Category Archives: Environment

Charity begins at home: an alternative giving guide to help ‘save the world’

Charity Begins at Home. Blog Post Talina Edwards Architecture Sustainable design Ballarat

“How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~ ANNE FRANK

Well as the year draws to an end and with the smell of Christmas is in the air already, it engages our spirit of generous giving to loved-ones… But I do hate the over-spending and over-consumption of so much non-ethical and non-sustainable “stuff”!  But this post is not a gift guide (you can find one of those here or here), THIS is about extending our generous spirit beyond our loved ones, to our wider community… to help out others at this time of year too.

Here’s some little ways that don’t have to cost much (if anything!) that might just make a big difference to someone, and if that doesn’t give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside, then perhaps you’re missing the point of the Christmas season. ;o)

Show Gratitude

This is the cheapest and easiest one! Just taking the time to say thank-you and letting someone know they are appreciated. You can tell them face to face, send a gift-card, post a comment publicly on social media… Taking this time to be thankful not only brightens someone else’s day, it will improve your wellbeing too!

Partake in Random Acts of Kindness

One of my favourite films of all time is Amelie! If you don’t know it (I highly recommend it!), it is a quirky art house film set in France, about a woman who does cute, odd little things to help influence the lives of the people around her, for the better.  If everyone was a little more kind, imagine the world we could be living in! Some like to see this as “Pay it forward” – or Good Karma – that the kindness you show others now, will be returned to you in a time of need. Maybe you could pay for a coffee/meal for the person in the queue behind you at the cafe, or fill up a parking metre as you leave, donate blood, let a car in front of you in a traffic jam, offer babysitting to parents, walk a friend’s dog, pick flowers from your garden to take to an elderly neighbour….  there are hundreds more ideas online if you’re stuck.

Volunteer Your Time

More than a third of Australian adults are already involved in voluntary work – are you? It also happens to be International Volunteer Day #IVD2014 on December 5th, and the theme for this year is “Make change happen: volunteer“. Helping make a difference in your community at a grassroots level is what it is all about… just by helping in a small way, you are in fact helping to change the world! Often giving your time, is more valuable than giving your money.

Donate with ‘Shout For Good’ App

I first heard about the ‘Shout for Good’ App at the Big Hearted Business Conference, and thought it was such a fabulous idea  – by changing the way we donate to charity in the age of the smart-phone. It is so easy – when you shout yourself lunch, how about donating the same amount to a favourite charity. With a tap on our phone it is that easy! No more being hassled by cold-callers asking you for your bank details for recurring monthly donations to the big charity organisations. Check it out here.

Support a Crowdfunding Campaign

I must admit, I’m quite a fan of supporting these. It is a very different feeling to say, giving money to the Guide Dogs or Oxfam – and please don’t get me wrong, of course each and every charity is worth supporting and I have given to these organisations many times, but I do love that with “Crowdfunding” you are supporting a person or a cause or a big idea that you feel more connected with. You can support, and share in their journey,  and more often than not, you  also get a “reward” because you’ve helped kick in the funds upfront toward capital for their project – so it’s a win-win situation for everyone. I’ve loved receiving some artwork, a CD, or knowing that a tree’s been planted all due to some very worthy ‘pozible’ campaigns. Two that are close to my heart at the moment, and still really need your help, are firstly, a local art and design collaborationCollidescope  where a total of 22 Ballarat visual-artists and fashion designers are working together to create wearable-art as part of the Melbourne Fashion Festival – but this is much more than just ‘fashion’! It is about celebrating creativity, community and collaboration! I’m fortunate to know many of the amazing creatives involved in this project, and I can’t wait to see the outcomes. Please see more here.

The other fabulous initiative that you may have heard about isThe Nursery Project‘ by two inspiring local creatives: blogging-royalty and author Rowan Anderson (Whole Larder Love) and his partner – photographer/blogger/cook “the lunch lady” Kate Berry. You may know that they are passionate about simple, wholesome, healthy, down-to-earth living, eating sustainable, and growing your own food and making it from scratch. I love their philosophies and share *most* of them (but, err, as someone who eats predominantly vegetarian, I must admit,  I’m not quite so fond of the raise/hunt/butcher and eat the WHOLE animal – as sustainable as this scenario is!). They “want people to get their hands dirty, minds thinking and bellies and hearts full”. They’ve chosen the Daylesford area for the location, noting “We’re also basing The Nursery Project a short drive from one of the unhealthiest regional cities in Australia – Ballarat – where food and lifestyle choices are at their worst. It’s here that we hope to encourage some positive change.” If you can, please do something to help change this fact, by finding out more here.

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I’m sure you’re already giving generously to others in your own unique way, I just thought I’d put a few more ideas out there. I think this is especially important to set a good example for kids at this time of year – that it is not about receiving gifts from Santa, it is about giving to others.

And in this spirit of giving, I want to show my gratitude to all of you – my wonderful family, friends, clients, colleagues, consultants, supporters, readers, fellow-bloggers, creative tribes-folk, followers and “likers”. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Without all of you, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing! 

Ballarat Sustainable Architect Green Builder


Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions about environmental design. Don’t forget you can click here to sign up to receive our monthly newsletter  (or over there on the top right-hand side of this webpage) so you won’t miss out on our news!

Are all sustainable homes the same? (The past, present and future of green buildings.)

This post continues on our the theme of what a sustainable home is – and are they all the same? We’ll take a quick look at past, the present, and where we are (or should be!) headed in the future with regards to green buildings. Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions about environmental design. We recently began a series of posts covering the WHY, WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW of sustainable design. 

renovations new homes green building central victoria

 

 

 

I recently wrote about “What is a sustainable house?” which looked at a definition, and listed ten characteristics that I believe constitute a truly sustainable home. But today I want to address how I view that “environmentally friendly” homes have changed in recent times.

I grew up in the bushy Eltham-area (in the outer north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne), which at the time was well-known as an artistic community, who were environmentally conscious with many mud brick homes amongst the trees. Local legend Alistair Knox was a designer, environmentalist, builder, landscape-architect and the arguably the ‘father’ of the alternative natural building movement. From the 1950s to the 1980s, and he designed and built countless earth buildings – for a full list see here!  So I was introduced to this “organic architecture” early on, to these homes made from natural materials of earth and timber, with large windows to connect to the native landscape, and a focus on a wood-fire hearth as the literal heart of the home.

So back then, then the emphasis was about what the house was made from. A focus on locally sourced, organic, natural materials (and living in a more connected way with the natural environment). 

This low-tech approach was (and is) also seen in the owner-builder alternative housing movement, in permaculture, in earth-ships, and also many primitive and vernacular buildings from around the world.

Mudbrick home Eltham Victoria

Environmental Design: the natural way
“Living in the Environment” by Alistair Knox 1975

 

Today, the focus is more about how the house performs. This is much more of a high-tech approach to the energy-efficiency of the building and its services.

There us so much talk about thermal dynamics and heating coefficients, or megajoules / kilowatt-hours / CO2 emissions and zero-carbon / R-values / ten-star rating / consumption per annum… numbers, statistics, technical jargon…

“Autonomous” homes (or those ‘off-the-grid’) of course need to understand all of this to meet their energy and water needs. These days though, many people seem to focus on these high-tech ‘add-ons’ to make their homes greener – instead of ensuring the building fabric is right first, or perhaps even looking more broadly at how sustainable their lifestyles are the choices they make.

To ensure a home “performs” well (which means that it is thermally comfortable with little need for additional mechanical heating/cooling) it is imperative that the building envelope is designed correctly. Today, sophisticated energy-rating software such as FirstRate (and international standards such as Passivhaus) focus heavily on science, statistics, and rigid criteria to get proven results for new buildings.

Unfortunately,  at times the ’embodied’ energy used to make manufacture/process/transport  some high-tech products/materials (e.g. metal or petroleum-derived plastic products or harmful chemical components/finishes) can outweigh the amount of energy that will actually be saved during the performance of the building…and can be toxic to our health, not to mention the earth. This can be a complicated mathematical equation to evaluate over the life of a building, with many factors and variables to be considered, so it can become even more confusing!

Solar Hot Water PV Photovoltaic Solar Power Energy

Green buildings: High-tech solutions
Solar Hot Water and Photovoltaics on Michael Mobbs’ roof in “Sustainable House” 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

So the first approach is a bit too hippy, and the second too nerdy…can we do BOTH?

YES! Both approaches are crucial for our future buildings to be more sustainable. And encouragingly, this does seem to be happening…

On the one hand, our souls crave the connection to nature, but we should also embrace new technologies which are making innovative breakthroughs all the time, which can improve our buildings and our lives.

On the other, if we continue our over-consumption and greedy ways, and think technology will save us, we are mistaken. It is only when we start thinking of the life-cycle of our built environment in the same ways as the natural environment that we will start to have truly sustainable buildings. 

As always, it is important to remember that sustainable design is NOT an aesthetic or a style, but a philosophical and theoretical approach to how the building is composed.  Please stay tuned to read more about the who, what, when, where, why, and of course we’ll get to the how of sustainable design.

Talina-Edwards-Architecture-Signature

Are all sustainable houses the same? What do you think? What sort of sustainable home do you dream about living in? Does your heart lean more toward the warmth of timber and the texture of stone…or does your head get excited by the latest specs of photovoltaic panels? (I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!)

Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our monthly newsletter  (or over there on the top right-hand side of this webpage) so you won’t miss out on our posts!

 

 

 

 

Green building resource guide

Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, with a passion for sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions, so if you have a query  please let us know!

We’ve recently added a “Resources” page to our website, as we often find that we’re recommending links or websites to people for further information. This information will be a permanent page which will be regularly updated. But we wanted to share the news with you first, that it is now live. If you have any additional resources to add – please let us know!

sustainable green healthy home house architecture building

 

There is so much information out there on green buildings, sustainable living and healthy homes, that it can be overwhelming to know where to start!

We’ve compiled this list of resources to help you, and we’ll continue to update it. Hope you’ll find it useful.

 

 

 

BALLARAT RESOURCES:

Smart Living Centre Ballarat: http://smartlivingballarat.org.au

BREAZE (Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions): http://breaze.org.au

Ballarat Permaculture Guild: ballaratpermacultureguild.org/

Ballarat Environment Network: http://ben.org.au

Ballarat Climate Action 2014: http://ballaratclimateaction2014.blogspot.com.au

Ballarat Green Drinks events: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ballarat-Green-Drinks

 

SUSTAINABLE BUILDING/ARCHITECTURE REFERENCE BOOKS:

Your Home” Technical Manual (+free online site): http://www.yourhome.gov.au/index.html

Sustainable House” by Michael Mobbs   http://www.sustainablehouse.com.au

Warm House, Cool House: Inspirational Designs for Low-Energy Housing” (second edition) by Nick Hollo http://www.publish.csiro.au/pid/6869.htm

Grand Designs Australian Handbook” by Peter Maddison https://shop.abc.net.au/products/grand-designs-aust-handbook-pb

Cradle to Cradle” by Michael Braungart and William McDonaugh http://www.cradletocradle.com

Greeniology” by Tanya Ha: http://www.tanyaha.com/greeniology.html

 

MAGAZINES (PRINT & ONLINE):

Green Magazine: http://greenmagazine.com.au/

Sanctuary Magazine: http://www.sanctuarymagazine.org.au/

ReNew Magazine: http://renew.org.au

Owner Builder Magazine: http://www.theownerbuilder.com.au

Pip Permaculture Magazine: https://www.pipmagazine.com.au

 

GREEN BUILDING WEBSITES – INSPIRATION & IDEAS:

Inhabitat, Design Will Save The World: http://inhabitat.com

Ecological Homes: http://www.ecologicalhomes.com.au/

Sustainable Design Forum: http://www.sustainabledesignforum.com/

Sustainable House Tours: www.sustainablehouseday.com (Second weekend of September each year).

Your Future Home: www.yourfuturehome.com.au

Home style Green: (NZ-based podcast about living in a healthy and sustainable environment, with international content) http://homestylegreen.com

 

GENERAL SUSTAINABLE LIVING:

Living Greener: http://www.livinggreener.gov.au

Sustainability Victoria: http://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au

Liveability (Live the way you want, sustainably): http://www.liveability.com.au

“GREEN” Wikipedia http://www.greenlivingpedia.org/Greenlivingpedia

Sustainable Living Festival (Sustainable Living Foundation Australia) http://www.slfestival.org

Sustainable Living Guide: http://sustainablelivingguide.com.au 

One Million Women: http://www.1millionwomen.com.au This is a national campaign to inspire 1 million Australian women to take practical action on climate change by cutting 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse pollutant causing global warming. Every woman who joins has a personal goal to cut 1 tonne of CO2 from their daily lives within a year of joining the campaign.

 

WATER EFFICIENCY:

Save Water: http://www.savewater.com.au

Rainwater Tank Calculations (free online tool): http://tankulator.ata.org.au

Water Efficient Products: www.waterrating.gov.au

CHOICE (independent publisher of consumer information) www.choice.com.au (Generally considers water efficiency in reports and product/appliance rankings)

Saving Water (Dept of Environment and Primary Industries)  http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/water/saving-water

Central Highlands Water (Building and Renovating, Sewer location): http://www.chw.net.au/business/building-and-renovating

Central Highlands Water (Building over easement): http://www.chw.net.au/development/build-over-easements

For solar hot water info, see “RENEWABLE ENERGY” category below

 

SUSTAINABLE MATERIAL SELECTION:

EcoSpecifier (Certified and verified sustainable products database): www.ecospecifier.org

Good Environmental Choice Australia: http://www.geca.org.au/

Forest Stewardship Council Australia: http://www.fscaustralia.org/

Forest Stewardship Council International: http://www.fsc.org/en/

Good Wood Guide: www.goodwoodguide.org.au

EcoBuy (Sustainable procurement advice and support): www.ecobuy.org.au

Greenlist guide (Moreland City Council):  www.sustainablesteps.com.au/pdf/Moreland Greenlist 050905v2.0.pdf

Window Energy Rating Scheme (Window Efficiency Rankings): www.wers.net

 

APPLIANCES (ENERGY EFFICIENT):

Energy Labelling (Appliances) Energy Rating http://www.energyrating.gov.au/

CHOICE (independent publisher of consumer information) www.choice.com.au (Generally considers energy efficiency in reports and product/appliance rankings)

 

RENEWABLE ENERGY / SOLAR HOT WATER:

Alternative Technology Association: http://www.ata.org.au

Green-Power Government Accredited Renewable Energy http://www.greenpower.gov.au

Office of the Renewable Energy Target (and rebate info for solar electricity and solar hot water) http://www.orer.gov.au/

Solar Hot Water Rebate http://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/www/html/1378-applying-for-a-solar-hot-water-rebate.asp?intSiteID=4

Solar Hot Water Rebate: www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/www/html/1376-solar-hot-water-rebate.asp

BREAZE Energy Solutions: http://breaze.org.au/about-bes

 

 ONLINE CALCULATORS:

ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT

WWF Australia’s  Ecological Footprint Calculator (for individuals): http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/people_and_the_environment/human_footprint/footprint_calculator/

Global footprint network calculator: http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/gfn/page/calculators

Carbon neutral carbon calculator: http://www.carbonneutral.com.au/carbon-calculator.html

Centre for Sustainable Economy Ecological Footprint Quiz: http://www.myfootprint.org/

WATER FOOTPRINT

Water footprint calculator: http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/YourWaterFootprint

LED LIGHTING CALCULATOR

LED lighting calculator: http://www.ledlightingcalculator.com.au 

R-VALUE (INSULATION) CALCULATOR

R-Value Calculator http://rvalue.com.au

WATER TANK CALCULATOR

Rainwater Tank Calculations (free online tool): http://tankulator.ata.org.au

 

GREEN ROOFS (LIVING ROOFS):

Growing Green Guide: A guide to green roofs, walls and facades in Melbourne and Victoria (free download) http://www.growinggreenguide.org

 

SUSTAINABLE GARDENING/PERMACULTURE:

Sustainable Gardening Australia: www.sgaonline.org.au

Ballarat Permaculture Guild: http://www.ballaratpermacultureguild.org

Permablitz Ballarat: http://www.permablitz.net/regional-groups/25-permablitz-ballarat-part-of-ballarat-permaculture-guild

Permaculture Australia: http://permacultureaustralia.org.au

Holmgren Design, Permaculture vision and innovation: http://holmgren.com.au

 

SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT:

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Public Transport Victoria: http://ptv.vic.gov.au

BICYCLES

Bicycle Network: https://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au

Bicycle Route Maps: http://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/Home/Moreinfoandservices/Bicycles/BicycleMaps/

CAR-SHARE (Melbourne only at this stage – doesn’t seem to be any in Ballarat yet)

Green Car Share: http://www.greensharecar.com.au

Flexicar: http://www.flexicar.com.au

Goget: http://www.goget.com.au

MORE EFFICIENT CARS

Fuel Efficient Cars: http://www.greenvehicleguide.gov.au/

 

CARBON OFFSET PROGRAMS:

Fifteen Trees (Ballarat-based Tree Planting business): www.fifteentrees.com.au

Greenfleet carbon-offsetting: www.greenfleet.com.au

Climate Friendly carbom-offsetting: www.climatefriendly.com

 

GENERAL ENVIRONMENTAL / CHARITIES / NGO LINKS:

Climate Council: www.climatecouncil.org.au

Climate Action Network Australia: http://www.cana.net.au/

Greenpeace: www.greenpeace.com.au

Australian Conservation Foundation: www.acfonline.org.au

Oxfam Australia: www.oxfam.org.au

Friends Of The Earth: www.foe.org.au

Australian marine conservation society: www.amcs.org.au

Sea Shepherd Australia: http://www.seashepherd.org.au

Amnesty International: www.amnestyinternational.com

Get Up: www.getup.org.au

 

SUSTAINABILITY & KIDS:

Eco cubby: http://www.eco-cubby.com

Green Stuff For Kids”, book by Tanya Ha: http://www.tanyaha.com/green-stuff-for-kids.html

 

USEFUL LINKS FOR YOUR PROJECT:

Climatic Data for your area: www.bom.gov.au/climate/data

DEPI Land Title Register: http://www.land.vic.gov.au

Victoria’s Planning Schemes Online: http://planningschemes.dpcd.vic.gov.au/schemes

Working with your architect” brochure: http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.arbv.vic.gov.au/resource/collection/68DFC359-BAC9-4473-8A61-3AEBA966E77F/Working_With_Your_Architect_Brochure.pdf

 

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We’ll aim to answer more questions about sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes, also with reference to our local climate (Regional Ballarat area in central Victoria and Melbourne) in future posts. Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our monthly news  (over there on the top right-hand side of this page) so you won’t miss out on our posts!

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Best tips for more efficient heating this winter

Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, with a passion for sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions, and this post is about the “Best tips for more efficient heating this winter”. You may also be interested in our past few posts: “Best ‘green’ ways to keep YOU warm this winter” and “Best ‘green’ ways to keep YOUR HOME warm this winter”.

Advice Heating Your Home Best Top Tips Keep Warm House Home So hopefully you’ve taken on board our top tips in our past few posts about warming yourself and your home. However let’s be realistic, until we all live in 10-star-rated homes, we will need heating – especially here in Ballarat! Did you know that in Ballarat we spend over 75% of our household energy for heating!  This is because MOST of our housing stock was designed so poorly in the first place! So here’s some tips to make sure your heating is  as efficient as possible – which not only saves energy and the earth’s resources, it also saves you money!

But before we move onto these tips, I must reiterate how important is to do things like seal up your draughts, and close your curtains at night, double glaze if possible, (as draughts and windows can account for over 50% of heat loss!) and check your insulation levels…if you don’t do these steps and others that I discussed in my previous post, then you’re basically letting all your hot air escape…it’s like trying to bake a cake in the oven with the oven-door left open…or like trying to have a relaxing hot bath without the plug in!! It’s not efficient, you’ll be using your heater much more, and it will be wasting you lots of money that could be easily (and often cheaply) avoided!

Efficient Use of Heaters 

Turn the thermostat down a few degrees: Put on some warmer clothes and drop the temperature down between 18 – 20 degrees celsius – if you’re swanning about the house in your summer frock with the heater cranking, it is up too high! These few degrees can make a huge difference to the amount of energy you use – every degree above 20 degrees adds 10% to your heating bill.

Turn your heater off at night (or right down): The ideal sleeping temperature overnight is 16 degrees celsius, and with warm bedding you can still sleep very comfortable with a lower temperature than this. If there are infants or elderly or ill people in your home, they may require slightly warmer rooms.

Only have your heater on when you’re home: Don’t heat your whole house when you’re not even there! What a waste!

Close internal doors: Keep all internal doors closed to unused (and utility) rooms – like laundries. Don’t pay for heating for rooms that don’t require it.

Only heat the rooms that are occupied: Use a space-heater to only heat the room being occupied – instead of heating a whole house.

Zone your heating: If you have central-heating, ensure it can be zoned and have adjustable (closable) vents to different zones that so you only heat the rooms you’re using.

Programmable Thermostat: Ensure your heating system has a programmable thermostat that will cut out when the rooms are warm enough, and then kick back in when the temperature drops.

Use a timer: Does your thermostat or heater have a timer? Use it to set your heating to come on in the morning, and ensure it turns off when you go to bed. You can also purchase timers that plug into your powerpoint that will do the same thing.

Regular Maintenance: Ensure your heater/boiler/ducts/outlets are all regularly maintained to help your system run more efficiently. For example, make sure filters are clean, ducts haven’t come loose, and to make sure it is safe and there are no gas leaks, etc.

Install Ceiling Fans: These can be used both in summer and winter! Turn your ceiling-fans to “winter-mode” or reverse so that they help blow the warm air down from the ceiling and distribute around the room – especially with high ceilings. Don’t turn them up too high though or the faster air-movement will feel too cool. And it’s not ideal to install them if you have low ceilings (2.4 metres or less) – particularly if you’re tall!

Consider “Green Power” to pay for your heating: Consider installing photovoltaics or ensuring that you are buying “green power” from a renewable energy resource to run your heating.

Consider Carbon Offsetting: Perhaps plant some more trees, or look into carbon offsetting to add something positive for the amount of energy your heating is using.

Check Your Wood Source: If you have a slow-combustion wood-heater, where are you sourcing your wood from? Is it from a renewable plantation? Your own block of land? Or some old-growth forest?! Please educate yourself so you can make informed decisions about your fuel. You need to ensure your wood is well-seasoned (very dry) before burning so it doesn’t smoke or produce too many pollutants into the air (and it burns better and produces more heat too).

….and finally

* So you’ve done all these things to keep yourself warm and keep your house warm, and to make sure your existing heating system is running more efficiently, AND you still need the heating on all day and night?  Well, at least you’ll have a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that you’ve done the right thing, you’ve saved some energy and you’ve done your best!

** And if you’re still cold…perhaps it’s time to relocate to somewhere a bit more tropical!!! Bali anyone?

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Do you feel the cold? Have you found these posts helpful? I’ve love to hear about it in the comments below!

We’ll aim to answer more questions about sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes, also with reference to our local climate (Regional Ballarat area and Melbourne) in future posts. Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our monthly news  (over there on the top right-hand side of this page) so you won’t miss out on our posts!

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Best ‘green’ ways to keep YOUR HOUSE warm this winter

Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, with a passion for sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions, this week we chat about the “Best ‘green’ ways to keep YOUR HOME warm this winter”. Last week we posted the “Best ‘green’ ways to keep YOU warm this winter” and next week we’ll finish with the “Best tips for more efficient heating this winter”.

Talina Edwards Architecture top tips

So, hands up if you’ve had the heating on at your place? Yes, us too! Ballarat doesn’t have a reputation for being one of the coldest places in mainland Australia for nothing! Hopefully you’ve taken on boards one of our tips from last week about to KEEP YOURSELF warmer…before turing the heater on!

But did you know that here in Victoria, the largest percentage of our home’s total energy use is for heating! On average, Victorians spend about $800 a year or around one third of the average home’s energy bill on home heating. If we can all reduce the amount of energy we use, the planet will be much happier…so we’ve compiled an extensive list of the best “green” ways to keep your house warmer this winter!

Of course, the best way for a home to be thermally comfortable, is for it be designed properly in the first place! It is possible to design and build a home that requires little or NO mechanical heating – simply relying on passive solar design principles (including correct orientation, adequate insulation, air-tight, internal thermal mass to store the heat, double-glazing, etc…)

But since we can’t all go out and build a new home right now (much to my disappointment!), in the meantime here’s some tips to help make sure your existing home can be as warm as possible! Many of these are cheap and easy to do, and can even be done if you’re renting. Other retrofitting ideas are more for homeowners which will cost $ now, but often the payback in terms of what you will save will be relatively quick.

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Best green ways to keep YOUR HOME warm:

1. Take advantage of FREE solar-heating during the day:  If you have a cat, you’ll probably notice they always manage to find these sunny spots! Ensure those north-facing windows have the curtains/blinds open during the day to let in the warm winter sun! (Bonus points if you have some ‘thermal mass’ inside which can help trap the sun’s warmth and keep the temperature stable inside for longer).  Also, if there are evergreen trees blocking the sun to these north-facing windows, consider replacing them with deciduous trees.

Image via cutestcatpics.com

Image via cutestcatpics.com

2. Close the drapes at dusk:  A single pane of glass can lose almost 10 times as much heat as the same area of insulated wall. it thick, heavy, insulated curtains to all windows and ensure they are closed at dusk to trap the warm air inside the house. You can add thermal liners (or even material like polar-fleece) to your existing curtains or even use old woollen blankets.

3. Install Pelmets: You know those wooden boxes that sit along the top of the window? They aren’t merely decorative (or daggy vintage decor), they actually are very effective when used with heavy drapes to keep the cold air out! See image below to help explain how the air moves around the room,  without getting into too much technical talk about thermodynamics!

4. Hang curtains (inside) over your external doors:  It is worth considering hanging a curtain/blanket over your external doors during the winter months when you’re home, to help trap the cold air before it enters the house. Even when gaps beneath the door are sealed (see more about that below), drafts can still get through the sides and tops of doors. You can hang them overnight, and take back down during the day.

5. Close external shutters: If you have external blinds or shutters, closing them at night will also help to prevent the cold air reaching the glass. Don’t forget to open them during the day to let the sun shine in!

6. Put down some warm rugs: Cover bare floorboards (after you’ve sealed any gaps between boards!) with rugs or carpets to help add a layer of insulation.

7. Seal up the cracks: Check for gaps around doors/windows/floors/old vents and stop cold draughts (air leaks), and have draught-stoppers (weather-strips) fitted to all external doors, plus you can use door-snakes or rolled-up towels. Not sure where drafts are coming from? Look for obvious gaps like visible light around doors and windows, or use a candle or lit-incense stick to help detect them. Drafts account for up to 25% of heat loss in your home, and can increase your heating costs by 20%!

8. Seal unused chimneys: Ensure unused chimneys are sealed to prevent heat loss or cold air blowing down (you can use a chimney balloon). Open fires are lovely to look at, but 90% of the heat goes up the chimney, so you’d be best to either seal up that chimney, or install a closed fire-box (slow-combustion wood heater) instead which is much more efficient.

9. Upgrade Insulation: Upgrade your ceiling insulation (and walls and floor too) if possible. Up to 35% of a house’s heat is lost through the roof (hot air rises) and the minimum R-value (resistance to heat flow) for ceiling insulation in Ballarat is R4.5 – so really we need double this amount if not more. If you have a properly insulated roof, you can save up to 45% on your heating bills!

10. Re-use heat in the home: Leave the oven door open when you’ve finished baking and you’ve switched it off, and you can do this with the dishwasher too to let the hot air escape into the room. Of course only do this if there aren’t small children and pets around who could get hurt.

11. Upgrade to double-glazing: Replace existing single-paned windows with double-glazing if possible. There are also retro-fit options to add a secondary layer to existing windows, and special films you can add to your single-glazing that can be as effective as double-glazing for a much lower price. For a really cheap DIY solution, you can add a layer of bubble-wrap to the inside of your existing windows over winter!

12. Rearrange furniture: Move things around a bit to ensure beds and couches aren’t up against external (un-insulated) walls. If you can, put bookshelves against external walls as they help provide an additional layer of insulation.

13. Don’t heat bedrooms: At least not overnight – the ideal temperature for sleeping is 16 degrees celsius. If you feel the cold, or have small children or elderly family members, then add extra blankets and a hot water bottle (or an electric blanket if you must – but not at same time as hot water bottle!)

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Stay tuned for next week, where we discuss greener ways to ensure your heating is running efficiently, so you’re not using excess energy or paying excess dollars for it!

Have you done anything to ensure YOUR HOME is kept warmer? What have I missed? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

We’ll aim to answer more questions about sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes, also with reference to our local climate (Regional Ballarat area and Melbourne) in future posts. Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our monthly news  (over there on the top right-hand side of this page) so you won’t miss out on our posts!

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