Let’s take a look at what makes some homes more energy efficient and whether the new house on the block is greener than the others.
Ever visited a relative or friend who still lives in their 1960s weatherboard house and virtually has to stand on top of their heater to stay warm? Or are you despairing at how hard it is to keep your 1980s home cool during a summer heatwave?
In many cases, older homes trap the heat in summer and lose precious warmth in winter. In other words, they are usually inefficient.
New homes, on the other hand, must comply with rigorous standards around energy efficiency. Builders and architects have learnt a lot about house design and how things like orientation and choice of materials can create comfortable homes that don’t cost the earth to heat and cool.
What is an energy efficient home?
Energy efficient homes use less energy to run things like heating, cooling, lighting and appliances – generally because of the way these houses have been designed and built. The appliances used in the home also influence energy efficiency, to learn more read our article on appliance energy star ratings.
Given that heating and cooling are the main users of energy in the average house, these are the two real focus areas when it comes to energy efficiency. A well-designed home, for example, will require a lot less air conditioning over summer – benefitting both the environment and your back pocket.
Houses get star ratings, too!
Just as a fridge or washing machine comes with an Energy Rating Label to show how energy efficient it is, homes today are rated using a star system, too. And these star ratings tell a very positive story about how homes around Australia are becoming more and more energy efficient.
According to the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS), which rates a house’s heating and cooling efficiency out of 10 stars, the average home built in 1990 just scraped onto the chart with one star.1 To maintain a comfortable temperature within, these houses would have been greedy guzzlers of energy.
Before 2003, when the government introduced energy efficiency regulations, less than one per cent of homes scored six stars.1 Today, every new home must attain six stars; some achieving even higher ratings with a few simple upgrades.
Energy saving features in new homes
If you’re planning a build or renovation, there are many things you can speak to your builder or architect about to make your home more energy efficient and help you save on heating and cooling costs into the long term.
An energy efficient new home construction will include things like:
- North facing living areas to capture more sunlight in winter
- Internal doors to close off areas that don’t need to be heated or cooled (i.e. zoning)
- Thermal mass (e.g. concrete, brick) to absorb heat
- Good insulation in your walls, ceiling and floors
- Draught-proofing to close any gaps and cracks
- Double glazing on your windows or thick curtains
- Energy efficient heating and cooling appliances
Many of these things can be retrofitted to your existing home to upgrade its energy efficiency, too.
Each state and territory has specific regulations around energy efficiency. Talk to a local building assessor about how to make sure your plans comply; and you can also apply for a NatHERS star rating to see for yourself just how efficient your new home will be.
The final word
It’s an exciting time to build or renovate a home. With energy efficiency a mandatory consideration these days, know that new homes are highly likely to outperform older homes when it comes to heating and cooling efficiency.
- "Star rating scale overview | NatHERS." http://www.nathers.gov.au/owners-and-builders/star-rating-scale-overview. Accessed 29 May 2018.