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Planning for Energy Savings


The best time to optimize energy strategy in your home is during the planning phase. When I was rebuilding my leaky house I had to consider the energy savings in recycling my old hot water and heating systems and the benefits of investing in more modern, higher energy efficient systems.

It's not always an easy call when you are on a tight budget, but I tried to take a 5 year approach to every investment. Very few of us can be so certain as to where our lives will be in 5 years, that making investments that have a longer payback than 5 years is a bit risky. Some investments will always reap rewards on resale, but that only helps you if and when you sell your home.

So let's look at the main energy systems and work our way through the options.


Plan your window space so you get at least 6 hours of full sunlight into the main windows of your home each day. This means having the main windows facing North in the Southern Hemisphere and South in the northern hemisphere. Avoid large windows facing the afternoon sun. These can cause your home to overheat and the glare generally means you end up shutting out the view and light anyway with window treatments.


Always adopt the 'better' and 'best' recommendations of your Building Code. Use solid surfaces such as tile and concrete, exposed to sunlight, to act as natural heat storers during the day. These surfaces then release the heat in the evenings. External concrete walls must be well insulated to retain the heat stored.

Water Heating

Water heating accounts for around 40% of your total energy bill. Consider solar heating and continuous flow gas water heating. Continuous flow hot water systems only heat water as it is needed, meaning there is no need to store volumes of hot water. Position your water heater as close as possible to the point of use to avoid long pipe runs.

Spae Heating

Gas is also a good option for space heating - either ducted central heating, underfloor heating or wall heating.

Heat pumps are also an efficient option, although I don't like the noise and the targeted air flow at my face. They are also pretty ugly appliances to have on the wall. Check out the new low mounted systems which are less bulky and more stylish.

Electric heat pumps generate around 3kW of heat for 1kW of power.

Either option, always check you get the right size system to heat the space intended, otherwise it is wasted investment.


Energy efficient light fittings and compact fluorescent lamps can reduce lighting power without compromising lighting schemes. CFL's use 20% of the power of incandescent bulbs to produce the same amount of light. They take a few seconds to warm up but I have never found this a problem. Manufacturers also claim they last 8 times longer than incandescent bulbs, although i have had numerous bulbs fail after only a few months - perhaps a few teething problems!.


Appliance choices make a huge difference in energy use.

Understand the energy rating system for your country. In New Zealand, this is denoted by a 5-star system, where the higher the number of stars, the more energy efficient the appliance. There is around 10% improvement efficiency with each star. This can translate to around $NZ100 a year difference in your power bill for just the refrigerator.

Outdoor Living

You can extend the floor space of your home with gas plumbed BBQ's and outdoor heaters.


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