Key principles of energy-efficient design

Last updated: 11 October 2021

Block orientation

When choosing a block for your home, make sure it will allow you to place the living areas where you spend the most time on the north side of the house. This will take advantage of the winter sun, keeping these rooms warm, light and bright. Avoid or minimise windows facing west or east and make sure they are well shaded for summer, and minimise south facing windows as these don't get any winter sun. Ask your architect or designer for advice about taking advantage of natural light.

Building materials

Does your builder:

  • buy local materials to reduce carbon footprint
  • select materials that don't have toxic elements and can be recycled and reused
  • source timber from sustainable plantations and buy local materials to reduce carbon footprint.

Draught proofing your home

Up to 25% of winter heat loss from existing houses is caused by air leakage, also known as draughts or uncontrolled ventilation. To save money and energy by reducing air leakage:

  • ensure proper building techniques, including proper installation of insulation and sealing holes during construction
  • use good quality weather sealed external doors and windows
  • install self-closing extraction fans to cut heat loss
  • avoid downlights as they require holes in the ceiling and disturb the insulation, or use approved downlight covers to reduce the risk of fire and protect insulation
  • make sure your home is built and tested to meet acceptable air leakage rates.

If you're renovating, ask your builder if they do third-party ‘as-built’ verification checks to ensure that your home is meeting an acceptable air leakage rate.

Efficient lighting

Smarter lighting design and taking advantage of natural light will save you money on your ongoing energy bills. Check with your electrician to make sure the lights and any covers comply with Australian electrical safety requirements.

Energy-efficient appliances

When choosing fridges, televisions, washing machines, dishwashers and so on, choose energy efficient appliances with the highest energy star ratings. Even if you pay a little more for these appliances they will save you money over time.

Energy-efficient hot water systems

A solar hot water system might be more expensive to buy and install, but the running costs will be significantly lower. The Victorian Government is providing a rebate on solar hot water systems eligible households.

Learn more

Insulation

Insulation is a one-off cost that will benefit the lifetime of your house. Insulating your home’s ceiling, walls and floors can save you up to 45% on the cost of running your home. Therefore, adding as much insulation as possible, while making sure it is installed correctly with no gaps and proper waterproofing, is a sound investment. Ask your builder if they do third party ‘as-built’ verification checks to ensure that your home’s insulation has been installed correctly.

Solar power

Installing a solar PV system will allow you to generate renewable energy and reduce your electricity bills. The Victorian Government is providing a 50% rebate (up to $2,225) for eligible households.

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Ventilation

Building your home to reduce air leakage (uncontrolled ventilation) needs to be coupled with well controlled ventilation to replace used internal air. Both windows and exhaust fans can help control ventilation to maintain air quality while minimising air leakage.

Windows work best in bedrooms and living rooms, and exhaust fans work best in areas such as the kitchen, bathroom, toilet and laundry, because they remove pollutants, odours and moisture.

Good ventilation, coupled with good building techniques, will ensure your home keeps your family healthy, saves you money and stays comfortable.

Ask your builder about their home design’s ventilation strategy and whether they do third-party ‘as-built’ verification checks to ensure your home is being built to best practice building techniques.

Waste minimisation

Over 75% of construction waste is clean, excavated material, such as concrete, bricks and timber which can often be recycled. Ask your builder about waste minimisation strategy and documentation.

Water

Save water by considering water recycling systems and choosing water saving fittings and appliances. Keep kitchens and wet areas easily updateable to allow for design, usage and technology changes.

Window frames, glazing and shading

Smarter window design and external shading can make your home bright and comfortable all year round. Double glazing, which has become less expensive, will reduce heat losses from your home, and reduce heat gain through your windows in summer. Energy efficient windows can reduce heat losses through the window by up to 50% compared to a single glazed window.

Zoning and efficient heating and cooling

Designing zones in your home will allow you to efficiently heat and efficiently cool rooms individually. Doors are a great way to zone areas of your home, for example between corridors and bedrooms or living areas. This way you don't need to spend money heating or cooling rooms that you are not using. Sliding doors will be less effective as they have large gaps in the recess, which allow the air to flow freely.

Choose the most energy efficient heating system and energy efficient cooling system to save energy and significantly reduce your energy bills.