Energy efficiency is an enormous conversation today, and there’s good reason. It impacts our family finances and our planet every time we make a purchase, drive our car, or even have a shower. So it makes sense that we carefully consider our energy use where we spend most of our time – at home. If you’re planning a new home, considerations of energy efficiency are right up there with the floor plan and materials. In fact, they’re part of just about every decision you’ll need to make as you plan. While the energy efficiency of an existing home can be enhanced to some degree, the choices that have the biggest impact are those that are built-in as a new home is constructed. The earlier you get your builder on board – and the more open they are to the idea of creating an energy-efficient new home for you – the more energy you stand to save. And that will have a significant impact on your living costs as the years go by. Let’s look at the factors that affect energy efficiency in a new home design.
How sunlight impacts on your new home throughout the days as the seasons change is a primary consideration. As a rule of thumb, living areas should face north. Consider minimising window area on faces of the home that might be exposed to full sun, or build-in verandahs, patios or awnings to help minimise the impact of harsh sunlight. Think about the orientation of your new home in relation to prevailing breezes, too. Opening up your windows and doors to a cooling breeze that flows through your living areas is a wonderful, fresh alternative to turning on air conditioning.
Choices made regarding the windows in your new home can have an enormous impact on energy efficiency, seeing as windows can be potentially significant energy portals to seasonal heat loss and heat gain. Double glazing can deliver huge benefits, so be sure to speak to your builder about whether this is an option for the new home you’re building. Also, don’t overlook window treatments such as curtains and blinds. Be sure that the window treatments included in the standard home package offer enough insulation and light control for your needs and if you feel the need to upgrade, this is another issue to discuss with your builder.
When you’re thinking about windows for your new home, also consider skylights or clerestory windows. Cleverly placed so as not to allow excess heat into your home during summer, they can greatly reduce the need for artificial light to be used during the day, cutting down on electricity costs.
Most people planning to build a new home understand that insulation in the walls and ceiling space is important in keeping a new home warm in winter and cooler in summer, as well as minimising the energy needed for heating and cooling. There are recognised standards for the efficiency of home insulation. It’s worth taking the time to research these and comparing them to the insulation supplied as standard by the builder of your new home. If you choose to upgrade the insulation in your new home beyond what is offered in the standard building package, a good builder will have the flexibility to get this done at a moderate cost. It’s worth noting that the investment you make in quality insulation is likely to pay off in energy saved throughout the years.
Lighting has changed significantly in recent years and as you may well be aware, LED lighting today is the gold standard for energy efficiency. In fact, LED lighting can be as much as 5 times more efficient for a similar brightness level as an incandescent or halogen light. Talk with your builder about the types of light fittings that are part of your standard new home package. If LED lighting calls for an upgrade from the standard lighting package, this is one more area where an investment at the time of building will certainly pay off in energy savings as years go by.
Depending on the available space – as well as local council regulations – you might be able to install a rainwater tank(s) to supply water to your toilets and washing machine. You might even be able to recycle grey water to irrigate your garden. The time of planning your new home is the right time to consider factors such as these so that the necessary space can be allotted and the right plumbing installed. There’s more potential to conserve water if you choose water-saving taps and shower heads. And while you’re considering saving water, think about how you’re heating it as well – a solar hot water system could be a great option for your lifestyle, so discuss this with your builder.
In Australia, there are well-known systems and standards in place for the energy ratings as well as water efficiency ratings of appliances. This is yet another opportunity for you to put the best in place as you plan to build your new home. Take a look at the appliances that are included in your standard home package, do your homework on their efficiency and if you feel you could do better, have a conversation with your builder about substituting more efficient choices that will cost less energy and water in the long run.
Summing up – put energy efficiency up front
No two families are alike, and it follows that our priorities when we approach the planning of a new home will vary enormously. With that said, energy efficiency is coming into sharp focus throughout the whole building industry in Australia, so it won’t come as a surprise to the team at Format Homes if you make it clear right from the start that it’s something you’re passionate about optimising.
With this on the table as an overarching theme, Format Homes are ready to help guide your choices and advise you on the best options available to help you achieve a complete new home that is as energy efficient as current technologies and materials allow. Building a home is a journey and there’s great pride to be taken in an amazing result that’s a joy to live with. Smart, energy-efficient choices add an extra layer of satisfaction to the finished build and deliver the added bonus of significant savings in money and resources over the life of the build.