Using home design to heat and cool your home
While it is always important to take steps such as switching off lights and appliances in the bid to reduce your electricity prices, there are also a few easy changes you can make to reduce your heating and cooling costs by tweaking your home design.
Here are a some innovations you can make at home to improve your lifestyle and comfort as well as reduce the amount of hard-earned cash you need to send to your electricity suppliers.
Speak to the experts
Before you begin to build or renovate your home, make a few appointments to chat with experts in fields including design, energy and lighting teams. They are in the best position to give you individualised pointers to help you reduce your power consumption.
If you have friends who have also recently renovated, ask them for tips. They may be able to provide you with some practical and realistic ideas to help you make savings and will have a fair idea of the traps you could fall into.
Choose the best site
If you are building, make sure you carefully select the best site for your home. Pick one that allows you to take advantage of the winter sun that also minimises the amount of heat your home will attract during the summer months.
Take a look at the orientation of your site and see where the sun falls throughout the year. North facing windows are a great way to harness the those winter rays, reducing the amount of power needed to heat your home, while in summer they are easy enough to shade - meaning your cooling costs may also drop.
Try to include windows or openings on more than one side of your living areas, as this means you will be able to let a cooling breeze through your home in summer. High windows or skylights could be used to let rising hot air escape.
Another important step to consider is choosing an appropriate floor plan, as this can have a huge impact on your electricity and gas prices.
Remember that a larger home will cost more to heat and cool. Plan to use all available space efficiently. Rather than building an extra room, would it be possible to reorganise or reutilise the space you already have?
It is also important to think about future planning when you build a home. Consider how easy it will be to make renovations in the years to come, and make flexible plans so you can incorporate any foreseeable changes easily.
Carefully select building products
Many resources and equipment go into the building of a new home, so it is key to ensure the decisions you make about your building products are sound.
Durable and long-lasting materials are better as they will not need to be sent to landfill as often. Around 40 per cent of the waste going into Australian landfill is from building , according to the Department of Industry.
Energy efficient windows are a great choice. Windows are the cause of around 40 per cent of your home's heating and cooling costs already, but energy efficient models can reduce this amount by up to 80 per cent, according to the Department of Industry.
Make sure you keep an eye out for the Window Energy Rating Scheme (WERS) label when purchasing new windows, as this can show you how well these items can keep heat in.
On the other hand, the cooling star can indicate how well the window stops heat from entering, so it is important to keep an eye out for this in warmer climates.
Make sure you also consider your curtains, blinds and external awnings as these can also go a long way to keep your home comfortable throughout all four seasons.
Naturally you will want to select paints based on aesthetics, but it is equally important that you consider your home's colour palette based on the effect it will have on your heating and cooling levels.
Lighter coloured paints will make it easier to cool your home as they better reflect heat. Dark colours, on the other hand, absorb warmth. This means you can reduce your cooling costs by choosing either light coloured or reflective coatings for your roof, or why not a combination of both?
Rooms with dark walls will require more lighting than those with light walls as they don't reflect as much.
One area you may want to paint with a light hue is your ceiling, as this can be used to reflect light, thereby saving you on cooling costs in summer.
Carefully planning your outdoor areas can help you reduce your electricity costs. You can choose trees and other plants that will be able to provide shelter from harsh sunlight.
Evergreen plants, for example, are perfect on west-facing walls and can provide permanent shading. On the north side, deciduous plants and pergolas coated in vines work well to provide shade in summer and let the sun in during the winter months.
Posted by Tim Wolfenden.