Sustainable Additions to Consider for Your New Home

Making environmentally friendly choices in your home is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint – and it’s often also a great way to save money long term. Whether you’re building a new home, renovating an existing house or just considering your options, there are plenty of things you can do to make your home greener.

Here are 6 sustainable additions every new homeowner should consider:

1. Passive heating and cooling

If you’re still in the design stages of building a new home or renovating, consider using passive design principles to make your home energy efficient from the start. Passive design principles help you work with elements of nature – such as sunshine and breezes – to regulate temperatures inside your home.

Done properly, passive design can significantly reduce the need for additional heating and cooling, keeping your energy consumption down.

Some common applications of passive design include:

  • Orientate your home to make the most of the sun and wind in your local environment.
  • Use shading from eaves, awnings and trees to make the most of winter sun and shade your home from summer sun.
  • Use skylights and roof windows to improve natural lighting in the home.
  • Design windows, doors and other openings to maximise natural ventilation and capture local breezes.
  • Use appropriate materials that offer the right level of thermal mass and insulation for your region.

2. Thermal insulation

Thermal insulation helps regulate indoor temperatures in your home by resisting the transfer of heat. Insulation products are poor conductors of heat, which means they help prevent heat loss in winter and slow down the rate of heat gain in summer.

To be effective, thermal insulation should be installed throughout your home, including under the roofing material, in the ceiling, in the external and internal walls and under the floor.

Insulation products are rated for performance with an R-Value – the higher the R-Value the more effective the insulation is. Check your local building regulations to make sure you’re getting the appropriate R-Value based on your local climate.

Homes that are well insulated don’t rely as much on artificial sources of heating and cooling to keep indoor temperatures comfortable. If you do switch on your air conditioner or heater, insulation will make the heating and cooling more efficient.

3. Solar panels

Solar power is clean, free energy from the sun which is captured by solar panels and converted into a form of electricity that we can use to power our homes. Compared to electricity created from fossil fuels, solar power is a sustainable and environmentally-friendly source of energy.

There are a few ways you can make use of solar power in your new home, the most common being roof solar panels and solar hot water. Solar PV systems provide electricity that you can use to power your whole home whereas solar hot water systems use solar power to provide hot water to your house.

Depending on where you live, you may be eligible for significant government rebates for solar panel installation. Plus, solar panel installation can lead to long term savings and may even increase the value of your home.

4. High performance windows

Windows play an important role in providing natural lighting for your home, but they can also be a source of heat loss and gain if they’re not designed well. Energy efficient windows use specific types of glazing and frame materials to reduce the transfer of heat.

To improve energy efficiency in your home, opt for double or triple glazed windows. These contain more than one sheet of glass with a space between them which acts as an insulating barrier. For the frame, choose wood, fibreglass or a composite material which has high insulating properties over materials such as aluminium which conduct heat easily.

5. Smart meter

Depending on where you live, smart meters might already be the standard type of meter your energy provider offers. However, if you have the choice, consider installing or upgrading to a smart meter.

Smart meters record your electricity usage every 30 minutes and send the information directly to your electricity provider. This means they don’t need someone to physically read the meter – and it also means you’ll be charged for your exact usage rather than an estimated usage.

Since a smart meter records electricity consumption in 30 minute increments, it provides homeowners a useful way to monitor their energy consumption and spot where they might be wasting electricity.

Other smart systems can help with reducing electricity consumption too. For example, some smart systems allow you to switch off appliances remotely or start heating up your home half an hour before you get there rather than leaving the heating on all day.

6. Energy efficient appliances

When purchasing new appliances for your home, opt for energy efficient models to reduce your energy consumption and save money on your power bill.

Heating and cooling is one of the largest areas of energy consumption for Australian homes, so it’s particularly important to consider your air conditioner choice. Evaporative ducted air conditioning is the most energy efficient option, but it’s not as effective in humid climates as refrigerant air conditioning systems.

If you’re going for a ducted system which heats and cools the entire home, look for models which allow you to create climate zones based on what rooms are in use. If you only need to heat or cool a couple of rooms in the house, opt for split system air conditioning with high energy ratings.

In addition to your heating and cooling options, also look for an energy efficient refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, washing machine and clothes dryer.

Don’t forget the smaller additions too

Passive design, thermal insulation and solar panels are some of the best and most effective ways to make your home more environmentally friendly. Once you’ve ticked off the big ticket items, don’t forget small additions can also make a difference.

Ideas include installing LED lights, upgrading to a water efficient shower head, starting your own backyard compost and choosing recycled furniture – just to name a few. Remember that making your home more sustainable can be a process that you work at over time.