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Keep energy efficiency in mind when building 20/07/2013

One of the ways that households can reduce their power consumption is to design their homes to be a naturally comfortable temperature

The West Australian’s front page story on Monday regarding the push for higher electricity charges for people with solar panels, has highlighted one of big dilemmas in moving towards renewable energy.  Using energy from the sun is seen as a cheap cost effective way to obtain energy but unfortunately it is only available when the sun is shining and in Perth, the peak demand is after sunset.  The rise of domestic solar energy has decreased consumption during the day but maintained the peak which means that there is no reduction in the infrastructure that is required but there is less money to deliver and maintain it.

Depending upon who you talk to, the peak energy demand period accounts for up to twenty percent of the infrastructure provided.  If we can smooth the peak we would reduce the cost of the infrastructure.  Ironically with domestic solar panels we may consume less electricity from the grid but require just as much infrastructure to deliver our energy after dark.

Experts estimate that the average Western Australia household spends around $31 a week on energy consumption for the home, which equates to $1612 a year. Of this amount, $612 or 38 per cent is for the heating and cooling.

One of the ways that households can reduce their power consumption is to design their homes to be a naturally comfortable temperature.  As a simple rule of thumb: North is the most comfortable place to be, south has cool breezes, east keeps the summer sun out and west is hot. By orientating living areas to the north and “non-habitable rooms” like bathrooms, garages and laundries to the west you can use the house itself to moderate the climate outside, and the demand for electricity inside.  Windows, ventilation and external shade also influence how comfortable your home is. 

There are many myths around energy performance and research undertaken by SEDO in 2007 showed that in Perth the optimum size of eaves to be 450mm with no eaves better than large eaves.  They also found quality ceiling insulation was much more important than roof colour as there are a similar number of hot (requiring heat reflection) and cold days (requiring heat absorption). 

If you want more information the Department of Climate Change has online manuals for people who are looking to renovate or build an energy efficient home.

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