Eco -Building II: Energy Efficiency

Building sustainably can make a difference to the health of our families and the health of our planet. Energy efficiency is one of the key factors in this regard as it saves us money and reduces our CO2 emissions.

Since the 90s Spanish domestic energy consumption has increased by 2,5% a year, although the population has only gone up by 0,4%. This growth is caused by more appliances at home and more cars on the road. Naturally CO² emissions, responsible for the greenhouse effect, are greater too: each of our homes produces 5 tons of CO² per year.

Non renewable energy sources provide over 93% of all energy consumed in .  30% of this is used in our homes – so if we all start being more sensible about the way we use energy, we really can make a difference on a global scale. Using renewable energy sources (solar, wind, water, biomass and geothermal) is a crucial step in this sense, and we’ll look at these in detail in future articles. In the mean time, lets see what CO²-reducing adjustments we can make around the house. If you are building or renovating, check out biocompatible materials that will enhance your insulation. Those who are looking to buy a property should pay attention to the building’s energy efficiency quality, the ideal construction uses renewable energy, has a bioclimatic design that includes optimum orientation and has a grade A energy efficiency label.


  1. Our energy consumption is on the rise, if we continue at our current pace we’ll double world consumption in 33 years and triple it in less than 55.
  2. Housing and transport sectors are the ones that have increased most in recent years.
  3. 82% of energy used in is foreign, and as far as petrol is concerned our dependency is total.
  4. The main source of energy used by Spanish families is petroleum and its derivatives – petrol, gasoil, butane and propane.
  5. Renewable energy sources do not run out when we use them since they replenish themselves naturally. Their environmental impact is minimal.

 TO DO´s

         Electricity: Sign up for the night plan, you get a discount per kWh: use the washing machine at night and save money on the electric bill.

         If you consume over 1.300 kWh/bimestre you’ll be fined with a 0,013 €/kWh  surcharge.

         South-facing windows provide natural daylight, and the sun’s rays help keep rooms warmer in winter.

         Switch lights off when you leave the room.

         Well-planned lighting is key to minimizing energy. LEDs, and compact fluorescents last 8 times longer, provide the same light as incandescent bulbs whilst burning 80% less electricity.

         Shut your tap! An open tap uses 6 litres of water/minute, a shower uses 10 litres/minute. Saving water saves energy since its propelled into our homes by electric pumps.

         Save 40 €/year just by unplugging appliances when they’re not in use.

         Using the spin cycle guzzles less energy than using a dryer.

         Bi-thermal washing machines and dishwashers are connected to the hot water circuit so they save electricity, money and time.

         LCD screens save 37% whilst in use and 40% when on stand by.

         Cars devour 15% of all final energy used in . Cycle or walk.

         Use public transport and help reduce noise and pollution.

A government scheme to encourage upgrading to
energy efficient appliances. If you buy a new washing machine for example from a participating store you will get money back. By swapping a class G washing machine for a new class A model you could save 447€ over the machine’s lifetime, well worth the investment.

All the details about this scheme in Spanish is here.
There´s a map where you can find the nearest home appliance store participating in the scheme here.
Most houses leak air. Holes and gaps in the wall, roof, foundation, doors and windows all results in winter heat loss and summer heat gain. Tight construction, good insulation and high-performance windows are key to achieving a maximum of 30% savings on bills. Energy prices will escalate over the next few years, and insulation is the least expensive insurance policy you can buy.

         A 3cm layer of cork has the same insulation capacity as a metre-thick stone wall. Hemp, natural cotton, flax and cellulose are other bio-friendly insulation materials worth looking into.

         Window treatment: double-glazing means 50% less energy leaks. Wooden frames are better insulators that iron or aluminum. Always look for FSC standard wood from sustainable sources.

         Shading windows in summer protects against overheating.

         Trace leaks by placing a candle near possible culprits (windows, doors, etc.) on a windy day. If the flame moves you need to seal those gaps!

         Close the chimney when not in use.

         Regulate ambient humidity as it affects your sense of warmth.

         If building or renovating, use cannabric, thermal clay (termocilla?) or straw bales instead of conventional bricks.

         Consider initial expenditure on eco materials an investment that is easily recovered in the medium term via reduced energy consumption.

         Ventilation and breathing are equally important as excessive insulation can bring about insufficient air circulation and the accumulation of toxic gases. Avoid materials with closed pores, our homes should act as a second skin.

For more articles in this series, click here

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This post is also available in: Spanish

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