Don’t be passive when it comes to design

I live in a 1920s Art Deco Sydney bungalow; a modest little place that makes me smile every time I turn the key in the front door.

Step right in and be greeted by a foyer, with a large living/dining room to the right with high ceilings and a fireplace. Follow though to a small but functional kitchen with a small laundry off it. Backtrack and you will find three bedrooms, a sunny home office and a bathroom. And that’s about it.

If pushed, I believe that I could vacuum the entire house without having to change power points. It is small, solid as a rock and was built in an era where the elements were carefully considered before building commenced.

It was an era where there was no such thing as reverse cycle air-conditioning; instead architects played to the strength and weaknesses of the sun, breeze and shade, using materials designed to minimise or capture the natural cooling and heating of a house.

This brings me to the point of passive design.

Passive design is not a cushion that does nothing

It is the notion of taking advantage of the weather and the elements; using them to your advantage to possibly save on your power bill. Even if you are already living in an existing home that has been built without much thought to passive design, there are things you can do to help keep your abode cool or warm, depending on the season.

I had a coffee recently with Anne Armansin, an Energy Expert from Origin Energy, who shared with me some simple tips that you can implement to possibly save you some moolah on your power bills.

Let’s commence!

On winter mornings, open your blinds up and (hopefully) let the sunshine in! And later, as the sun dips, run around like a madman closing them. This will keep in the natural heat that the sun has left you with. Make sure all of your blinds are well fitted to the windows, and if you have double-glazing, even better!

Land is expensive and there is a new trend to build houses really close together. So close that in some instances you could probably shake your neighbours hand when you are both standing in your respective kitchens. This is hardly ideal when it comes to the all-important cross breezes that can delight you in summer. You know, when the southerly comes a calling! Having some space around your place is important!

A huge selling point in buying a new house is the ‘fully ducted air-conditioning!” spiel. But as Anne pointed out, are the builders going to pay for your power bill? I think not. This brings me to…

The humble fan

If you’re on a budget, use a fan. Why? It takes as little as 65 watts to cool a room with a ceiling fan, compared to air-conditioning, which will chew through 650 watts to cool that same space.

And what about when winter hits?

You need to make sure that your insulation is up to scratch in the ceiling and walls; you don’t want any of that precious warmth escaping through leaks. Invest in heavy blinds and pelmets, close doors and if you’re like me and have floorboards throughout your house use rugs on the floor.

And Anne swears by a heated throw for those cold nights on the couch.

Now we all know that heat rises, but did you know that modern ceiling fans are now designed with a reverse switch that you can use in winter, that actually pushes heat back down from the ceiling? Well, now you do!

And what about eaves?

Why are they so important? It’s because they are designed to throw shade over windows to keep your joint cool. Again, many modern houses are built without large eaves, because… hello, reverse cycle air-conditioning; AKA the money-sucking machine.

Can we discuss the humble snake?

The door snake is a marvellous device that has stood the test of time. Simply stick them behind the doors to stop heat from escaping. It’s still a very effective and cheap option that has its place.

So there you have a few simple things that can assist you in cutting down your energy consumption, while not sweltering or freezing as the weather dictates.

By working with the elements, not against them, you might be pleasantly surprised when you get your next power bill.

Now, pass me a magazine and that heated throw….

Authored by Mrs Woog

Mrs Woog is a mouthy 40-something housewife from the burbs. In her blog Woogsworld she shares her thoughts about all kinds of things like family, politics, food, travel, some very lame attempts at fashion, social issues, wine, cheese. And she writes a lot about laundry. Mrs Woog is pretty much running late all the time, and will more often or not turn up somewhere with food spilt down her top.

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