If you’re anything like me, you’re increasingly working from home, one which was built before energy efficiency measures were introduced in Australia.

With temperatures along the east coast plunging and power bills skyrocketing, heating (and cooling) our homes is an energy intensive, expensive affair.

Almost 8 million homes across Australia lack sufficient insulation, use sub-par heating and cooling equipment, or are badly designed.

Indeed, these 8 million pre-energy rated homes account for 18% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. And research finds 26% of Australians across all housing types can’t stay warm a minimum of half of the time during winter.

Retrofitting this housing stock to be more energy efficient is crucial to successfully meet Australia’s goal of cutting emissions 43% by 2030, while finding comfort in our way forward for intensifying climate extremes.

My research into net-zero emissions retrofitting identifies three broad categories that should be considered when retrofitting existing homes to be more climate friendly:

  1. visual comfort: the sufficient quality, quantity and distribution of sunshine

  2. thermal comfort: determined by the temperature, humidity, air flow and an individual’s physical condition

  3. energy consumption: the quantity of energy we use, and the energy used in manufacturing, transporting, constructing, maintaining, and removal of materials to construct our homes.

1. Visual comfort

It’s vital to know how much sunlight the surface and interior of your own home is exposed to. One can, accordingly, re-organise interior functions based on the demand for lighting, heating or cooling needs.

During summer, spaces used often in the course of the day, equivalent to your own home office, may benefit from being in places that receive less direct sunlight, so are cooler. In winter, consider moving your own home office set as much as a room with higher levels of direct sunlight, where it’s warmer.

This will naturally reduce the quantity of energy needed to chill or heat these rooms while allowing for comfortable working conditions.

Other ways we are able to find more visual comfort include modifying the scale of windows and skylights to let in additional sunlight. To diffuse harsh lighting, consider adding screens, sun baffles, overhangs, or pergolas over windows.

You may also replace your lights with LEDs equipped with linear controllers and motion sensors in places where lights are inclined to be left on. LEDs use around 75% less energy than halogen light bulbs.

Moving your own home office to rooms with more sunshine can assist you to save energy in winter.
Unsplash, CC BY

2. Thermal comfort

Older Australian homes are incredibly draughty, and a number of the energy we spend cooling or heating our homes escapes outside as a consequence of poor insulation. Retrofitting to enhance your own home’s natural ventilation can reduce the variety of times it’s good to activate the heater or air conditioner.

Sealing outside and internal surfaces until they’re airtight is crucial. Different surfaces – whether partitions, floors or ceilings – require different methods, types and thicknesses of insulation.

Walls, as an illustration, require a “blow-in” method. This can involve installing cellulose foam or glasswool (created from fibreglass) into the wall, via a small hole through the wall cavities (for cellulose foam) or laying glasswool batts in wall cavities. Floors, alternatively, can require insulation panels fitted between timber or steel supports or foam boards.

Also necessary is to decide on materials and methods that maximise insulation while minimising thermal bridging. A thermal bridge is a weak point where heat is lost, equivalent to wall intersections, connecting points of mounting brackets, and even penetration points of electrical cables.

Insulating the partitions is crucial to stabilise temperatures inside.

Between ten and 35% of the energy we spend cooling or heating our homes escapes through single glazed windows and doors. Installing double or triple glazed windows and doors will go an extended strategy to keep temperatures more stable inside.

It’s value noting the energy performance rating systems on measurement labels, which are sometimes attached to window and door units you may buy in stores.

Ultimately, a mix of improved natural ventilation and mechanical ventilation (equivalent to air conditioners as fans) may end up in considerable energy savings – as much as 79% in some instances.

3. Energy consumption

While the above strategies will end in significant energy savings, it’s also vital to think about the energy required to provide and manufacture retrofitting materials. Consider using salvaged or recycled materials where possible, or selecting locally made products which avoid emissions related to transport.

Effectively installing solar panels can offset this “hidden” carbon. Let’s say you’ve done all you may to lower your own home’s carbon footprint – you’ve rolled out insulation, installed double glazed windows and made essentially the most of sunshine.

You can then calculate the energy you continue to use to heat or cool your own home. This number will determine what number of rooftop solar panels you need to install to interrupt even, relatively than simply installing as many panels that may fit.

This is not going to only prevent money, but in addition minimise waste. Researchers estimate that by 2047, Australia will accumulate 1 million tonnes of solar panel waste.

It’s value choosing solar panels with micro-inverters, which capture optimal energy performance per panel while allowing you so as to add more panels in future if needed.

Solar panels can offset a few of the carbon related to manufacturing the materials you’ve purchased.

Another option is to make use of air-source heat pumps, which absorb heat from outside and produce it inside (like a reverse air conditioner). These can take the shape of mini-split heat pumps for individual rooms, or multi-zone installations.

They can sense indoor temperature, and operate at variable speeds and heating or cooling intensity, which implies their energy performance could be very efficient. My research finds well-planned use of such systems can reduce the energy used for heating by 69% and cooling by 38%.

It’s well definitely worth the effort

These retrofitting ideas may appear expensive, or take an excessive amount of time. However, they’ll often prevent money in the long term as energy prices turn into increasingly uncertain.

You can look to Every Building Counts, an initiative by the Green Building Council and the Property Council of Australia, which provides practical plans for emission reduction.

Australia may also learn from ongoing efforts by the Energiesprong network within the Netherlands. This network is industrialising energy efficiency with prefabricated retrofitting constructing elements.

Some initiatives include lightweight insulated panels that may simply be placed in front of existing partitions of homes. These panels are precisely fitted after rigorously laser scanning a facade and robotically cutting openings to match existing homes. Harnessing contemporary technology is significant for a speedy net-zero transition.

This article was originally published at theconversation.com