So you want an energy efficient home and you plan to go all electric to save money but starting this process seems a bit daunting, what is your first step?
Well logic would dictate that before you put in your heating system you want to make sure the minimum amount of heat leaks out of your house, after-all the heat leaking out of your home is effectively money being wasted. It is also important to factor in thermal efficiency before you choose the size of your heater to avoid over heating a room. People who install large heaters before insulation are often shocked how much warmer their house is after insulating; I have been in a house with a wood heater that was sized before insulation and the room the heater was in was consistently a scorching 30° C (far too hot!). But how far do you go to improve the thermal envelope of your home? Do you go all out and insulate the floor and the walls as well as the roof? If your budget and time allows you should consider it, but if you can't insulate your entire building envelop where should you focus to get the biggest return?
Well, there are three basic improvements that can be made to the vast majority of homes to make them more energy efficient without messy work on your house (i.e. pulling out plasterboard) and provide a good return on your investment.
Step number one insulate your roof well
Roof insulation is the most effective form of insulation due to the fact heat rises; therefore it makes sense to concentrate your insulation efforts there first. Because most houses have a roof cavity, roof insulation is easy to install (although installation is still best left to a qualified professional) and therefore tends to be cheaper. Roof insulation should be R6 or greater to get decent results.
Step number two draft proof your house
If you added up all the gaps in the average home it comes to about 1.5 m2 which really is quite a big hole letting in cold air (and letting out your precious heat). Getting a professional to draft proof your home doesn't cost much (you could even try it yourself) and gives you a big result in terms of thermal efficiency. Problem areas for drafts include: exhaust fans, down-lights, fire places, doors and cracks. Some people worry that sealing up a house to much will lead to indoor air quality issues, there are ways to mitigate indoor air pollution but that is a separate article.
Step three install proper curtains for your windows
Much easier than replacing your windows with double glazing is the option to install proper thermal curtains over you windows. Proper thermal curtains reach the floor and have a pelmet. What is a pelmet you might ask? That is a cap at the top of the curtain that prevents air sinking past your cold window behind the curtain and flowing out into the room, causing your curtain to act as a reverse heater on a cold day. Floor length curtains contain any cold air behind the curtain like a dam preventing thermal circulation past the window. In short proper curtains stop heat escaping out of your window.
You should certainly insulate your house as much as possible as the more insulated your home, the smaller the heater you will require and the more comfortable your home will be due to greater thermal stability. But, if you only have a limited budget and don't want to make any serious modifications to your home, the three steps outlined in this article will get you a long way towards an energy efficient home without the hassle of serious renovation work.