Reducing our impact on the environment and household running costs, consideration of energy efficiency goes a long way when designing and constructing a sustainable home. All new homes in Australia will now be required to improve minimum performance from a six-star to seven-star rating under the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme, or NatHERS. Playing a large role in the move towards net zero emissions by 2050, NatHERS standards will ensure minimum energy efficiency requirements and will help ease the cost of living for many new homeowners.
While many requirements are a part of the building code, improving the energy efficiency of your home can also reduce energy bills by up to 30%.
Considering energy efficiency from the outset assists in buying a block and deciding on your ideal home layout. Preferencing blocks and floor plans that enable living areas to the north, ensures natural light is abundant in the areas where you spend the most time and takes advantage of the winter sun. Layouts should also minimise windows to the east and west to mitigate the harsh summer sun.
Working with a designer or architect can be extremely beneficial to achieving a good design. As part of their services, your architect will assess your individual site and provide recommendations, taking into account variances in slope, site size and location-specific climatic conditions or requirements such as coastal, bushfire or cyclone.
Heating and cooling contribute significantly to the energy efficiency of a home, in the average Australian home, heating contributes to 30% of energy bills. When designing the floor plan of your new home, consider zoning areas by placing thresholds, doors or air gaps between designated areas, reducing the need to be heating or cooling rooms that are not in use. Additional fixtures such as block-out blinds and the installation of highly rated appliances can further reduce overall heating and cooling running costs.
The thermal comfort of a home is also strengthened through the consideration of ventilation and airtightness. The airtightness of your home can be managed through quality windows, insulation and building materials, minimising air leakage. While managed ventilation through building orientation, windows, doors and exhaust fans can sustain air quality, replace internal air and maintain thermal comfort year-round.
Building materials will contribute significantly to the overall energy efficiency of your home. Give preference to materials that are recycled, reconstituted, non-toxic and farmed sustainably. Opting for double-glazed windows initially will ensure the running costs of your home are lowered, minimising heat loss and gain throughout the year. When combined with quality insulation, the yearly running costs of a home can be reduced by up to 45%.
Efficient appliances and lighting will ultimately save you money on the running costs of your home. When specifying products for your home opt for LED lighting, 6-star energy-efficient appliances and 6-star WELS-rated fixtures where possible. These ratings should all be clearly labelled on products when you are buying.
50% of the energy used in Australian households is through electricity, fortunately, we are also the country with the highest uptake of solar panels. Harnessing electricity through solar panels enables homes to generate their own renewable energy, which can be stored both on and off the grid, in some cases eliminating the cost of electricity. Many states have incentives, programs and rebates to assist with the installation of solar panels.