Five tips to make your home environmentally sustainable
CURRUMBIN designer Rob Norman who specialises in cutting-edge environmentally sustainable design, says there are surprisingly good value steps householders can take to slash running costs as well as reduce their impact on the environment.
Mr Norman, who has designed 10 homes at the Ecovillage at Currumbin and is the design assessor at the international award-winning sustainable community, gives his top five tips in order of the biggest bang for your buck.
- Ceiling insulation - Installing ceiling insulation which is often missing from older-style homes in our area, is one of the most cost effective measures of minimising air-conditioning and heater use and creating a more liveable home. It's because the majority of heat travels in and out of the ceiling. Starting from as little as $1000 to $2000, roof insulation can reduce indoor summer temperatures and increase indoor winter temperatures by as much as 5 degrees.
- Window shading - External shading on exposed western and even eastern windows can make a huge difference to summer temperatures. You can install timber or bamboo screens or even shade-cloth over windows which can be rolled up or down depending on whether you want shade or sun. But a more effective approach is growing a living shade such as bamboo or installing a trellis on which you can grow vines.
- Solar hot water - Starting from around $3500 solar hot water is one of the easiest and cheapest options green options. In our climate the sun can provide virtually all of our hot water needs for free and solar hot water is an easy "clip-on" type technology.
- Wall insulation - This can make quite a difference to indoor temperatures also. But insulating the walls is a more expensive proposition than ceiling insulation as usually one of the wall linings has to be removed. So you're better off doing it as part of wider renovations such as replacing asbestos sheeting or rotting weatherboards.
- Maximising ventilation - Good cross ventilation can greatly reduce, or even remove, the need for air-conditioning in summer. You may need to change the type of windows and even increase their number in order to maximise cross-ventilation. A lot of houses have little windows with only a small openable area and often need to be closed in wet weather (which can still be very hot). Louvres tend to be the best retrofit option as they ventilate across there entire area plus they are relatively secure. Ideally you need at least two windows in a room or else a window and a door that stays open most of the time to maximise ventilation.