their consultants and let them help you contribute to a more sustainable world!

Fabrizio Brancacho Taico


Fabrizio Brancacho Taico

Fabrizio was born in Lima, Peru, and came when he was 5 years old to the Netherlands with his mother. He grew up in a small town called Hoorn and...

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