While Mother Nature benefits from us living more sustainably, it certainly doesn’t do our bank balances any harm, either, with plenty of opportunities to save money by being more energy-wise. It also won’t hurt when it comes time to sell, with wide appeal for buyers.

Passive living

Think about it: around 40 per cent of household energy is used for heating and cooling our living environments. If we’re smarter with how we use our homes, the pay-off can be a noticeable reduction in power bills and water rates.

Passive living is about using natural resources to manage the temperature inside our homes, and this is principally through six fundamental elements:

  1. Ventilation
  2. Orientation
  3. Windows
  4. Shading
  5. Insulation
  6. Thermal Mass

To help reduce heat in a home during summer, it is important to have cross-ventilation as moving air is the most effective form of cooling. So this means opening windows at either end of a house to allow air pressure to suck cool air in and move it through a home faster.

“Using passive heating and cooling cleverly will help to reduce your energy bills.”

It’s also critical that you prevent the sun from hitting windows, and areas of thermal mass (like brick walls/concrete floors) through the use of shading through planting and/or installing overhangs. Of course, the reverse of this is ensuring that through winter, the sun can reach windows in order to passively heat a home, so any semi-permanent or permanent shading should be carefully considered.

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In winter make sure curtains or blinds on the north-facing side of your home are always fully open so the sun can heat and be stored in the thermal mass of the floors and walls. (If you’re really keen to use the power of the sun, invest in a few decorative large dark stones or even solid dark sculptures and place them on your sunny windowsills to collect the heat.) Once the sun’s gone down, the thermal mass will continue to radiate the stored heat into your home, lightening the load on your heating.   

Around 25-35 per cent of heat loss occurs through your roof, so insulation is critical for above your ceiling to ensure that any warmth generated is not lost. And it also helps with blocking the heat out in the summer.

Curtains or blinds with insulation backing are also the a key element in the passive design. They act as a barrier, to prevent radiant heat when it’s hot, and to stop warmth from escaping when it is cold. To work effectively, they need to be of the right material and correct size, but they do have a considerable effect on the overall temperature in a room. Remember that the closer to the edge of your window you install your blinds or curtains, the more effective they’ll be.

Your water wise home in The Hills

Water is a big issue for many households. As a precious resource, it needs to be treated with care to not only lower our costs for using it, but also to ensure we don’t end up with serious water restrictions that could have wider repercussions (such as in Cape Town, South Africa).

Around 70 per cent of Sydney’s water use is residential with each person, on average, using around 295 litres a day. However there are plenty of ways to reduce this figure, and the accompanying cost, by being aware of a few key things. For example, a 12-minute shower costs around $1.50, so just by cutting it in half, each person in a household can save around $275 a year. That’s more than $1,000 for a family of four.

By reducing our consumption of water, we can significantly reduce household costs.

You should also check whether you have an efficient shower head. If you can to fill a 10-litre bucket in less than a minute, then your shower head is delivering too much water. Talk to your local plumbing retailer to see if a three-star-rated shower head would work in your home. Some older apartment buildings aren’t suitable; however, most new apartment blocks have been designed to allow more sustainable living.

Other tips for water savings:

  • Turn the tap off while you are brushing your teeth.
  • Only use your washing machine on cold.
  • Check all your taps, toilets and showers for leaks or drips – this really can add up over time.
  • Wash your car using a bucket of water rather than a hose.
  • Wash the dishes by hand unless you can completely fill a dishwasher.
  • Consider installing a 3-star rated toilet cistern to only use half the amount of water on a full flush. The same goes for a 3-star rated dishwasher.
  • Consider your garden plants; are they water hungry or drought tolerant? While a beautiful lush garden is a joy, if you’re trying to sell your home, a potential buyer might see work, and high water costs.

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Investing in future savings

For those serious about being energy-wise, there are quite a few solutions that – while they are can be a little pricey – offer significant cost savings.

Far infrared heating concentrates on the environment around us, like our homes, and works by heating the walls, floor and ceiling (the thermal mass) of a building. Once the thermal mass is warm, the building will retain the heat for a period of time. Some products on the market (such as the new-to-Australia European style heating panels) can provide up to 37 per cent savings on electricity costs compared to convection and night storage heaters.

“Sustainable living solutions can have high upfront costs  but you’ll start to see savings immediately.”

Some more options, that require an upfront investment for long-term savings, include:

  • Replacing older appliances with ones with high energy-star ratings
  • Installing a solar power system (especially for hot water)
  • Installing double glazing
  • Upgrading insulation

The benefit of sustainable homes in The Hills

Being energy wise is certainly healthy for the back pocket, but when it comes time to put a property on the market, there are many more benefits from sustainable changes around the home.

Research shows that homes that can showcase energy-saving and sustainable features spend fewer days on the market and achieve a higher price. For your prospective buyers, the appeal of saving money on their own future energy costs will add real value to your property.  

More energy-saving tips:

  • Replace old, incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs; you could save $100 or more a year on electricity in your home.
  • Don’t keep appliances on standby if you want to save energy and money. Plug things like TVs, game consoles and computers into a main switchboard so you can turn them all of at once when not in use.
  • Check all your doors and windows for drafts, as not only will they let cold air in in winter, if you’re using the aircon in summer, those small gaps will let all your precious cooled air out. In winter, in particular, use draught excluders around gaps at the bottom of your doors, and foam strips around leaky windows.
  • Try to use high-energy appliances like dishwashers, vacuum cleaners and so on outside of the nominated ‘peak hours’ of your electricity provider.

If you’d like to learn more about passive design, or how sustainable living can add value to your Hills home, give us a call. We’ll be happy to share our experience.

Top tips for sustainable living in The Hills District

Jane Booty, Tony Didd and team

Jane Booty, Tony Didd and team

Whether you live in The Hills or are looking to move into The Hills District, there’s nothing we love more than helping people with Hills Shire homes! Caring and considered, our real estate agency doors have been open for 23 years, so we’re very much part of the fabric of The Hills District community.

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