Build for energy efficiency

Bi-fold doors at the back of a house, opening onto a paved patio

Using good design principles can save energy, water and money, while creating a more enjoyable and comfortable home. All new homes, home renovations, alterations and additions need to comply with the 6-star standard in the National Construction Code. Go up just one star, however, and you will reduce your heating and cooling energy needs – and your energy bills – by 30 per cent.

Key principles of energy efficient design

Block orientation

When choosing a block for your home, make sure it will allow you to place the living areas where you spend the most time on the north side of the house. This will take advantage of the winter sun, keeping these rooms warm, light and bright. Avoid or minimise windows facing west or east and make sure they are well shaded for summer, and minimise south facing windows as these don't get any winter sun. Ask your architect or designer for advice about taking advantage of natural light.

Solar power

Installing a solar PV system will allow you to generate renewable energy and reduce your electricity bills. The Victorian Government is providing a 50 per cent rebate (up to $2,225) for eligible households.

Energy efficient hot water systems

A solar hot water system might be more expensive to buy and install, but the running costs will be significantly lower. The Victorian Government is providing a rebate on solar hot water systems eligible households. 

Window frames, glazing and shading

Smarter window design and external shading can make your home bright and comfortable all year round. Double glazing, which has become less expensive, will reduce heat losses from your home, and reduce heat gain through your windows in summer. Energy efficient windows can reduce heat losses through the window by up to 50 per cent compared to a single glazed window.

Insulation

Insulation is a one-off cost that will benefit the lifetime of your house. Insulating your home’s ceiling, walls and floors can save you up to 45 per cent on the cost of running your home. Therefore, adding as much insulation as possible, while making sure it is installed correctly with no gaps and proper waterproofing, is a sound investment. Ask your builder if they do third party ‘as-built’ verification checks to ensure that your home’s insulation has been installed correctly.

Draught proofing your home

Up to 25 per cent of winter heat loss from existing houses is caused by air leakage, also known as draughts or uncontrolled ventilation. To save money and energy by reducing air leakage:

  • ensure proper building techniques, including proper installation of insulation and sealing holes during construction
  • use good quality weather sealed external doors and windows
  • install self-closing extraction fans to cut heat loss
  • avoid downlights as they require holes in the ceiling and disturb the insulation, or use approved downlight covers to reduce the risk of fire and protect insulation
  • make sure your home is built and tested to meet acceptable air leakage rates.

If you're renovating, ask your builder if they do third-party ‘as-built’ verification checks to ensure that your home is meeting an acceptable air leakage rate.

Ventilation

Building your home to reduce air leakage (uncontrolled ventilation) needs to be coupled with well controlled ventilation to replace used internal air. Both windows and exhaust fans can help control ventilation to maintain air quality while minimising air leakage. 

Windows work best in bedrooms and living rooms, and exhaust fans work best in areas such as the kitchen, bathroom, toilet and laundry, because they remove pollutants, odours and moisture. 

Good ventilation, coupled with good building techniques, will ensure your home keeps your family healthy, saves you money and stays comfortable. 

Ask your builder about their home design’s ventilation strategy and whether they do third-party ‘as-built’ verification checks to ensure your home is being built to best practice building techniques.

Efficient lighting

Smarter lighting design and taking advantage of natural light will save you money on your ongoing energy bills. Check with your electrician to make sure the lights and any covers comply with Australian electrical safety requirements.

Zoning and efficient heating and cooling

Designing zones in your home will allow you to efficiently heat and efficiently cool rooms individually. Doors are a great way to zone areas of your home, for example between corridors and bedrooms or living areas. This way you don't need to spend money heating or cooling rooms that you are not using. Sliding doors will be less effective as they have large gaps in the recess, which allow the air to flow freely.

Choose the most energy efficient heating system and energy efficient cooling system to save energy and significantly reduce your energy bills.

Energy efficient appliances

When choosing fridges, televisions, washing machines, dishwashers and so on, choose energy efficient appliances with the highest energy star ratings. Even if you pay a little more for these appliances they will save you money over time.

Water

Save water by considering water recycling systems and choosing water saving fittings and appliances. Keep kitchens and wet areas easily updateable to allow for design, usage and technology changes.

Building materials

Does your builder:

  • buy local materials to reduce carbon footprint
  • select materials that don't have toxic elements and can be recycled and reused
  • source timber from sustainable plantations and buy local materials to reduce carbon footprint.

Waste minimisation

Over 75 per cent of construction waste is clean, excavated material, such as concrete, bricks and timber which can often be recycled. Ask your builder about waste minimisation strategy and documentation.


Useful information and resources

  • Master Builders Association of Victoria has been delivering the Green Living program to the building industry for the past 10 years. This program aims to improve the skills of builders, enabling them to build houses that are comfortable and healthy for their clients with minimal impact on the environment.
  • Design for Place offers sustainable, energy-efficient housing designs free to download. The architect-designed suite of plans are a significant resource for anyone planning a new home.

Victorian Residential Efficiency Scorecard

Victorian Residential Efficiency Scorecard

A Scorecard energy efficiency assessment will help you identify where your home is using the most energy, give it a Scorecard energy efficiency star rating, and suggest ways to make it more comfortable and more energy efficient to run. Whether you're selling, buying, renovating, looking to cut power bills or feel more comfortable in your home, Scorecard can help.

Visit the Scorecard website


Close-up of a carpenter marking up a piece of wood

6 Star Standard, codes and regulations

Learn about the National Construction Code, the 6 Star Standard  and the codes and regulations that will help you improve your energy efficiency and sustainability.

Read more


A home renovation underway at the rear of a house

The right advice

Working with the right people is crucial to a successful building project. Make energy efficiency a priority when you choose your architect, building designer and other professionals.

Read more

A builder hammering on a house frame against a blue sky

Building or renovating?

If you're building a home or undertaking a renovation, you might like to refer to our list of questions to ask your builder, architect or installer.

Read more

The TAKE 2 Pledge Now button

Pledge to TAKE2

“Working together, we pledge to play our part and take action on climate change for Victoria, our country and our planet.”

Join thousands of others already playing their part to help keep the temperature rise under two degrees, so we can avoid the worst of climate change.

We can make a difference, if we all act today for a better tomorrow.