Energy upgrades make 1,000 homes warmer and healthier

Published: 29 July 2022

One thousand Victorian homes have received free energy upgrades thanks to the Healthy Homes program.

Targeting homes in Melbourne’s western suburbs and the Goulburn Valley, the State Government initiative set out to both improve indoor temperatures and reduce energy bills during winter for Victorians who live with complex healthcare needs and have low incomes.

Victoria has a temperate climate, but the combination of cold winters and thermally inefficient housing stock creates a serious population health risk.

Over a 4 year period, the Healthy Homes program rolled out upgrades like draught proofing, ceiling or sub-floor insulation, high-efficiency heating and cooling appliances and window coverings.

More than simply a delivery program, it was designed as a randomised controlled trial to measure and monetise health benefits of improved warmth and energy efficiency.

energy upgrades reducing bills and improving  health, 1000 upgraded homes in Melbourne's west and Goulburn Valley, $972 average cost saving over winter, 43 minutes per day less exposed to cold temperatures, for every $1 saved in energy $10 was saved in health

Research results showed that the upgrades increased indoor temperatures over winter, reducing time spent exposed to cold by 43 minutes a day.

There was also an average cost saving of $972 over winter, mainly due to health benefits. For every $1 saved in energy costs, more than $10 was saved in healthcare costs.

Sustainability Victoria’s Toby Cumming said the team had uncovered some incredible stories during the roll-out of the program.

"For one participant, we replaced two very inefficient electric heat banks with a single split system. Her energy use is now a quarter of what it was the previous winter, dropping from 42kWh a day to 11kWh a day."
Toby Cumming, Team Leader Evaluation and Research, Sustainability Victoria

As a result of the upgrades, gas use was reduced by an average of 7.1kWh a day, condensation decreased, and the likelihood of perceived warmth was doubled.

Healthy Homes team member Lucy Allinson said it was a gratifying program to be part of.

“To be able to actually help give people a chance to live a more comfortable and better life for me is the greatest reward of this program,” Lucy said.