Not only can energy-saving home features shave some dimes off the quarterly energy bill, but according to new figures they can also increase the value of your home – upping the resale value and increasing your available equity. Along with the added benefit of a cleaner conscience, now could be a better time than ever to consider adding some ‘green’ features to your place.
Researchers from the University of Wollongong’s Sustainability Research Centre analysed international data, and found that in 23 of the 27 cases, homes with sustainable features would fetch 5 to 10% more than comparable homes without.
The ACT was the only Australian case to make the list, and here homes with a 7-star (out of 10) energy rating fetched 9.4% more than those with only 3-stars.
Internationally, the study found price premiums could vary substantially depending on individual real-estate markets. In Belgium they found higher-rated building fetched 27% more whereas in the Netherlands similar buildings fetched only 2.7% more than those with lower ratings.
But in Australia, the demand for sustainable household features isn’t just with the hotheads in Canberra. An Energy Consumers Australia sentiment survey found that over half of Australian households want to see compulsory energy ratings listed with all houses for sale.
Likewise, research has found sustainable features would have vast money-saving benefits. Environment Victoria estimates that with more energy efficient homes Victorians would be able to reduce their electricity and gas bills by 40%, equating to an annual saving of up to $1,000 per household.
Ways to increase the energy efficiency of your home
If your home is still in the design phase – or you are undergoing a substantial renovation – house orientation, insulation, window glazing and air flow can all have a massive impact on your home’s energy efficiency.
New homes should carefully consider their orientation to the sun and employ passive design, a technique that looks to maximise the surrounding environment and available sunlight to improve the home’s climate. This means trying to harness the most sunlight in winter and likewise, shade in summer. Architects can often help with this.
For new and existing homes alike, double glazed windows, considerations for airflow (such as installing security screens you can leave open at either end of the house) and proper insulation can also help.
For those renting or looking for an easy fix, adding curtains or blinds to windows to help block sunlight (but still let it in in winter) can often help to control temperature in the home. Trees and bushes can also be planted to add shade or alternatively, to help channel breezes towards open doors/windows.
Weather patterns, seasonality and climate zones
Before making any drastic changes to your home – like knocking down walls or boarding up windows – make sure to consider your climate zone.
Australia is made up of eight different climate zones, and all have their own weather patterns, seasonality, intensity of sun, wind, rainfall and humidity; all of which can have an impact on what sustainable measures you should take.
For instance, according to yourhome.gov.au if your home is in climate zones 2 to 6 you might not actually need air conditioning.
“well-designed Australian homes do not require air conditioning in most climates (zones 2 to 6).”
Despite this, the clear titbit here is the phrase well designed. Due to poor design considerations, they also say that 50% of homes in warm climates are mechanically cooled – and this number is only increasing.
Australia’s climate zones:
- Climate zone 1: The top end of Australia falls in climate zone 1 – think places like Townsville, Cairns and Cooktown in the east, Darwin and Katherine in the centre and Exmouth and Broome in the west. These places experience a hot, humid summer and a warm winter.
In these homes shade on the northern side of buildings as well as good air flow is critical, as well as the use of light building materials that aren’t going to hold lots of heat.
- Climate zone 2: Climate zone 2 runs down the centre of the
east coast and includes Brisbane, extending from Mackay in the north all the
way down to Coffs Harbour in the south. These places experience a warm, humid
summer and a mild winter.
Similar to zone 1, these homes need good shade and air flow during summer however, these need to be able to absorb some warmth during winter. A mixture of light (timber) and dense (brick) building materials can also help as the denser materials are able to hold heat in winter.
- Climate zone 3: The third climate zone affects the north-central area of Australia. It extends from Carnarvon in the west through to Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Mount Isa in the centre all the way through to just before Queensland’s east coast. This zone experiences hot, dry summers and warm winters.
- Climate zone 4: Southern-central Australia. Climate zone 4 covers the WA hinterland, a majority of inland SA, NSW and VIC and includes towns such as Coober Pedy, Broken Hill, Mildura, Tamworth and Albury. These areas have hot, dry summers but cool winters.
If employing the use of shade in these areas, blinds, shutter or curtains might be more useful since they can be closed in summer but opened up in winter.
- Climate zone 5: Known for having ‘warm temperate’ weather, these areas have distinct winter and summer seasons but never get too cold. It may come as no surprise that much of Australia’s population lives in these areas: the list including places such as Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle in the east, Geraldton, Perth and Bunbury in the west and Adelaide in the south.
- Climate zone 6: Known as a ‘mild temperate’ climate, this zone also has distinct winter and summer seasons, albeit not as warm as their cousins in zone 5. Includes areas such as Kangaroo Island, Ballarat and Melbourne.
It should also be noted that although Ballarat and Melbourne are in the same zone, Ballarat often gets much colder due to its elevation.
- Climate zone 7: A cool temperate climate, this zone includes the sub-alpine areas of Victoria and southern NSW, the ACT and most of Tasmania. This zone experiences the coldest winters out of all the temperate zones.
- Climate zone 8: The Alpine zone – this includes the alpine areas of Victoria, NSW and Tasmania.
Words by Kathryn Lee
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