Thinking about Energy Efficient Homes for the Future
As the world is waking up more and more to the dramatic effects of Climate change, i'll help explain how you can think about building for a smarter future.
Its Cheaper to Build Greener...
A huge problem is that the building code in New Zealand has a minimum set of standards that it has to meet for a house to reach the required energy efficiency standards. These are very low and although they are technically the minimum standards, they are often looked at as a target. This in turn creates a culture of uncomfortable living that is offset by expensive heating options, in turn leading to huge energy bills. A variety of companies offer options to make your house more comfortable, instead of putting the idea of building your home correctly in the first place at the forefront. A lot of this has do with certain companies controlling the vast market share of the building codes and products, not allowing new companies with better products for cheaper living come to the surface.
Starting from the beginning of planning for your new home, its in your best interests to think about how to build your home as energy efficient as possible. Understandably often during planning for your house upfront costs seem to overshadow the long term costs. This is human nature, as proven in a study when given the opportunity to choose either $100 now or $200 in a years time, most people choose to take the $100 now. As in kiwi culture we seem to want to build the biggest property possible, for the least amount of money with not a lot of thought into how much it will cost you further down the line. But for only a couple of hundred dollars per square meter upfront you can transform your house into a high performance home and your payback time for that extra cost can sometimes be in as little between 5-10 years. During that time you reap the rewards of living in and extremely comfortable, safer, cleaner and Eco-Friendly home. After that time you reap the rewards of extremely low power bills and extra savings.
The Key is to Build Passive
A passive house can simply be defined as a high performance home that will stay around 21 degrees all year round with no additional heating or cooling. Yup you read that right, you can have your house built to a level of energy efficiency that you won't need a heat pump or a fire to keep warm in the winter or cool during the summer. This is achieved by creating a highly insulated airtight barrier between the inside of the house and the outside of the house, meaning that the heat produced from your tv, appliances and even your own body are contained enough to heat your entire home.
A common misconception is that this means you cant have any windows or doors open, and that you won't have fresh air in your house. These are both false. Due to the extreme efficiency of a passive house, you can still have open doors and windows and when the time comes to close everything for the night to set in, you and your appliances will, very quickly, warm the inside of your home. The other option is you can leave all the windows and doors closed and still have warm fresh air coming in and out of your home. This is achieved by a heat exchange system which sucks stale air out areas such as the bathroom and kitchen, and replaces it with incoming fresh outside air, which exchanges cool air from the outside temperature with the warm air from the inside. This fresh and warm air then gets circulated back into your home to rooms such as the lounge and bedrooms. This results in a house free from condensation and mould, creating a much warmer, safer and happier home, giving piece of mind to you and your family (or clients!)
So, when you're thinking of your next build, or your first, it only makes sense to build your home as a high performance house. The health benefits, far out-weigh the costs and it's actually saving you a lot of money in the long term. Its a win-win scenario.