Summer is here again and, if they are right about El Nino and our changing climate, it will be hot and dry. The increasing heat and severe weather events have made it more important than ever for home owners to find affordable design solutions that will keep them comfortable inside whatever the temperature outside.
However, it shouldn’t be a case of rushing out and buying the latest and greatest air-conditioner with a five star rating. Soaring power costs make that a prohibitively expensive solution regardless of the number of stars the equipment has. Often the best solutions are passive and, whilst they may involve some careful planning and modifications to the home, they will greatly improve the quality of life for the occupants – and benefit your wallet in the long run. Truly sustainable design improvements can add thousands of dollars to the worth of the property and give you a major advantage if you ever want to sell.
What are the main factors to consider?
When looking at possibilities for your own home the three major factors to consider are the season, the surrounding environment and the local climate.
- Take note how temperature changes in different parts of the house at different times of the year.
- What are the seasonal differences in temperature? Are they extreme?
- How well protected is the house from the elements?
- Does its position give it an advantage or disadvantage? For instance is it set up high, does it have a lot of natural vegetation and shading around it?
Weighing up your opportunities
An architect will be able to advise on the best solutions for a sustainable energy-efficient home depending on the type of dwelling, its position etc. But, if that sounds like too much of a commitment to make straight away, why not draw up a simple audit of the main features of your home and consider what opportunities there might be to improve the situation. For instance:
- Glass is a very poor insulator. What sort of windows do you have? Where are they located? How big are they and do they have any protection from sun via eaves (which are the most economical means of shading windows), verandahs or even nearby trees or planting? And don’t forget to look at the possibilities of good old fashioned curtains or angle blinds to shut out the midday sun.
- What is your house made of? Materials like stone and brick have a high thermal mass so they take a long time to heat up and cool down. If you can shade the walls in summer by planting trees or using awnings or sails it will prevent a heavy build-up of heat.
- Back to the eaves … the extended overhang of the roof not only gives you better shade inside the house it also gives you more opportunity to collect money-saving rain water in extra tanks that can be used for watering the garden or washing clothes. The eaves offer extra protection from flood damage in the heavy downpours that are becoming a feature of climate change. Take time to find out whether your local council offers a rebate for tanks that are retro-fitted to properties. Many do!
- Check the insulation in your home – particularly in older dwellings. Is it as efficient as it could be? Insulation plays such a huge part in the warming/cooling cycles in every home that it is worth checking both from a comfort point of view and, importantly, a cost point of view. Good insulation will save you many $$$
- Are there opportunities to improve cross ventilation? Each area requires at least two carefully placed openings to successfully cross ventilate. Louvre windows have made a big comeback because they allow you to direct airflow better than by simply opening a standard window. Extra windows set high up in the wall add light and also allow you to get rid of a lot of the hot air that accumulates. Likewise, turning ceiling fans on low in winter pushes the hotter air down to help warm the room.
These straightforward ideas are a great starting point for more sustainable and comfortable living in any type of home.
If you’ve got any questions on how best to protect your home from summer heat or climate change or another topic you would like us to explore in future blogs just let us know. You can email us here.