Retro Ac­tive

Eco-ef­fi­cient retrofits are worth con­sid­er­ing at any time but es­pe­cially when you ren­o­vate, writes Sarah Pick­ette.

Australian House & Garden - - News -

Fit­ting sus­tain­able fea­tures into an es­tab­lished home.

‘SO­LAR HOT WA­TER PRO­VIDES ONE OF THE FASTEST RE­TURNS ON IN­VEST­MENTS OF ALL HOME TECH­NOL­OGY UP­GRADES .’ MEGAN NOR GATE, BRAVE NEW ECO

Many­own­er­sof­hous­escon­struct­ed­be­fore­build­ing­code­sen­forced manda­tory en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency stan­dards have prob­a­bly won­dered how to retro­fit their homes to make them more eco-friendly. “We’ve no­ticed a huge in­crease in en­quiries and peo­ple com­mit­ting to fu­ture-proof­ing their homes as they ren­o­vate,” says Lyn Beinat, CEO of Mel­bourne-based EcoMaster, which spe­cialises in en­vi­ron­ment­friendly retrofits. “The spike in elec­tric­ity and gas prices has forced Aus­tralians to think hard about mak­ing their homes more ef­fi­cient.”

Retrofits that im­prove a home’s ther­mal ef­fi­ciency might be “the lesser-known cousin of re­new­ables”, she says jok­ingly, but they are just as im­por­tant. “So­lar pan­els alone won’t keep your home cool.” Given that 40 per cent of the av­er­age house­hold’s elec­tric­ity spend goes to heating and cooling, Beinat ad­vises home­own­ers to draught­proof all doors, seal cracks and gaps, and boost in­su­la­tion.

Well-ex­e­cuted sus­tain­able retrofits to ex­ist­ing houses can have a dra­matic im­pact on the ther­mal ef­fi­ciency and run­ning costs of a home, says Megan Nor­gate, the found­ing di­rec­tor and prin­ci­pal de­signer of sus­tain­able de­sign prac­tice Brave New Eco in Mel­bourne.

“On av­er­age, ex­ist­ing older homes rate less than one Green Star,” says Nor­gate, re­fer­ring to the Green Build­ing Coun­cil of Aus­tralia’s sus­tain­abil­ity rat­ing scheme. “But retrofits that com­bine ther­mal im­prove­ments to the build­ing’s en­ve­lope with new tech­nol­ogy up­grades can achieve an in­crease to 3.5 stars. We can get a home up to six-star equiv­a­lent when pas­sive so­lar ex­ten­sions and win­dow up­grades are in­cluded in the retro­fit.”

She agrees with Beinat about draught-proof­ing and also sees huge value in ther­mally ef­fi­cient win­dow cov­er­ings. And, she adds, if the lo­cal cli­mate and your home’s ori­en­ta­tion lend them­selves to it, a so­lar hot-wa­ter sys­tem is well worth con­sid­er­ing.

Nor­gate ar­gues that it would be a bad in­vest­ment to ren­o­vate with­out adding some sus­tain­able retrofits in the process. “Con­sumer aware­ness and ex­pec­ta­tions around a home’s ther­mal ef­fi­ciency have in­creased ex­po­nen­tially,” she says. “When you com­bine these with in­creas­ing en­ergy costs and the value you add to your home, I would be ask­ing if you can af­ford not to make them.”

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