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