Making your house energy efficient can be a bit daunting; most homeowners buy a house with major considerations around price, location, services, and the suitability of the property for their needs. Increasingly issues such as energy efficiency and opportunities for sustainable energy will become issues for homebuyers.
Brent and Carmela Harrison whose house has been severly damaged and written-off in the recent earthquakes want to ensure wherever they end up living, that the house is energy efficient and uses new forms of energy such as solar.
Carmela says, "If we're starting with a new place, or a totally rebuilt house we're going to look for better energy use."
Mark Fourie of Harcourts Ferrymead says he is aware that where people are rebuilding they are conscious of insulation and any energy improvements technology can offer. "Solar heating and other power options are definitely worth considering for new houses," he says. "If someone wants a house with alternative energy options we can make that part of the property search, but it's not only a good saving in energy costs and it certainly won't hurt the longer term value of the house."
"Solar heating and other power options are definitely worth considering for new houses"
- Mark Fourie, Harcourts
If a house is being repaired or retrofitted there are things to look for to ensure energy efficient living. "The time to insulate pipes and put on lagging is when walls are down or opened," says Red Gillon of Gillon&Maher Plumbing. "You can do this work anytime but it's much harder and more expensive when you start from scratch. Installing a new efficient and insulated water cylinder is also a really good idea and we've found people never regret putting them in."
Work on the roof is also time to put in Solar heating. The structure will need to support a storage tank, and the electrics required have to be put in to link the hotwater tank. Both of these should be planned or installed as the work on the roof is done. While you can't always install solar heating it's much harder in an existing complete house than when the house is being designed or the roof and ceiling are open.
When looking for a house the following energy checklist can be useful and not add to the difficulty in purchasing:
- Is there insulation in the walls, ceiling and roof? Is the insulation good quality and installed properly?
- Is the water cylinder well insulated? Is it working properly?
- Are the windows double glazed?
- Is there solar water heating? Can the house easily have solar heating installed?
- Is the house going to capture the sun in the right rooms for most of the year?
- Are there any energy efficency tweaks to the design or structure; such as vents, skylights, shutters?
- Is there facility for gas supply to the kitchen? Are the appliances that come with the property fuel efficient?
- Are there any other energy effciency benefits?
The same general principles apply to building a new house. If you are building talk to the architect about energy efficiency opportunities, particularly ones that go beyond the obvious basics of insulation. Thing about siting of the dwelling, the orientation of the structure and use of natural light and heat.
Above all, whether your repairing, making changes or buying, don't be afraid to ask what options there may be.