Light Home reader Serena Wilson contacted us with the question: “How much does it cost to build a fully energy efficient home? With all the fancy stuff?”
Putting a price on building an eco home is near impossible – how long is a piece of string? So, we’ve taken it back to basics to explore what an energy efficient home is, and to give an overview of the kinds of things you can do to get one.
What is an energy efficient home?
Put simply, an energy efficient home is one that’s designed to make the most of natural heating, cooling and lighting.
It will use efficient design principles and building materials to reduce the need for appliances such as lights, heaters, fans and air conditioning units.
The result should be lower energy bills, as well as a more eco-friendly home with less greenhouse gas emissions.
Energy efficient basics
The right design in the first place is the only way to get a truly energy efficient home.
The orientation, location, layout, insulation, glazing, ventilation, draught-proofing, shading and landscaping all come into play.
The ideal is for the living areas of the house to face north to make use of the sun.
Passive solar design
Over the past year at Light Home, we’ve talked to lots of experts – architects, design experts, builders and eco experts – and they all repeat the same phrase: ‘passive solar design’.
Passive solar design is the back-to-basics approach to building an eco home. It is about building a home that adapts to the seasons, taking advantage of natural heating and cooling like the sun, shade and breeze.
The secret is well-positioned windows that let in the sun during cooler months but are shaded by eaves from the high summer sun, and also allow ventilation when it’s warm.
Light Home has spoken to Professor Richard Hyde, author of Climate Responsive Design and Professor of Architectural Science at the University of Sydney. Find out what he had to say about passive solar design.
Terry Hodges, director of West Coast Designs, has also shared his tips on how to build an energy efficient home – without breaking the bank.
Energy efficiency: the fancy stuff
So, what about all the ‘fancy stuff’ that Serena asked about?
The options are many. But some of the fundamentals are:
For a clean, cost-effective way to generate renewable electricity, solar panels are the way to go. Following the initial expense of buying and having the panels installed, you’ll be generating power for your home, for free.
The cost of solar panels depends on how big a system you want. The government’s Solar Credits rebate scheme enables you to claim back about half the cost of a 1.5kw solar system, so you’re looking at an overall expense in the region of $3,000.
For some tips on how to go about researching and installing solar panels, see our blog post How do I… Plan my solar system?
Grey water recycling:
Re-using water within the home is also a simple way to be eco-friendly – and save money on your bills.
A grey water recycling system takes water from our sinks, washing machines, dishwashers, showers and baths and reuses it within the home for things such as watering the garden, cleaning the car, running the washing machine and flushing the toilet.
Read our blog post, The lowdown on greywater systems, for more information.
Have you got a swimming pool? It could be a lot more eco friendly – and energy efficient – if it were a bio pool.
Bio pools do away with chemicals and filtration systems, relying on ecological systems (plants) and bio-technology to do the hard work.
You can read about bio pools and how they work in our blog post on them.
A simple energy-saving move you can make now
Simply swapping old light bulbs for LED bulbs will make your home more energy efficient.
LED bulbs have a longer lifespan – up to 50,000 hours – and use less power by operating on a lower voltage than fluorescent, halogen and incandescent bulbs.
Light Home explores energy saving lighting in more detail in Green light: LED lighting more energy efficient and Green lighting: Why you need to make the switch.