Give your home the star treatment
Energy efficient home tips
Guest article | 24 August 2013
Building an energy efficient home has numerous benefits
one of which is comfort and warmth regardless of the season...
Building an energy efficient home has numerous benefits, one of which is comfort and warmth regardless of the season with reduced waste. Whether you're renovating or building from scratch, there are a wide range of energy saving methods and materials you can use to reduce your home's impact on the planet and your pocket.
The overall design of your home can have a big impact on how energy efficient it is. If possible, take these points into account during the design process:
- The longest wall of your home should ideally be aligned east to west, with the main living area pointing north. This allows maximum sunlight exposure in the winter months.
- If the north facing portion of your house has windows covering up to 60 percent of it, the south wall 30 percent coverage, the east 15 percent and the west between zero and the south wall 7 percent, you will maximise capture of sunlight.
- Horizontal shading or awnings can provide shade in the summer months, and these should be primarily focused on the north facing window.
Heating is a particularly challenging element for energy saving homes, because in the winter months it can get very cold. If you've followed the design rules listed above, you'll maximise the amount of heat your home gets during the winter. These additional tips will also help you retain heat:
- Draughts can account for 25 percent of heat loss during the winter, so minimising them is an excellent way to keep your home warm. Seal any cracks in walls, ceilings, floors and doors, unused fireplaces and superfluous vents where heat can escape – particularly during the winter months. However, please check with a professional if you use a gas heater.
- Combining a curtain rail with a pelmet reduces heat loss as these block the gap behind the curtain rail so hot indoor air doesn't come into contact with the cold window and lose heat.
Insulation is integral to regulating your home's temperature in both summer and winter. The majority of the heat your home loses will be through the roof, so if you have to prioritise one area that should be it.
- Learn about the different types of insulation. Generally speaking, you can use bulk insulations, which is much more common, to provide benefits in all seasons. Reflective foil insulation is good for reflecting heat, but can only do so in one direction, so it usually has to be combined with bulk insulation. Check R-values. The “R” value of insulation tells you how well it resists heat; the higher the value the better the heat resistance. These are generally grouped into and “up” value (good for winter) and a “down” value (for summer), so ask about both before buying insulation. As an example, in Adelaide, you're recommended to have a 3.2 R value insulation for your roof and 1.9 for your walls.
Several new and classic materials have huge advantages for an energy saving home, including:
- Eco cement: This is cement with additional insulating properties, making it both a structural and thermal advantage. After over 60 years in existence, its benefits are just being realised.
- Scrap steel: Scrap steel is recycled and made available for cheaper than if you were to buy new. You can make a recycled steel frame for a 186 square metre home from six recycled cars, compared to around 45 trees if you were to make it from wood.
- Plant-based polyurethane rigid foam: This foam is developed from things like bamboo and hemp, and provides superior insulating, moisture resistance and mould protection compared to fibreglass or polystyrene options.
- Straw Bale: Bales have surprisingly effective insulating properties.
GRANTS AND SCHEMES
You may be eligible for rebates and assistance from the government to help you make your home more energy-efficient. For more information please visit the Living Greener website. Companies who run energy rating schemes will assess your property and suggest areas where you could improve your energy efficiency. There is the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme in Australia, for example.
There are a wide range of benefits to constructing an energy-efficient home from recycled or effective materials, and the most obvious of these are financial. By reducing the amount of energy wasted by your household and absorbing the most sunlight possible in winter, you can decrease both your monthly bills and your carbon footprint.
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