Design your home so it’s naturally comfortable to live in and you can cut your energy costs by more than half. It sort of sounds like one of those new diets where you eat the foods you love and the pounds just fall off, right? Well, in the case of the more energy-efficient house, at least one study out of Australia has shown it does in fact work.
That is of course if you don’t just crank up the air conditioning and call it comfortable. Just like losing weight, there is work involved. Queensland University of Technology researcher Wendy Miller has been looking into such matters and she’s found that inexpensive design can cut the energy used in new homes by up to 80 percent.
She’s been tracking the development of homes at The Ecovillage in Currumbin, and is monitoring the design, construction and liveability of various environmentally-friendly houses in South East Queensland and Townsville. And what it all boils down to is the elements of passive design.
“Housing estates need to be carved up to accommodate environmentally friendly architecture, allowing for as many north facing blocks as possible,” she says. “Also, it is important that the house doesn’t take up the whole of the block. Keeping the house to 50 per cent or less of the block size allows for breezes, shady trees and gardens that help to keep the house cool in summer.”
What you put into the home also plays a key role. Solar hot water and energy efficient appliances in homes are an essential part of being able to hit that 80 percent mark. “It is most important to get the house design right first, then to add solar hot water, energy efficient appliances and light bulbs, because once you have these thing, your electricity use is very low, and you don’t need as many solar panels to meet your needs,” she said.