Entertaining outdoors needn't be a drain on resources. With the right design and products, you can enjoy an energy-efficient environment and the savings that come with it.

Two storey white house with outdoor table and apartment, architecture, arecales, building, condominium, estate, facade, home, house, palm tree, property, real estate, residential area, swimming pool, villa, window, blue
Two storey white house with outdoor table and white umbrella and chairs on grey patio area, glass wall panels next to pool and grass strip and white walls beyond.

Enjoying the outdoors is part and parcel of the New Zealand way of life and homes today are designed to maximise this. With rooms opening up to the outdoors, decks and terraces have become extensions of the living areas.

Not surprisingly, more money is now being spent on landscape design and the creation of outdoor spaces that can be used for most of the year. But there are ongoing costs associated with running and maintaining many aspects of these areas, notably energy costs. However, with a little forethought, these can be kept to a minimum and any savings you make will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to a much healthier environment.

Using a solar heating system for your swimming pool is a particularly efficient way to extend the weeks of the year you can enjoy your pool. And while the initial investment may range from $5000 to $12,000, there will be minimal ongoing costs. You can expect the temperature of your pool to be an average 5° to 8° warmer with such a system.

The Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA) says that compared to heating your pool conventionally, solar heating can return your investment in savings over one to four years.

Other alternatives include heat pumps, which work on a heat exchange system that transfers warm air outside the pool to the pool water.

Gas pool heating is another way to save on energy costs, for both swimming and spa pools. Units used to warm a spa and a pool can share the same filtration and heating systems while still providing separate temperature controls.

Black tiled spa pool looking over black swimming architecture, estate, home, house, property, real estate, reflection, residential area, sky, swimming pool, villa, water, blue, black
Black tiled spa pool looking over black swimming pool to white two level house with large roof overhanging patio area, outdoor furniture, and tiled planter boxes.

As most of a pool's heat is lost through evaporation, you can ensure your pool heating system is maximised by covering it when not in use. EECA says the use of a pool cover can halve overnight heat loss, reduce water loss and minimise cleaning and the use of chemicals. Ensuring your pool is protected from the wind also reduces heat loss and makes swimming a more pleasant experience.

An alternative, simple way to provide extra heat to your pool is to incorporate a black plaster or tile finish. Pool companies in New Zealand say black pools retain the heat of the sun and can enhance the pool temperature by as much as 3°.

Lighting is another area where you can make considerable savings. EECA recommends putting outdoor lights on sensors, so they turn on only when needed. This is particularly appropriate for entrances and pathways around the house.

EECA also recommends Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs). These bulbs use around 20% of the energy of an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light. They also last considerably longer than standard bulbs.

Solar-powered lights are an ideal way to highlight garden features. These fittings are designed to absorb energy from the heat of the sun by day, saving it in an internal battery. During the evening, the energy automatically powers a light bulb. The reduction in wiring installation costs makes these a very attractive option.

Other energy savings can be made by choosingbarbecues and patio heaters that operate on the mains gas supply. This also ensures you will never run out of gas just as you are about to throw the steaks on the grill.

Round black pool in natural setting with stone leisure, pond, reflection, resort, swimming pool, tree, water, water feature, water resources, watercourse, blue
Round black pool in natural setting with stone surrounds and landscaped area.

If you are planning a new outdoor living area, this is an ideal time to consider a built-in gas barbecue. Not only will this ensure the design is in keeping with your home, it will also allow you to have a second outdoor kitchen tailored to your cooking and catering requirements.

Most parts of the North Island have natural gas pipes in the street, making it easy to connect. For those who don't live in the network area, LPG can be considered as an alternative.

Another heating option for evenings or during winter is wall-mounted gas radiant heaters. These are particularly useful for spot heating on a balcony or terrace. Rather than wasting energy heating a large outdoor area, you can direct the heat onto an dining or seating area.

To make your outdoor living area more comfortable in the heat of summer, sun shades are recommended. These will also help to keep the interior of your home cool. Large overhangs also help to keep the heat of the sun at bay in summer.

Story by: Trendsideas

23 Aug, 2004

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