One of the big benefits of building a new home is that they are more energy efficient, which means you can enjoy big ongoing savings on your running costs.
While all new homes must meet a minimum level of energy efficiency under the Building Code of Australia, some builders are now offering 7-star and 8-star energy efficient homes – and it doesn’t mean you have to add unnecessary expense, or sacrifice the look and feel of a traditional family home.
Constructing an 8-star home will generally only add around 3.6% to the total cost of your build, but it could potentially save you more than 40% in heating and cooling costs. You will also have a more comfortable lifestyle, with a home that is warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
If you’re renovating an older home, it’s also possible to retro-fit many energy efficient features, such as ceiling insulation, water-efficient shower heads, and LED or compact fluorescent lights.
Whether you’re building new or wanting to make your existing home a little greener, here are five simple ways to make your place more efficient:
Insulating the ceiling will help reduce the amount of heat entering your home when it’s hot, and trap the warmth inside when it’s cold.
There are many insulation options to choose from depending on your circumstances or preferences. Some of the most popular choices are wool, loose fill, reflective foil and batts.
Glass fibre batts are an environmentally friendly option because they’re made from 80% recycled material. You can further reduce heat build-up in the ceiling cavity by installing a whirly bird on the roof.
Don’t just open one window or door. A house will cool down more quickly if the airflow can enter at one point and exit at another.
The best cross ventilation is achieved by opening windows or doors on opposite sides of your home, so the breeze can flow freely. In new homes, higher ceilings, wide entry halls, and sliding stacker doors or bi-folds also provide a greater volume of space for air to circulate.
It’s a good idea to install ceiling fans in your living room, dining room and each bedroom, as they are much cheaper to run than air conditioners. Depending on what electricity tariff you’re on, the running cost of a fan is around two cents per hour compared to 52 cents per hour for an air conditioner*.
Australia’s Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme makes it easy to compare the water efficiency of different products.
When choosing your toilet, appliances, showerheads, and mixers, look for fittings that have a high WELS rating. A 3-star rated showerhead only uses around 6-7 litres of water per minute, while regular showerheads can use up to 25 litres per minute**.
Light fittings should also be compact fluorescent lamps or LEDs.
An easy way to reduce heat intrusion on the western side of your home is to install an exterior shade structure. If you are building a new home, another option worth considering is extended eaves. Homes should also be correctly oriented on the block to minimise sun from the east and west.