Avoiding common energy mistakes in a new build

By Richard Keech (May 2018)

Part 1

In the course of assessing many homes for energy efficiency, I’ve seen that even new homes exhibit problems in the basic build.  Here are a few ideas of things that are often overlooked. This list doesn’t include the many and varied mistakes that can be made in the basic design (floorplan, materials, orientation, shading etc).

Specification

When you specify the details of the build that you want, here are some things to consider.

1. Skylights. Skylights may be needed because daylight penetration into living space may be poor in places. However, skylights penetrate the thermal envelope and reduce thermal performance. One way to have your cake and eat it too is to use something like a Kimberly Illume solar skylight that uses PV/LED and doesn’t have a skylight shaft at all. These also give you more flexibility about where and how the light is delivered compared with regular skylights.

2. Downlights. If you use downlights then ensure that you choose a type that is safe and legal to cover with insulation because the normal way of doing skylights involves much greater compromise of the insulation than is commonly supposed. A good light to use is this one at only $10 each at time of writing https://reductionrevolution.com.au/products/philips-led-downlight-90mm;

3. Exhaust Fans. Make sure in-ceiling exhaust fans have back-draught protection.

4. Alfresco area. I don’t like the all-to-common alfresco areas (topic for a separate discussion). If you do have one then make sure to fit insulation properly to the ceiling above this outdoor space. This is because on a hot day, without insulation, the ceiling will reach temperatures much higher than ambient, and radiate considerable energy downwards making the space much less comfortable;

5. Garage. Often insulation isn’t fitted over/around a garage. You should fit some even if it’s not as thick as the main ceiling. This applies to the ceiling and the all walls adjoining the garage.

<to be continued>


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