Are energy efficient homes really worth the effort?

by Casey Curtis from Curtis Architecture

We had a chat with our friend Casey Curtis of Curtis Architecture about energy efficient homes and whether they are all they are cracked up to be. Here’s what she had to say...

There are many benefits to creating a warmer, dryer, more comfortable home, from the economical to the sustainable. This hot and complex topic has several important aspects to consider. But let me start by asking you a question - if you could do your part in saving the planet whilst also saving your pennies, would you?

Just as you might consider simple, everyday ways to reduce your waste consumption at home, now you can also create ways to reduce your power consumption (and power bill) just by thinking about how you build or renovate your home. When we build using ‘energy efficient’ principles, not only can we enjoy living in a healthier environment (reducing sickness), we also largely reduce our energy consumption, saving our pennies while doing our part to save the planet. Win, win don’t you think? That’s why we strongly advise our clients to consider including energy efficient principles in their new homes, buildings, or renovations.

When do you start considering energy efficiency?

There is a lot you can do during the design and planning stage to ensure your project is designed with energy efficiency in mind – with minimal additional cost. Our advice is to start by considering the orientation of your home first then tackling airtightness and insulation next.

1. Orientation

Understanding your home orientation during the design and planning stage of a project is key. This is so you can get the correct solar gain with shading optimised to prevent overheating. Planning the design layout for sun and light access will ensure the right amount of solar gain for your home and help reduce excess energy use.

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2. Airtightness and Insulation

Considering your construction method, and what level of insulation and airtightness you would like to achieve is often dependent on your budget and preferences around energy efficiency. There are simple and cost effective solutions such as installing a rigid air barrier and increasing the external wall thickness to 140mm framing to allow a higher level of insulation. There are also proven ‘airtight’ construction methods such as SIP panels, prefabricated wall systems and internal and external wrap systems applied to timber framing that significantly improve home performance.

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What are the most cost-effective energy efficient solutions for a home?

Nowadays there are many options to suit all budgets and our advice is to focus on doing what you can do to achieve a warmer, drier, more comfortable home, rather than trying to ‘do it all’.  The Superhome movement has a great guide to creating your own energy efficient home and explanations on these principles at Building an energy efficient home in New Zealand?

Casey Curtis is the Creative Director & Architectural Designer at Curtis Architecture. With over 10 years of industry experience and a passion for all areas of design and architecture, Casey loves sharing her knowledge far and wide.