We must all take responsibility for looking after our world and the environment. After all, it’s the only one we have! The home is the obvious place to start when thinking of becoming more energy efficient.
A truly energy-efficient home begins with the orientation and design of the house itself. The most energy-efficient house is one that is placed on the block of land in such a way that it uses the sun’s heat to warm the home in winter and excludes the heat in summer. In the Northern Hemisphere, this means having windows and the most-used rooms, such as living rooms, facing south to receive maximum winter sun. Wide eaves or verandas should shade the hotter areas of a house.
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The size and placement of windows affects the amount of heat that enters a home. The type of curtains or blinds used on windows also makes a difference. Thick curtains can keep out or retain heat in rooms. Skylights in dark rooms reduce the need to turn on lights. Tinted glass, reflective film, and double glazing on windows reduce the amount of heat entering a room.
Insulation in the roof and walls of a home forms an efficient barrier to heat flow, reducing heat lost from a home in winter and the amount entering in summer.
The types of materials used to build a home can also make a big difference. Double brick walls are more efficient than brick veneer, while weatherboard, fiber cement, and other lightweight walls are the least efficient, as they heat up and cool down quickly. Concrete floors are more efficient than timber. Even painting the exterior of a home a lighter color will help reflect summer heat.
Providing cross-ventilation to capture cool breezes in summer and draft-proofing around doors and windows to prevent heat loss in winter will help as well.
Plants and trees can also be used to make a home more energy efficient. Deciduous trees and vines planted correctly will provide shade in summer but allow winter sun to warm the home. Grassed areas and large areas of paving or concrete shaded by trees can help to reduce heat reflected into the house.
A home designed for the local climate with energy efficiency in mind not only saves money on energy costs for its occupants but may also reduce the impact that humans have on the environment.