Building a new home or extending an existing home is an excellent opportunity to include energy efficient and environmentally sustainable design features. These features will make your home more comfortable, environmentally friendly and can significantly reduce your ongoing energy costs.
This page provides some key areas to consider with your builder when you are looking to build or extend.
All new homes and extensions built in South Australia must meet minimum energy efficiency requirements. New homes must also meet additional requirements for efficient lighting and water heaters.
The council or a private certifier will assess the design of your new home or extension for compliance before you are given development approval and construction can begin.
For more information about the minimum energy efficiency requirements or to find a list of registered energy assessors see the South Australia government’s six star energy efficiency requirements for new homes.
Some key areas to consider when building or extending are described below, but for more comprehensive information and practical tips on environmentally sustainable home design and construction including questions for your builder and a new home checklist, visit the Australian Government’s Your Home website.
North facing living areas
- Rooms you spend most time in during the day as living rooms and kitchens are best if they face north, because they get the most sun in winter and can be easily shaded in summer, reducing the amount of heating and cooling you need.
- Windows and doors that allow for cool breezes in summer can keep your home cooler.
Internal doors and rooms
- Open plan homes will need more energy to heat or cool. Installing doors will allow you to close off areas, so that you can just heat or cool the rooms you are using and reduce your costs.
- Materials that can absorb heat, such as tiles, brick and concrete, can help with your heating and cooling needs. For example, in winter they can store heat during the day and release it at night.
Insulate and draught proof your home
- Insulation is any material that reduces the amount of heat transfers to or from your home through the ceiling, walls and floor. Insulation is measured by its R-value. When installing insulation, the higher the R-value the more effective it will be.
- Draft-proofing involves sealing up gaps around walls, floors, doors, window frames and other fixtures.
- A well-insulated and draught-proofed home will help to keep the temperature inside comfortable and reduce the amount of heating and cooling you need.
Windows and shading
- In winter, let the sun shine into your home for free heating.
- In summer use shading especially on north, east and west windows to keep your home cool. The right sized eaves can provide fixed shading, while adjustable shades, awnings and deciduous trees can shade in summer and still allow the sun to enter the home in winter.
- Double glazed windows or thick curtains with pelmets reduce heat transfer through windows.
Heating and cooling appliances
- Heating and cooling appliances are the largest energy users in the average Australian home. Choosing the most energy efficient and appropriately sized heating or cooling appliance will help to reduce your home’s energy use.
- If you are considering downlights, holes will need to be cut in the roof insulation for the downlight fitting in the roof, reducing the insulation performance.
- Consider alternatives such as pendant lighting or ceiling mounted spots.
- While skylights provide more natural lighting, they can also increase heat transfer through walls or ceiling. If you need a skylight, consider one that is well insulated.
Water heaters and other appliances
- When choosing household appliances, make sure you choose energy efficient appliances that are the right size for your household’s needs.
- Major appliances like fridges/freezers and TVs have an energy rating label on them to show how much energy they use. Use the labels to compare similar-sized appliances. Alternatively, the Energy Rating website provides a comparison service for appliances with an energy rating label. The more stars, the better.
- When installing a new water heater or replacing an existing one, choose an efficient model such as a solar, high efficiency gas, or heat pump system.
Once your building or extension is complete, use the first few months to check that the energy efficiency features of your home have been constructed correctly and are performing as expected. Check, where possible, that insulation is correctly in place after all the various trades have completed their work.
Also look out for unintended gaps in joints between different materials (such as walls, floors, doors, window frames and other fixtures). These can cause ‘air leaks’ that will reduce the energy efficiency of your home. The best way to check for these is to engage a specialist to use thermal imaging cameras, blower door testing equipment and other systems to check on the buildings overall thermal performance.
Discuss any problems you find with your builder, as your building contract is likely to have provisions for correcting defective workmanship.
More information and advice
The South Australian government’s website, sa.gov.au/energy, provides further information on energy efficient home design and appliances. Contact the Council on phone 8366 4200 for more information energy efficiency housing requirements and the process.