How energy efficient homes slash power bills and save the planet
Whether you’re building a new home or undertaking renovations to an existing dwelling it makes sense to look for ways to increase the energy efficiency of your project.
With Australian homes responsible for about one-fifth of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions1, boosting your project’s eco-friendly credentials is good for the planet.
Another major plus is that energy efficient homes can help reduce your power bills. While constructing a sustainable home adds around 3.6 per cent to the total cost of a build, it can represent a saving of over 40 per cent in cooling and heating costs2.
To put it in perspective, simply switching to energy efficient light bulbs is said to save the average NSW household about $130 in utility costs a year, while solar panels represent a $470 per year saving3.
For both new homes and renovations, here are some simple tips to green your project.
If possible, plan your living areas to be north facing so they receive light and sun for most the day to minimise your heating requirements.
It is also a good idea to position bedrooms on the southern side of your dwelling so they stay cooler at nighttime and reduce the necessity for air conditioning, especially during hot summer nights.
In addition, from an energy saving perspective, it is advisable to avoid open-plan style design in living areas, as well as very high ceilings, because of the increased heating costs.
Landscape design can also be a relatively cost-effective way to boost energy efficiency, especially in the Australian context where air-conditioning can be costly over summer months.
Planting deciduous trees to the north of a home can provide shade in summer and enable winter sunlight to warm the dwelling. Trees can also be used to create windbreaks and funnel breezes to lessen the need for air conditioning in warmer months.
Trees, shrubs and groundcover plants can also be used around the dwelling to boost shade and conserve water, for instance by selecting vegetation suited to local soil and weather conditions4.
Choosing eco-friendly materials for your build or renovation can also have a significant impact on energy efficiency while helping the planet, with around 42 per cent of the solid waste generated in Australia said to be created by the building industry5.
The most reliable way to ensure the sustainability of your dwelling’s materials is to conduct a life-cycle assessment, which is a professional scientific analysis that looks at all the impacts of a home’s building materials in thorough detail.
However, there are many less technical, and less costly, ways to reduce energy consumption. These include using metal roofs to reduce internal temperatures and reflect sunlight, and utilising materials with thermal mass capacities like stone, concrete and brick to retain heat in winter.
- Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (2006), Help Prevent Climate Change, http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/help-prevent-climate-change
- Brent Fletcher (2016), 5 ways to make your home more efficient,http://www.realestate.com.au/advice/5-ways-to-make-your-home-more-efficient/
- Climate Works Australia (2012), Low carbon lifestyles, http://climateworks.org.au/project/tools-resources/low-carbon-lifestyles
- Sydney Water, https://www.sydneywater.com.au/SW/your-home/saving-water-at-home/garden-and-pool/plant-selector/index.htm
- Caitlin McGee (2013), Materials, Australian Government, Your Home, http://www.yourhome.gov.au/materials