Over the last 10 years, Australian local governments have implemented systems like BASIX (in NSW) to encourage homeowners to design and build new homes that are energy efficient as well as thermally comfortable to live in. But what about new homes that seem to slip through the cracks on compliance, or the vast majority of Australian homes that are not new? How can these homes be altered to enhance their energy efficiency, thermal comfort and overall functionality? Well, its actually not that difficult, you just need to follow some important tips.
1. Install insulation
If you can only afford to spend a minimal amount on improving the energy efficiency of your home, spend it firstly on insulation. A house loses heat initially through the ceiling, then the walls and lastly the floor. So always insulate your ceilings first for the most noticeable increase in internal warmth and energy savings.
2. Reduce open plan spaces where possible
Reduce open plan spaces to limit warm or cool air escaping into areas that are not frequently used or outside. This includes:
Fixing drafty doors and windows with new seals
Disconnecting living spaces from sleeping spaces (so you are only heating what you need to)
3. Ventilation solutions for hot, damp and cold spaces
If you have rooms that are either oriented to the west or south, or always seem to be hot, musty, damp or cold, there are many things you can do to fix these problems.
Improve natural flow-through ventilation to remove hot air. Work out where the summer breezes on your site are coming from. Are there windows on this side of your house? Positioning window openings correctly will help cool your house in summer, but be careful not to create an entry for the harsh western sun that will overheat the space.
Mechanically ventilate mouldy and stuffy spaces to create healthy and fresh rooms
If you can’t naturally remove hot air from your new home or renovated home, try mechanical ventilation. There is a product called a Solar Air Module (SAM) that is a natural, solar powered, air-moving system. It ventilates thermally uncomfortable spaces, saving on heating and cooling bills, while ensuring a healthy indoor climate. The SAM costs nothing to run and if your home has been planned correctly you can use the system in place of a standard air-conditioner for the entire house.