Draughts in Australian houses can add up to 20 per cent to our energy bills. Our scientists are here to help! In this series, we share energy efficiency tips for older houses, apartments and new homes.
Winter is here and temperatures are plummeting around Australia. In this winter chill series, we’ll share energy efficiency tips for older houses, apartments and new homes.
Australian houses are leaky
Australian homes are notoriously ‘leaky’ by international standards. This means warm air is leaking out, and cold air is coming in. These unintentional draughts make our houses cold to live in. They can also add up to 20 per cent to our energy bills.
We all want our homes to be comfortable, healthy, sustainable and inexpensive to heat. So, how do we get there?
We asked Michael Ambrose, former architect and our Senior Experimental Scientist, for his advice on how you can keep the warmth in and the power bills down.
In this three-part series, Michael shares his energy efficiency tips for older houses, apartments and new houses. So, let’s start with older houses.
Older homes and energy efficiency
When we say ‘older houses’, we mean those built before 2001. These homes were typically not subject to any energy efficiency regulations. This means they can be far less energy efficient.
Data from our Australian Housing Data Portal shows the average existing house is rated 2.2 stars for energy efficiency (the most energy efficient houses are 10 stars). This means they’re likely to be very cold to live in during winter.
Making your older house more energy effiicient
Michael says there are lots of easy ways you can improve how warm you home is.
“The best thing you can do is to seal draughts (uncontrolled air movement in a building). Most of the problems in homes occur because they’re leaky,” Michael says.
“The hot air can escape from the house, and the cold air can get in. On a windy day, in older homes, you can even hear the doors rattling and feel the breeze inside.”
“Leaky houses tend to go with age. The older the home, the leakier it is. Old weatherboard houses from the 1950s are very leaky, especially if they’re on stumps. You don’t get leakage through concrete slabs,” he says.
Top tips for older houses
But there are some simple solutions that can keep you warm and save you money. Here’s Michael’s checklist.
Cover your windows
Uncovered windows account for up to 40 per cent of heat loss in the winter
Use heavy, lined curtains that fall below the window to keep warmth in
Check your windows for cracks
Consider sealing gaps with insulation strips or caulk (a waterproof filler)
Install pelmets above your windows/curtains to stop warm air escaping
You can also hang a heavy blanket or towel off the curtain rod
Replace windows with double-glazing, use window films, or install insulating window coverings
Seal gaps around your doors
If you feel a draught, make a ‘door snake’ for internal doors
For external doors, use a plastic or metal door seal with wipers
For draughts around the edges of the door, use adhesive weather stripping
Old heaters, fireplaces and hot water systems
Sometimes when services are removed the hole isn’t sealed. Seal these up.
Look for gaps around built-in appliances, behind cupboards and under the kitchen sink
You can fill gaps with expanding foam
If you have an old fireplace, use fireplace dampers to block airflow
Fixed vents and exhaust fans
Some old brick homes have fixed ceiling and wall vents. Block these to stop air leakage
For old exhaust fans, use a ventilation cover to block the vents over winter
Evaporative cooling units
These should have winter covers or dampers, but they’re not always effective
Draught-proof them by using magnetic strips around the vent receiver in your ceiling
Clip the covers on in winter and peel them off in summer
Sealing other gaps
Listen for rattles or whistling, and feel for moving air
Look for gaps around the pipes and joints in cabinets, especially kitchen
Fill small gaps with silicone sealant
Fill bigger gaps with expanding spray foam
Be careful around internal gas appliances as they need fixed ventilation
Replace vented downlights with Insulated Cover rated LED downlights. These can be covered with ceiling insulation, so they don’t leave an uninsulated gap
Other areas include where skirting meets the wall, and where bricks meet the wood trim
Rugs and carpets
Cold air can roar up through gaps in the floorboards, especially in timber homes raised above the ground
Use rugs and carpets to act as a layer of insulation
Let the sunshine in
Keep blinds or curtains open during the day to warm your home, especially north and west-facing rooms
Renovate or retrofitting to increase energy efficiency