Sky rocketing summer power bills will turn our focus to housing design and retrofitting for a comfortably cool living environment.
Australian home owners facing a triple whammy of rising charges for electricity, water and gas will be in for a major shock this summer when their power bills include the cost of running air-conditioners with the higher charges per kilowatt. Air-conditioning is one of the most expensive appliances to run in the home and business during Australia’s hot summer.
Ian Agnew, ACT and NSW State Manager of Archicentre, says, “The ongoing severe cost rises in water and power, and the changing political landscape on climate change and sustainability, have placed sustainable housing design and ‘Green’ retrofitting on the economic and environmental agenda in Australia.”
Ian continues, “The key to year-round comfort is passive solar design. This is where a highly trained architect carefully combines materials, methods, building form and the sun’s natural energy to help keep your house cool in summer and warm in winter. This approach saves money, respects the environment and enables you to live comfortably year round.”
Ian says, “The energy-wise home requires a complex mix of good insulation, high thermal mass, intelligent glazing and ventilation, all arranged in a way that enhances comfort, anywhere in Australia.”
Materials with a high thermal mass, such as stone, brick or rammed earth, take a long time to heat up and a long time to cool down. Walls with a high thermal mass should be shaded to minimise heat load in summer.
Glass is a very poor insulator. In an energy-efficient design think about size, location, glazing type and window shading such as verandahs, canopies or deciduous trees. Other important factors include locating windows away from the western sun and, in some areas, the eastern sun and closing curtains and angling blinds to reflect intense heat off the windows during summer, which helps keep the home cooler.
Cross-ventilation is an important design factor that entails providing at least two carefully placed and treated openings in every room. Louvres can direct the air flow towards the occupant of the room. High windows can allow unpleasant hot air to escape, resulting in the drawing in of cool air. Reversible ceiling fans are great in summer and winter. In winter they push the warmed air down to where you are sitting. In summer they disperse the air around the room.
Ian says energy-wise design is not an addon feature when you are building a new home or renovating. Archicentre has found energy conservation has become an increasing priority for people undertaking Archicentre Design and Architect Advice Reports.