Image: Clayton Tutty Construction Limited
As the weather-bombs hit and the temperatures start to plummet, it’s the perfect time to think ahead and winter-proof your home. There are a number of things you can do to make your home more energy efficient over cooler months, which will keep your home warmer and your power bills lower.
Read on for some handy tips from our NZ Certified Builders Regional Presidents, whether you’re already in your home or about to build. You can find a local builder here for more advice specific to your home and needs.
If you’re building…
Creating an energy efficient, power (and wallet) saving home is easiest when you’re building from scratch. Paul Riedel, of Straight Up Construction in Taupō, has a number of recommendations to consider. You can either discuss these with your builder or architect, but the sooner you do so, the better.
First things first – make sure your home is north-facing. This will ensure it gets as much sun as possible. But Paul has a few more tips up his sleeve.
“Try to design your home so it has less glass on the west side, as this over-heats the house. You should also avoid having lots of large glass panels on the south side, as this is the coolest side.”
Try to design your home so the rooms you spend the most time in face north or east, as this will maximise sun for natural heating in the spaces you would normally heat most.
Paul also recommends you upgrade your insulation. “Upgrading insulation is extremely cost-effective for the return. We put a lot of 6.3R batts in ceilings and if you build your walls 140mm, it allows you to upgrade the wall insulation to 4.2R.”
He also recommends slab edge insulation, and that you use thermally broken window frames, especially if you’re going to the effort of double-glazing. Thermally broken window frames have an extra layer of protection inside the frame which stops the cold from transferring into your ho-me on the aluminium frame.
If you’re in an existing home…
Richard Poff, of RTP Builders and NZCB Canterbury President says the-re’s many simple things you can do to make your home more energy efficient, starting with insulation. “Depending on the situation, underfloor (including ground cover polythene) will make for warmer feet. An extra layer over top of whatever is in the ceiling will also make a difference.”
You should also check your windows and doors for leaks. “Gaps around doors and windows need to be sealed up. Foam strips that have sticky tape attached are readily available and easy to install,” Richard says.
“Older timber windows may be past that fix, so consideration should be given to upgrading the joinery to double-glazed aluminium. This can of-ten be done with minimal disturbance to the interior decor by utilising ‘insert’ joinery. A builder or joiner familiar with this type of product would be worth talking to.”
Once you have the windows themselves sorted, think about curtains and/or blinds. “Upgrade your curtains where possible to thermal-backed material. Ideally they should go down to the floor, but at least well below the window sill. Thick curtains are a better insulator than a lot of single glazed window joinery. You may need to upgrade the curtain tracks as well, but small cost in the big picture.”
Old appliances can also be big power-wasters. Richard says old fridges, freezers, heatpumps and hot water cylinders are common culprits (though they can often be recycled to avoid landfill).
“Modern appliances are a lot more efficient in their energy input/output statistics. As with older heat pumps, older hot water cylinders are not as efficient as newer ones. At the very least, if the cylinder feels anything but cold to the touch, it needs an insulation blanket wrapped around it. The days of an actual ‘hot water cupboard’ should be long gone. Any hot water pipes that can be easily accessed should have lagging installed around them, and any taps dripping should be attended to.”
And finally, the easiest switch of all – lightbulbs! “Change lightbulbs over to suitable LEDs, including the old ‘fluorescent’ tubes likely to be out in the garage,” Richard says.
“LEDs use a lot less energy, last for several years, and often give much better light. They come in several ‘colours’ from daylight white through to warm white and are an easy fix for most homeowners. Some are able to be fitted in situations where the switch is dimmable, but some aren’t so it pays to check with the retailer before purchase. Even small halogen type bulbs can be swapped out – with a reduction in both power used and heat generated.”