It makes a lot of sense to make your home more sustainable and energy efficient. There’s the comfort factor – well-sealed and well-insulated houses that retain warmth in winter and shade occupants from heat in summer naturally feel better. They’re more comfortable to live in and generally more healthy than leaky, draughty homes.
Then there’s the impact on energy bills. The average Australian home has an energy efficiency rating of just one to two stars, with about 40 per cent of energy used on heating and cooling. Spending money to make your home more energy efficient means you will be better off, with lower energy bills.
So how can you improve your home to make it more sustainable?
One of the most effective ways is to insulate. Insulation acts as a barrier, preventing heat passing in and out of a house so you can more easily maintain a comfortable temperature inside regardless of the temperature outside.
In winter, once your home has been heated to a comfortable level, it will stay that way with less energy input than an uninsulated home. In summer, an insulated home will take longer to heat up, requiring less energy for active cooling.
Solar power is another obvious measure that’s proving a hit with many Australians – there are now more than 1.3 million homes in Australia with rooftop solar.
A well-planned system generally pays for itself in five to eight years; while the size of the system you need and how much it costs depends on how much energy your home consumes.
Heating, cooling and hot water are generally the largest drain on energy, so making sure you have efficient appliances is important. Electric heat pumps for hot water and efficient reverse-cycle air conditioners are good because they can be programmed to run from solar panels.
Replacing old lights with light-emitting diodes (LEDs), turning off appliances with standby power at the plug, sealing gaps around doors and windows and fitting dampers to chimneys and flues to stop draughts are other important things you can do to make your home more energy efficient.
You can learn tips about making your home more sustainable, comfortable and cheaper to run by visiting an open house near you on Sustainable House Day, (Sunday, September 16). For more details, visit sustainablehouseday.com
Donna Luckman is chief executive of the Alternative Technology Association (ATA), a national not-for-profit organisation that promotes sustainable living.