Home Builders Melbourne – Capital Building is an accredited Green living Master Builder in Melbourne. As such we are always keen to provide sustainable designs and features for all our clients projects throughout Melbourne.
With so much information about making your home more energy efficient (Sustainable) the average person could be excused for wondering where to start.
This brief list cuts through a raft of energy efficiency options to provide the most important and easy to implement efficiency solutions.
Here we assume the average Melbourne Home in its relevant climate zone (mediteranian climate zone).
These tips are in order of importance. Hopefully your home already has most of these features and you can use the following as a checklist to see how well your home is performing.
- Roof/Ceiling insulation.
The roof cavity (top of ceiling to underside of roof) should have bulk insulation (batts) at least 90 to 150mm thick, with no gaps or holes. Ceiling exhaust fans should be self-closing and downlights, besides being LED should have a cover over them so the insulation can go over the lights to prevent them poking through the insulation. This will keep the heat gain or loss to a minimum.
To keep the outside heat away, reflective foil should be installed between the rafters when retro fitting or on top of the rafters when re-roofing.
A sealed roof cavity keeps the heat in during winters. Ideally if the roof cavity is able to be vented in summer it will perform better in the hot months.
Warning: do not place insulation over Halogen lights, halogens are inefficient and dangerous. Make sure your electrical wiring complies with current regulations and ensure not to touch it during insulation installation.
- Windows and doors
Double glazed and well-sealed windows and doors have only recently started to become the choice of home owners and builders, in Melbourne, largely due to the introduction of 6 star energy ratings in 2011.
If a home does not have double glazing it can still perform close to or better than a double glazed home.
First step is to seal all window- sashes (the opening part) and doors with seals to stop any air being able to enter or escape.
Internally drapes or blinds in front of windows, with pelmets, greatly reduce heat loss through windows. (A winter solution)
Externally, awnings prevent direct sun from heating the glass which in turn radiates into the house.
Curtains and awnings will also greatly improve the performance of double glazed units. (Summer solution) The suns radiation on windows, when its cooler, is of course a plus.
- External walls of the house should, ideally, be insulated with 2.5 bulk insulation and reflective foil.
Most houses from the 80s on have 1.5 to 2.0 insulation and foil. Retro fitting insulation can be difficult and each house will vary depending on the exact circumstances. Builders can usually advise best solutions.
- Houses on stumps should be at least carpeted and / or be insulated from underneath to prevent drafts and heat loss or heat gain. There are special foil bats designed for this purpose. Again an experienced insulation contractor can advise on where and how.
Same warnings as for roofs apply, with regard to avoiding electrical wiring.
- Old gas space heaters and internal gas hot water services are dangerous and inefficient. Replace them with new complying units as a matter of urgency. Continuous gas or heat pump hot water units are the best hot water options for most single dwellings.
- Use only efficient appliances. The star rating system has encouraged manufacturers to really improve the energy and general resource consumption of most new appliances.
- Use only energy efficient lighting such as LED and fluorescent.
- Solar panels are becoming increasingly good value for money, particularly for larger consumers of electricity such as businesses and large families. Solar power has also curbed power companies ability to increase their prices too much. Every time they do they make solar more accessible.
Solar panels have the added benefit of shading the roof.
- Ventilation is a very important aspect of keeping a home comfortable and preventing stale air, condensation and mould.
Many older homes have vents in the walls near the ceilings. These are great in summer, venting hot air outside or into the roof space. These should, however, be closed off in winter to stop heated air escaping.
Similarly all chimneys should have dampers (metal flap that closes chimney off) to stop heated air escaping.
Roof vents also can help cool a roof cavity in summer but need to be shut off when the outside air is cold, to keep in the warmth.
As newer more efficient homes become more air tight, ventilation is becoming more critical.
Highly efficient homes now require ventilation that provides fresh pre-conditioned air, heated or cooled with the temperature of the exiting air. These are called Heat Recovery Ventilation systems or HRV.
10. The home owner needs to be observant and notice obvious things like lights left on, windows and doors left open, gaps and drafts in the buildings envelope, inefficient appliances, appliances on standby and so on. In the end most of the performance of an efficient home still relies on thoughtful utilisation by the owner.