Apartment living is booming and winter has arrived in Australia. So, we've got some energy efficiency tips for apartments and new homes. We've also covered old houses.
We asked Michael Ambrose, a former architect and our Senior Experimental Scientist, for his advice on how you can keep the heat in and the power bills down this winter.
"Many people choose apartments for their good energy efficiency, which reduces the need for heating and cooling. This can lead to lower power bills," Michael says.
"Apartments generally achieve a higher average energy star rating than houses in the same area. New homes, built from 2001 onwards, also need to meet the six-star standard."
But not every apartment is as energy efficient as you might think.
So, how can you make your new home or unit warmer this winter? Here are Michael's top energy efficiency tips for apartments and new homes.
Top tips for apartments
“Because apartment owners usually don’t own the external building, you'll be restricted to what you can do inside the apartment," Michael says.
Michael's top energy efficiency tips for apartments are covering windows and sealing gaps.
For detailed step-by-step advice on how to cover windows or seal gaps, you can refer to our advice for older houses.
Apartment dwellers can use a glazing treatment or films on the inside face of windows.
“That’s to keep heat out in summer. But they do work in both directions and stop the heat escaping in winter," Michael says.
Uncovered windows account for up to 40 per cent of heat loss in the winter.
"Using heavy, lined curtains that fall below the window to keep warmth in. And repair any cracks in your windows," he says.
Michael suggests apartment-dwellers should investigate wherever conditioned (heated) air can escape into a cavity, and block those gaps.
“Many older apartments have doors that will lead to an external corridor that’s outside. It means older apartments are more exposed to the external environment," he says.
"But even when your apartment is enclosed, the corridors in a newer apartment are not usually heated – so the heat in your apartment will want to escape to the colder area."
Top tips for new homes (built after 2001)
You might have heard of the 10-star energy rating scheme for homes in Australia. It’s a scale of zero-to-10 stars, describing the ‘thermal performance’ of a home. This is based on a home’s design and materials. The higher the stars, the less energy – and money! – you need to keep your house comfortable through heating or cooling.
Every new house in Australia must meet a six-star standard. This energy efficiency provision is written into our building codes.
Michael says energy efficiency regulations have only really been in place for 20 years.
"It varies from state to state, but in 2001, it started off as a three or four-star requirement. Then it moved to five stars. And it became six stars about a decade ago. In September this year, the minimum standard may increase to seven stars," he says.
"This minimum requirement means there shouldn’t be as many issues with leakiness in new homes."
For people living in new homes, Michael suggests focusing on covering windows to stop heat loss, especially in colder climates, and sealing gaps in doors and windows. Also sealing any other gaps, especially covering evaporative cooling outlets, and ensuring the dampers are working.
We hope these suggestions keep you a little cosier this winter! And if you want to know more, here are some other resources to help you out:
- Australia's guide to enviromentally sustainable homes
- Nationwide house energy rating scheme
- Solar Victoria