Ece Demir - 6 Jul, 2021

Design your house to keep cool in summer and warm in winter

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Aussie weather has us shifting from hot summer days to cold winter breezes. This is something you should keep in mind when designing your new home or even if you are thinking of renovating. It’s natural to want alternate ways to cool your house in summer and keep it nice and toasty in winter.

What design and construction principles should you know?

To build your home, there are three basic building science principles to understand: air flow, heat flow and moisture flow.

Air flow:

Inside air leaks around window frames, construction joints, wall penetrations and many other locations. Uncontrollable ventilation can strip heat from a home in winter while allowing it to overheat in summer – thereby increasing reliance on heating and cooling systems.

Heat flow:

Insulation needs to be better managed to ensure consistent coverage throughout the home. Windows also need to resist heat flow, the lower the U value the better. Australian homes should have Low E glazing as a minimum standard to help reflect heat energy – (check with your builder).

Moisture flow:

If humid air is allowed to pass freely between living spaces, water vapour can condense on cold surfaces. To help reduce the risk of condensation double glazed windows will assist by separating cold surface temperatures from warmer humid air.

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How to build for a home in a hot climate?

There are some things to keep in mind when designing your home against the Aussie summer climate. You can significantly reduce the temperature of your home with good design is what architect Andrew Benn of Benn + Penna Architecture said to Homes to Love.

Thermal mass materials and insulation

The idea is to build your home with heavy and thick materials like a concrete slab as they keep a building cooler. Make sure your pair your materials with insulation, not just in the wall insulation, people forget about roof insulation which is key to cooling your home.

Window shades and glazing

Blinds aren’t always effective for cooling your home, internal blinds are ineffective since the light has already passed through the window and the heat has already entered. Instead, use external solutions such as awnings and shutters. As the sun shines on these, the materials heat up, but the heat isn’t transferred inside, and since they’re adjustable, you can open them in the winter to enjoy the sun’s warmth. Window glazing is also important as if helps reflect the excess solar heat, but slowly releases warmth during winter as well.

Your roof needs to be light and vented

You need to make sure your roof colour is a light colour and vented so there is a way for rising hot air to discharge and vents are a great way to do that. A lighter roof colour is also the way to go, because the more reflective the material is, the more it’ll keep your home cool.

Shade and plants can be your best friend

Planting a large, leafy green tree on the western side of your house will help with that brutal afternoon summer sun piercing through. Whereas, in the winter the sun will be able to stream into your home, or you could cut pieces to open up more warmth and it will grow back in time for summer shade.

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How to combat the cold when designing your home?

Keeping your home warm in winter can be difficult because of ways that Australia’s houses are built. However, when designing your home, a lot of what was said for combating against heat will benefit you for the cold too.

Insulate, insulate, insulate!

I don’t think I’ve stressed enough on how important both roof and wall insulation is. In particular the older bricks that can be used in older homes, they absorb heat from inside the house.

 Window glazing (again?)

I know we’ve already spoke about it but double-glazing your windows will cost you a little more in the short term but save you in the long term. Remember that window glazing will reflect excess heat from entering but it will absorb some solar heat and allow it to come through.

Leaks and cracks

Windows that haven’t been fitted properly, doors that aren’t sealed correctly, these are examples of leaks and cracks that can let cold air into your home or let all the warmth you’ve created with expensive heaters escape. All those gaps are adding up. Common leaks and gaps are around the doors, windows and skirting boards. Check near vents, floorboards and less obvious places like built-in appliances, chimneys or exhaust fans.

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Words by Ece Demir


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