Sustainably heating and cooling your home
Inefficient heating and cooling appliances can cost you on your electricity bill. We look at alternative solutions for making your home comfortable including geothermal and roof extraction technologies.
Heating and cooling accounts for 38% of the average home's electricity usei. Common home cooling and heating solutions are air conditioners and electric heaters, yet these are some of the least efficient and therefore most expensive ways to heat and cool your home. With electricity prices rising across Australiaii, some are turning to alternative heating and cooling technologies that can reduce a household's reliance on electricity.
Geothermal heating and cooling works by pumping either air or liquid through a series of pipes buried deep within the soil where the temperature remains constant throughout the yeariii. When the temperature rises in summer, warm air or liquid is pumped down into the pipes before being returned to the house at a much lower temperature. The opposite occurs in winter when cool air or liquid is warmed in the pipes and then used to heat the house. This technology regulates a building's internal temperature, pumps fresh air into the home, and reduces a household's reliance on heaters or coolers.
However, geothermal systems can be complicated to install and may require significant modifications to your home and backyardiv. As such, these systems are best incorporated when building a new home or when completing major renovations.
Roof extraction systems
The space between your house's roof and the ceilings traps heatv. During long, hot summer days, temperatures in roof cavities can quickly rise much higher than the outside temperature, radiating heat throughout the rest of the house. Extraction systems can help remove this unwanted warmth, making your home cooler and more comfortable. This feature is particularly effective at the end of the day because the release of this hot air in the roof cavity allows the rest of the house to cool down overnight, making sure you and your family can get a restful night's sleepvi. Some systems, like the SolarWhizvii or SmartBreezeviii technologies, use solar panels to power the extraction fans, which quickly remove the heat without drawing electricity from the grid.
While roof extraction systems are most efficient and beneficial in the summer months, some of these systems can also be useful in the winter by doing the oppositeix. In the cooler months the confined air in the attic space can be degrees warmer than the air inside your home. A roof extraction system can use this warmth from the uninhabited roof cavities to heat the living spaces, keeping you and your family warm on chilly daysx.
You needn't look far for sustainable methods of cooling your home: you can modify the space around your home to maximise sunlight in winter and shade in summer.
One way to stop your house from overheating in summer is to shade the northern-facing parts of your house to stop the heat from getting in. By shading the parts of the house exposed to direct sunlight during the day, it will stop the house from absorbing much of the heat, making it easier to cool the house to a comfortable temperaturexi. Deciduous trees and vines block the sun in the warmer months while still letting the winter sun through to heat up the house in winter. Retractable awnings over windows are an inexpensive and quick-to-install option for blocking the sunxi.
New technologies and building materials for residences could also help you save on your electricity bill and reduce your carbon footprint. Outlined above are some greener ways of heating and cooling your home. While effective and particularly friendly to your electricity bill and the environment, geothermal systems present a number of installation challenges. Comparatively, roof extraction systems and additional shading (whether natural or installed) can easily be added to an existing home and at a relatively low cost. If you do choose to install heating and cooling solutions like these in your home, it's worth checking your home insurance covers them and adjusting your policy if not.