Home heating and water heating take up a sizeable part of the average home’s energy bill, with hot water alone accounting for up to a third of the price we pay for comfort in our homes.
But you don’t need to be undertaking a new build to increase the energy efficiency of your home. What’s required is a tailor-made solution.
Insulation comes first. For homes with a ceiling cavity, this means tar paper under the roof and a thick layer of batts, either traditional material or modern blends of ecologically sustainable components. Trap the heat top and bottom with underfloor insulation for houses raised above the ground, and complete the thermal shielding with appropriate window coverings. It’s amazing how much heat can be radiated away by glass.
Then it’s time to consider an integrated heating plan. Many local homes have a fireplace, but this can range from the modern and efficient through to the thoroughly antique.
A modern insert can revitalise an old fire hearth, or it’s possible to leave wood burning behind in favour of flued gas. Wood fires can be easily fitted with a ‘wet back’ water heating attachment if they are close enough to the home’s central hot water cylinder, but all kinds of fireplace can benefit from the addition of heat transfer — a system which diverts excess heat trapped near the ceiling and uses it to take the chill off other rooms of the house. The general rule is that rooms up to six metres away can expect a cozy temperature boost, with up to three bedrooms warmed by a single fireplace.
Heat pumps, too, continue to improve in efficiency and quality. Many are now so quiet and unobtrusive that a thermostat is needed to ensure they are switched off when they are not needed. Of course the benefit here is not just in savings over electricity and gas in conventional heaters, but also in summer cooling. Technology has improved to the point where those with first-generation heat pumps may wish to consider a replacement with more power for less energy cost. Similar technology also exists to power refrigerators and hot water cylinders.
A combination of these technologies — plus positive pressure ventilation in homes prone to condensation and equipped with a suitable roof cavity — will ensure less power consumption and more ‘bang for your buck’ when it’s time to store away firewood for the winter season.
Even older homes can be converted the smart way — talk to your local appliance and electrical, gasfitting and fireplace experts for more ideas.