Eco-living

When planning a renovation, it certainly pays to look into ways to make your home work better.

A picture of father and son in green background
ARTICLE Dana Alexander IMAGES Courtesy of Homestar

Whether you are planning a home makeover or just a tidy up, it certainly pays to look into ways to make your home work better. Homestar is an independent service that you can use to give you clever ideas for saving energy and creating warmer and healthier surroundings. It also offers smart ways to save water and reduce waste.
Getting to grips with all the products and appliances on the market can be baffling. For example, should you look at a heat pump or a ventilation system? Should you consider full-scale insulation or retrofit existing windows with double glazing? For that matter, how labour intensive is composting and where and how can you store and re-use grey water?  
“New Zealanders are well behind the eight-ball on efforts to make homes healthy, affordable, sustainable and energy efficient. However, homeowners are increasingly prioritising warmth, comfort and efficiency in a home over a nice new kitchen bench,”  says Alistair Helm, CEO of Realestate “They’re also looking for data they can rely on when they’re renovating or buying a new home. Homestar can help with an independent audit and advice in all sorts of areas.”
The Homestar team has collated a whole lot of useful information that builders and renovators can use right now to make a difference to their homes. Read on for their top 10 things to consider:

Tip 1: Insulate

Top of the list is to invest in insulation. Ceiling insulation is a must, but we should also be thinking about exterior and interior walls and underfloor. You will spend less energy on keeping your home toasty warm in winter or cool in summer, and insulation also deadens noise. Initiatives like Warm Up New Zealand (WUNZ) provide subsidised home insulation meaning warmer homes are now more affordable. 

Tip 2: Plug the gaps

Many of our older wooden homes tend to have lots of little gaps. These gaps, which can be found under doors and around old window frames, can all add up to be a sizable hole – letting warm air out and chilly air in. Doors and windows simply need to be sealed well.

Tip 3: Warm things up a little

Choosing effective heating options such as energy efficient heat pumps, modern wood burners and flued gas heaters can make a big difference to the power bill. Trained Homestar professionals help homeowners with recommendations specific to the type of home and occupants, and may suggest a combination of options that best suit the budget and location. We can’t all have north-facing suntrap homes, so it’s important to work out what is best for any given situation.
A temperature control system

Tip 4: Invest in efficient appliances

The renovator’s dream often revolves around deliciously shiny new appliances – and it’s no wonder. They immediately make a statement that something has changed in the home. Old fridges and freezers can be a silent but significant load on power consumption. Often, we think we’re getting a  ‘bargain’  when we find a second-hand working appliance. However, it’s the on-going cost that’s the real expense. In many cases, it may be more cost-effective to replace an old model with a new, efficient model. 

Efficient appliances are easy to spot, thanks to the blue Energy Star rating sticker that is now common on many energy consuming products, including whiteware, home electronics, heat pumps and lighting. This mark is only awarded to the top 25 per cent of the most energy efficient appliances in a category, so if a product has this mark, you know you’re getting one of the best. The higher the star rating, the more energy efficient the product.

Tip 5: Rethink your lighting

How many seconds does it take to change a light bulb? Around 10! Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) use less power and last longer than regular incandescent bulbs. Replacing twenty bulbs could save the average homeowner around $300 in the first year alone. New to the market is light-emitting diode (LED) lighting – even more efficient than compact CFLs.

Tip 6: Go for comfort

Including carpeting in a renovation is a way to instantly change the look and feel of a home, and to add immeasurably to comfort. There are so many choices on the market today that are hardwearing, made from natural fibres and allergen-free. Not only does carpet transform a room, it also provides yet another layer of insulation. 

Tip 7: Use free ways to save

Washing your clothes in cold water and drying clothes outside are simple and free ways to save both electricity and money. There’s nothing quite as luxurious as freshly laundered air-dried sheets. Washing lines these days can also be a bit of a design statement when renovating a home.

Tip 8: Watch the water

For many Kiwi homes heating water is the second biggest energy expense after room heating. Simple steps to reduce your water heating bill include checking that the water temperature is no more than 55 degrees Celsius; insulating hot water systems, including the cylinder and the hot water pipes connected to the cylinder; and ensuring that the shower flow is not more than nine litres per minute (you’d not only be wasting water, but also using more energy to heat all that water). 
If your hot water system is more than 15 years old or if you’re doing renovations, consider a system upgrade that includes solar or a hot water heat pump. Check out EECA for subsidies available for some systems.

Tip 9: Include heat-absorbing materials

Whether renovating or building, you should consider using materials that will absorb and store the sun’s warmth. 

Find out How much does a basic eco-renovation cost in New Zealand?

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This article by Dana Alexander featured on page 93 in Issue 05 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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