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How to heat your house efficiently

Winter is coming, and all across the southern states eyes turn to energy bills and minds towards how to make them smaller. What is the most efficient way to heat your house? As with anything to do with…

Keeping the heat in the places you want it is the most important part of any heating plan. Wunkai/Flickr

Winter is coming, and all across the southern states eyes turn to energy bills and minds towards how to make them smaller. What is the most efficient way to heat your house?

As with anything to do with thermodynamics the answer is complicated, but there are some solid rules to help shape your thinking.

Insulate, insulate, insulate; then add more insulation

Both heating and cooling come down to one fundamental problem; how to put heat where you want it and keep it there. That means outside in summer and inside in winter.

The rate that heat enters or leaves a building is governed by the materials that make up your “building envelope”: the surface which surrounds your living spaces. You have to stop heat crossing the boundary of your walls, ceiling, floor, windows and doors without your permission.

We say “without your permission” because in winter your first priority must be getting sunlight into the house and stopping it leaving again.

Direct sunlight is almost entirely ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which passes easily through glass and into your living room. Once it strikes an object it heats up and the sunlight becomes infrared (IR) radiation, which is best thought of as radiant heat. IR radiation doesn’t pass through glass as readily as UV radiation, so the room heats up. Ever left your car in the sun for a day where it is a lovely 25 degrees outside but 60 degrees inside your car? It is exactly this mechanism at work.

Insulation will stop heat crossing boundaries. If you own your house, the path is well trodden and fairly simple. Start with the ceiling, adding the thickest insulation you can find.

Next consider how the wall insulation can be improved. There are some new materials and processes available for this task now and you can pay someone to come and pump insulation into your wall cavity for $2000 and upwards. Doing this can make your house about 2 degrees warmer.

Window treatments are just about on-par with walls for making a difference; even more so if you include doors.

If you’re on a budget, or renting, there’s a lot you can do with windows and doors. First, seal all the gaps around doors in the house, even the internal ones, to control the size of your heated space; there are rubber seals that can do the job for doors and windows.

Then seal all the ancillaries that let heat escape, like bathroom vents and the rangehood, which vents outside. This is where renters can get creative and reap rewards; rolled towels under doors are a good start, but why not go further? Tape a garbage bag over the window that opens onto the neighbour’s bathroom. Block the old chimney with anything you can find. Do anything you can to stop heat going where you want it to go.

Curtains and pelmets are virtually mandatory in cold climates. Curtains must be as heavy as possible, touch the ground and the walls next to the window. Windows are the last great frontier in home insulation; and honestly, there’s no cost-effective way to retrofit them. Energy payback on double-glazing your windows could be close to 70 years. But as with all energy efficiency upgrades there is more to it than the energy savings. What is niceness worth to you? How much nicer is it being in a house which is 14 degrees instead of 10? What is that worth to you?

Once your windows are done think about what you can do to the floor. Slabs are hard to change, but there are products for suspended boards which will make a big difference.

Which fuel?

You have three choices for heating: electricity, gas and wood.

The cost of wood is variable and will likely increase in coming years. The environmental impacts are strongly dependent on your fuel source. Fallen timber is not fair game: it is vital habitat for some animals, so should not be burnt. Particulate emissions are a concern as well.

Gas is great in that it can deliver astonishing amounts of heat quickly, with lower greenhouse gas emissions than grid electricity, but not as low as renewable energy, and the future costs are quite uncertain. Gas heating is traditionally considered to be pretty cheap, but gas prices are tipped by many analysts to climb steeply in the next few years , much as electricity has in the last few years.

That leaves electricity. Unintuitively, its the only option which can have zero emissions. Switching your electricity supply to GreenPower, an accredited and audited scheme which supplies 100% renewable power, means zero emissions electricity any time you want it. But how you use it is very important, as all electric heaters are not created equal.

There are two distinct classes of electric heater; plug-in heaters, and heat-pumps (or reverse cycle air conditioners).

All of the plug-in heaters end up at the same efficiency; they convert electricity into heat, the most basic form of energy, and will only ever produce a maximum of 2.4kW. It doesn’t matter how it does it - radiant bars, a hot wire and a fan or a clicking oil-heater - 2.4kW of electricity becomes 2.4kW of heat and not a drop more. Buy the cheapest one you can.

Heat-pumps have been common in Australia for years - reverse-cycle air-conditioners are a form of heat-pump - but the technology has advanced markedly recently. Heat-pumps have an advantage over the plug in units as they use electricity to move heat around, not create it.

Heat-pumps have access to the ambient heat outside your house, even in small amounts, and can concentrate it and put it in your house. Even well below freezing there is enough heat available for this to be worth doing.

Heat-pumps' performance is reported as a “co-efficient of performance” or COP. This describes the amount of heat transported per unit of energy used to move it. A good heat pump will approach a COP of 5 - five units of heat produced for every unit expended - dependent on the ambient temperature. Newer designs are achieving COPs greater than 3 even when the ambient temperature is as low as -10 degrees.

If you’re thinking of getting a heat-pump, look for one with an EC (electronically commutated) motor; it will be described as “Inverter driven". A good heat-pump will have a high energy efficiency rating (that is, lots of stars on its label).

To summarise then: insulate your house, as much as you can, in every way available. Then think about how you want to heat it. If emissions are important to you, go for GreenPower and a heat pump. If you just want heat, then gas is probably your best bet, but be warned the price is on the way up and likely to outstrip electricity price rises in coming years.

This article was substantially based on research by Evan Beaver. Evan is a mechanical engineer and a senior consultant at Energetics, where he advises government on energy policy and industry on energy efficiency.

Join the conversation

118 Comments sorted by

  1. Comment removed by moderator.

  2. Fron Jackson-Webb

    Section Editor at The Conversation

    Thanks Will and Evan – some really useful info. Just one further question: does it make much of a difference whether I turn my thermostat down. And if so, why?

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    1. Evan Keith Beaver

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Fron Jackson-Webb

      Yes it really does make a difference if you turn your thermostat down. The rule I've heard is that raising the temperature another degree adds about 10% to your energy used for heating.

      Commercial building operators spend a lot of effort optimising their building controls for just this reason. Unnecessary heating costs money.

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    2. Nick Buss

      Just a guy

      In reply to Fron Jackson-Webb

      Indeed it will. Heat transfer across a wall is proportional to the temperature difference across it. So maintaining an 11 degree difference will use 10% more energy than a 10 degree difference, maintaining a 20 degree difference twice as much. The same applies in reverse during summer.

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    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Nick Buss

      You will often hear of authorities and other energy people advising on using a higher temperature setting in summer, say 25C instead of 22C which has always been considered more optimal and that's fine unless you're a heavy sweater in a crowded environment but it is far easier to do more than that in reverse for winters at home by rugging up.

      Though we live in Queensland, it is still not so uncommon to get overnight minimums into middle single figures and although we have a house with minimal…

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    4. Dorothy L Robinson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Fron Jackson-Webb

      One idea might be to vary the thermostat according to the outdoor temperature and the coefficient of performance (COP) of the heat pump. So (especially if your house has some thermal mass as well as insulation) adding a bit of extra warmth when the heat pump is at its most efficient could act as a buffer so that less heat is needed when the outside temperature is predicted to reach single figures or (in some areas) go below zero.

      Beyond Zero Chairman, Matthew Wright's achieved a COP of about…

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  3. Troy Barry

    Mechanical Engineer

    During a sunny but cool day is it generally better to keep curtains open and windows closed for the greenhouse effect, or generally better to open curtains and windows to gain radiant and convection heat, or does it depend on the amount and orientation of glazing?

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    1. Evan Keith Beaver

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Troy Barry

      I've spent a long time pondering this; there is a point in the afternoon when solar gain is less than thermal losses and you should close the curtains. I think if there is direct sunlight then they should definitely stay open. If it's south facing close them. The bits in between are complex and would require some tricky measurement to pin down accurately.

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    2. Richard John Petheram

      Retired Senior researcher

      In reply to Evan Keith Beaver

      Usually only worth opening curtains in winter if you have good sun outside and good thermal mass in the house to store the heat. Water is the best termal mass by the way.

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    3. Dorothy L Robinson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Troy Barry

      Wintertime indoor temperatures in our house in Armidale, NSW are usually 10 to 18 degrees higher than outside, even with no heating. There's no question that, for most of the day, opening curtains of north-facing windows, but keeping windows closed, is the best option. We haven’t used heating for several days. Outside, it was below freezing this morning and 16 inside. Curtains and single-glazed windows (with some thermal mass in the concrete slab) keep most of the heat in overnight. When…

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  4. Angus McInnes

    MSc (Physics) student at University of Melbourne

    The article says "Direct sunlight is almost entirely ultraviolet (UV) radiation".

    This is not true. From Wikipedia: "The total amount of energy received at ground level from the sun at the zenith is 1004 watts per square meter, which is composed of 527 watts of infrared radiation, 445 watts of visible light, and 32 watts of ultraviolet radiation."

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  5. Christina Ellacott

    logged in via Facebook

    Friends in America put thick bubble wrap over their windows in winter - it adds a layer of insulation whilst still allowing some light through....

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  6. Alan John Hunter

    Retired

    Be very careful with the insulation, what keeps the heat out also keeps it in, so in summer when your house warms up it can stay warm, unless you have good ventilation, preferably with vents in the ceiling that open in summer and close in winter, or you will find you are using your AC more than necessary.
    This is a whole field that needs addressing in articles like this.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Alan John Hunter

      The whole idea Alan is to use the insulation to best effect in also stopping summer heat from entering too easily through solid ceilings and walls.

      Obviously, if you have too many windows and glass doors facing towards the north in the SH or even east and west, you do want to do something about that with screening if possible and again looking at what might be needed to stop radiation through the glass as well.

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    2. Alan John Hunter

      Retired

      In reply to Greg North

      I am well aware of all this Greg, my point is that insulation is a double edged sword. If you have a solid brick house it is fine for the first couple of days of a heatwave, but once it heats up it is impossible to cool, if you have a tin shed it heats up quickly and cools down just as fast.
      Insulation won't keep your house cool in summer, it just takes longer to heat up and longer to cool.
      If you have an AC it will be cheaper to run with insulation.

      A cheap alternative to double glazing is…

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    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Alan John Hunter

      Double brick ain't exactly insulating Alan unless you put something more than air inbetween.

      Early settlers knew all about heating up and cooling down and if you visit a place like Broken Hill or get some old photographs of any older more remote town you will see many corrugated iron clad houses, not a great place to be late afternoon or early evening and why people would likely sit outdoors with windows open until inside did cool off.

      Odd thought on your strange concept for innovators can…

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    4. Alan John Hunter

      Retired

      In reply to Greg North

      I have watched many "Grand Designs", there're some great ideas on there, however the cost is prohibitive, and are largely aimed at keeping cold out. A major problem with making houses airtight is breathing in your own polluted air, especially with a small house and a family.

      Take a new idea to a business person and see their reaction, shock,horror from 99%, you are considered a ragbag, a quiet snigger, a pat on the head and off you go.

      Many good ideas have died on the vine because lack of foresight by conservative investors/businesses/governments who want to stick with the tried and true, government funding is directed towards improving or tinkering with existing technologies.
      My neighbour has 1.2m pipes buried 1.2m underground and never uses a heater or AC, this high capital outlay and no running costs. My ideas are based on this and reticulation of water using a method we used on the dairy farms when I was a kid in the Fifties.

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Alan John Hunter

      Cost does not always have to be the factor Alan and one of the better projects I recall was a couple who had absolutely no building experience other than I think the bloke might have attended a free course on environmental building or whatever.

      Anyway, you may recall having seen all the tyres being used on their plot somewhere in France I think it was and where though they did not have a steep slope but just a gentle ideal one, they cut back into the slope and then used their ten thousand tyres…

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    6. Andrew Smith

      Education Consultant at Australian & International Education Centre

      In reply to Alan John Hunter

      Interesting outside factors too, e.g. house design and trees, especially summer.

      From farming area (A/C only emerged in 70s) where weatherboard houses (tin roof with reflective paint) had verandah running most of way round house, except where extra rooms made, but with heavy canvas blinds during direct sunlight in summer (plus insulated curtains inside and doors all shut). Simply open up when temp cools, close up when warming up, suburban equivalent would be canvas awnings.

      Even better are…

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  7. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    It might not be often realised that timber itself is a great insulator and if you're ever near an open fire you can test that by putting a lump of wood near the fire and after just a few minutes the fire side will be scorching hot whereas the opposite side can still be quite cool depending on the thickness, those log cabin style homes very effective.

    So if you're thinking of building a new home, consider logs and with windows, some good external timber shutters will even give you a bit of warming up exercise mornings and evenings to go around doing the opening up and closings.

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  8. John Kelmar

    Small Business Consultant

    I certainly agree with the insulation aspect of this discussion, but the comments on the best form of heating (wood, gas, electricity) are wide of the mark. In the late 1990s I purchased a Home Heating business and found that the Government had produced a pamphlet showing that slow combustion wood heaters created far less pollution than gas or electricity or open fires. I requested further copies, and when they arrived was amazed that the information for slow combustion wood heaters had been deleted…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to John Kelmar

      There's no doubting John that good slow combustion wood burning can make for a great heater as well as effect and as you say with good dry dense wood smoke is minimal and with good dampening you can have them burn right through the night into the next morning.

      As to whether their CO2 output would be less than the equivalent electrical heating, I'd reckon that might be another matter despite what any even government brochure might have said and perhaps in their ignorance, some government bods were looking to take some load of electrical/gas consumption.

      I'd not have thought Perth would really have been a location to have a lot of wood heaters installed and as far as examples of what a lot of wood burning can do, Launceston has a great smokey reputation that might be worth checking out if you wanted to update the impression.

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    2. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to Greg North

      Wood should NEVER be used in any populated area.

      The particulate pollution which you have just assured us is 'minimal', is still poisonous and around in large enough quantities to completely make an area unlivable to some people. It doesn't matter how clean the manufacturers claim they are, they just aren't clean at all. Real world emissions are always higher than tested in the laboratory.

      Here's two studies saying exactly that:
      http://www.environment.gov.au/atmosphere/airquality/publications/emission-factor.html

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    3. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to John Kelmar

      " In the late 1990s I purchased a Home Heating business and found that the Government had produced a pamphlet showing that slow combustion wood heaters created far less pollution than gas or electricity or open fires."

      More lies from the Home Heating industry.

      Advertising from the Home Heating industry is often fraudulent,

      And I reckon you've lied to us here. If indeed you weren't and the pamphlet said that then it has been proven to be in error over and over again by study after study…

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    4. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to John Kelmar

      I don't believe you about your supposed Perth study either. Here's a recent study from NZ saying the opposite. Even in car dominated Auckland vehicle emissions were found to be lower than wood smoke particulates.

      http://hdl.handle.net/10063/2526

      And it isn't some dumb "government conspiracy" to take your wood burner away from you. They don't need to make up the science. The real conspiracy is the conspiracy of ignorance which means that they have so far failed to act on the definitive objective science. Wood burners should not be in our cities at all.

      See
      http://www.environment.gov.au/atmosphere/airquality/publications/emission-factor.html
      http://ecan.govt.nz/publications/Reports/air-report-emissions-residential-wood-burning-appliances-nz-000805.pdf

      to see why your AS4013 standard isn't worth the paper it is printed on.

      We need real effective controls on the polluting devices. Not empty promises.

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    5. John Kelmar

      Small Business Consultant

      In reply to Greg North

      The Government brochure was measuring the CO2 output in relation to greenhouse emissions.

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    6. John Kelmar

      Small Business Consultant

      In reply to Matthew Thredgold

      Some people put their garbage into their wood heaters, and this causes most of the problems - they should not be allowed to own a wood heater. However, the Government introduced AS4013 to ensure that wood heaters complied with appropriate emission levels which were acceptable to the community.

      Yes, I have read many Government sponsored research and publications on this matter, and much of the information is questionable and biased. If these papers were submitted by my students (I taught at Curtin University for 10 years) they would have failed as their methodology was flawed, and the conclusions were invalid.

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    7. John Kelmar

      Small Business Consultant

      In reply to Matthew Thredgold

      I don't believe that my quoting from a Government publication is a lie, unless I misquote, which is not the case here.

      However if the Government had made a mistake, then there was no statement made by the Government to state that they had made a mistake in this case.

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  9. Ian Ritchie

    mad

    I live in an old, rambling weatherboard house east of Melbourne that has a hodge-podge of insulation. Some external walls, some internal walls and the entire ceiling is insulated.

    The house has a wooden floor on stumps with carpets through much of it.

    The two things that have made the most difference are:
    (a) stopping draughts
    (b) under-floor insulation - absolutely amazing difference. Fantastic. Cooler in summer, warmer in winter.

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    1. Tim Forcey

      Energy Advisor

      In reply to Ian Ritchie

      Ian: What sort of underfloor insulating did you do / use? I think I will have to go there! Regards,

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    2. Ian Ritchie

      mad

      In reply to Tim Forcey

      R1.5 walls batts. Any type will do however I use non-allergenic white (dacron?) and simply staple them up between the joists. Hard work under low floors but worth it.
      Yes, it is legal.
      The building surveyor who did the inspection on my house (it was relocated, so I'm living in a recycled house) told me that underfloor was three times as effective as wall insulation. I had mentioned to him that was was going to strip the walls off to insert insulation and he commented that underfloor was more effective. Through the renovation I have insulated all walls as I have exposed them.
      Of course that's anecdotal and not backed by evidence, but anything's better than nothing. And it works, just not measurable.

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  10. John C Smith

    Auditor

    I insulate myself. Warm natral fibre clothes and a partner to share heat pumps.

    I live in an old weatherboard home. No insulation and gaping holes every where.

    Fresh air and warmth heat wise and heart vice.

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  11. Garry Baker

    researcher

    Good story Will - however """Switching your electricity supply to GreenPower, an accredited and audited scheme which supplies 100% renewable power, means zero emissions electricity any time you want it.""

    Not quite, there's a cradle to grave factor to measure, insofar as, wind turbines, for instance, need carbon inputs for their manufacture - as well as disposal 25 years later. Then there's transmission losses in the power cables, as well as the regular gear oil changes in the turbines, which consume many hundreds of litres at a time - also, the disc brake pads for slowing and locking the blades - etc.

    Nonetheless, yours is a good read because it hinges on basic principles, save for the omission of heat/cold banks, which can be pretty much a freeby at certain locations

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  12. Deborah Oberon

    Sales and Marketing Manager at Carbon and Energy Reductions P/L

    Just a quick point about Greenpower. There is not enough produced in Australia to supply all our electricity needs so, on supply and demand principles, it is charged at premium prices and aimed at people who can afford the "feelgood" it brings. For the rest of us we would be wiser spending our money on insulation and high efficiency lighting. Reduce what you are using is the most "cost" effective for the environment.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Deborah Oberon

      Fair point Deborah, but I would have thought that was pretty much just what Will was suggesting.

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    2. Evan Keith Beaver

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Deborah Oberon

      I would be pretty interested to hear what makes you think "there is not enough produced". Since the RECs, the certificates that drive the system can be held indefinitely I find this very hard to believe.

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    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Evan Keith Beaver

      " I would be pretty interested to hear what makes you think "there is not enough produced". Since the RECs, the certificates that drive the system can be held indefinitely I find this very hard to believe. "

      RECs are on thing Evan but I suspect Deborah is referring to actual power production and if you consider just how small a percentage of electrical power generated is renewable, there is certainly not enough to go around if everyone wanted to sign up for it.
      Holding a REC can just be a financial offset a company has made against power produced or used and emmissions made and meanwhile by far the greatest extent of electricity is coming from coal fired power stations and is likely to be so for many decades to come unless we switch to nuclear.

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    4. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to Deborah Oberon

      The point about GreenPower is that those who buy it cause additional renewable energy certificates to be purchased and retired by electricity retailers. Those extra RECs can only exist if the extra renewable power actually goes into the grid over and above the 2020 target. The more people buy GreenPower the faster we get to more renewable generation.
      Of course, the best is to avoid consumption in the first place by improving insulation. For the record I run one of my two cars on GreenPower as well as other domestic electricity consumption. My 1970s townhouse in Canberra has been retrofitted with much improved insulation. The total cost for heating each winter is $100 of gas. We do wear jumpers and warm slippers but not hair shirts.
      Find the draughts first and block those, then insulate. Do it gradually over time but every bit helps. It is good for the environment, saves you money and makes your house more comfortable. Why do we have to convince people?!

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    5. Garry Baker

      researcher

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      If Tony Abbott makes it to high office, then REC's will be gone. .. Ergo, the GreenPower industries will be gone too

      He wants a speedy return to picking the low hanging fruit for energy production - Coal. However, a wildcard has now entered the play in the form of a cheaper Aust$, yet coal exports are contracted in US$

      Indeed, watch this space if Abbott thinks coal mining will continue to be prosperous in Australia

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  13. Marion Wilson

    retired

    When we installed our heat pump we put a thing called a "thinking cap" where the chimney of our slow combustion heater had been. In summer when the temperature in the roof cavity rises the cap opens and allows the hot air to escape. Three years ago we had "poor man's double glazing" (light weight clear plastic sheet) over many of the window surrounds. Not only does it stop heat from escaping but it also discourages birds from crashing into the glass. It does not impair the view from the inside, from the outside it has a ripple effect. When the house was built we had the verandah slab insulated from the house slab so that heat did not travel out of the heated slab. The builder thought it was a quaint request.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Marion Wilson

      You can install wind turbine ventillators too Marion, they being a great aid to cooling a house ceiling area in summer, they actually sucking the hot air out and not so expensive though I never really looked into what was happening in winter but at least we didn't freeze.

      Too late now but you could also have had water pipes installed in you verandah slab to feed heat into the house slab.

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    2. Marion Wilson

      retired

      In reply to Greg North

      If we had known about heat pumps before we built the house we would have done the under floor bit. (Though having water pipes under the house could be scary because it would be disaster if they froze and burst - possible where I live) We did order electrical wire under-floor heating in the bathroom - it was installed but the plumber buggered it up by putting an extra drain hole in the bathroom for reasons unexplained. We now have no underfloor heating, 2 drain holes in the bathroom and no drain…

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    3. Yvette Middleton

      Architect & Planner

      In reply to Greg North

      We installed low-profile roof cavity ventilators. They are available with solar panels to run during the day, however we purchased a LV version with a thermostat so we could run them throughout the night in summer (including still nights). We installed operable ceiling vents (like an air-con register) at various point through the house. These can be shut off in winter to keep the heat in the rooms. We installed them in two houses and the differences in comfort level with versus without the ventilators was marked. Tenants remarked it was like having air conditioning, but without the running costs. Both houses were full brick. The time-lag decrement factor meant after a series of hot days, they previously would be unbearable inside. The ventilators at least got rid of the hot air. No, still not the same as air-con, but with ceiling fans everywhere, quite bearable. Besides, you still have an excuse to head to the dam/beach for a swim and picnic dinner on a hot night. :-)

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    4. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Yvette Middleton

      "we purchased a LV version with a thermostat so we could run them throughout the night in summer "

      Of course, you can go the whole hog and get a full forced-ventilation system (which is normally part of evaporative air-con). Only problem with that is that it is politically incorrect because, even though it uses far less energy than say, air-con, it doesn't use zero energy. The end result of the political incorrectness is that we continue to have vast numbers of old houses with old air-con units that chug away whenever it's a warm day regardless of how cool it may have been the might before - an opportunity for saving energy wasted.

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    5. Dorothy L Robinson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Possibly the most politically incorrect thing is that there's little or no incentive to buy efficient appliances. Ellen Fanning's excellent article on electricity prices quotes Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson:
      "Every time someone in Australia installs a $1,500 air conditioning system, it costs $7,000 to upgrade the electricity network to make sure there’s enough capacity to run that system on the hottest summer day." http://www.theglobalmail.org/feature/the-hidden-cost-of-infinite-energy-part-1/19

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    6. Yvette Middleton

      Architect & Planner

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Perhaps I was too brief in my explanation. The compact unit doesn't run all night unless we were to over-ride the thermostat setting. We wanted the flexibility to have the roof ventilator unit exhaust air on still days and on hot nights - therefore not wind-driven or solar powered roof ventilators. Normally the thermostat is set for something like 30 degrees (must check!). Obviously, it will not be operating at 28 degrees. If it is 35 degrees initially within the roof void, then it would only operate until the 30 degree cut off. We don't need a full forced-ventilation system as we had openable windows and doors, and ceiling fans for air movement [and therefore cooling by evaporation]. And as far as using the 'coolth' from the night before - we close up the house on a hot day. We don't have air-conditioning.

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    7. Yvette Middleton

      Architect & Planner

      In reply to Yvette Middleton

      And being near the coast, evaporative coolers don't work - humidity levels are too high to lower the temperature significantly - and who is comfortable at high humidity?

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  14. John Barker
    John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

    Good to see an article like this to keep the issue alive.

    In our lectures and workshops on solar and energy efficient housing (starting back 35 years ago!), we say "it's simple- but it's subtle" . In other words, there are a lot of things to consider and as one can see from the conversation here, these different things vary in importance from house to house.

    The important thing is to know how to prioritise your actions, otherwise a lot of time,effort and money (and energy) will be wasted. For…

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  15. Bernie Masters

    environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

    Will, thanks for the useful article but you state: "Fallen timber is not fair game: it is vital habitat for some animals, so should not be burnt." I live in a rural part of SW WA and most of my firewood is collected from road verges or firebreaks where the local or state government land managers are going to have to remove the timber anyway. Normally, they push them into a heap and burn them or they mulch them and use the mulch to aid in the revegetation of areas they shouldn't have cleared in the first place. So I figure I'm doing everyone a good deed by removing this type of fallen timber first.
    For a tree that's fallen into a bushland area, however, you're absolutely correct: such timber provides important habitat values and should not be touched.

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    1. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to Bernie Masters

      Bernie, have your neighbours ever complained about the smoke pollution? Have you ever asked them if they were OK with it? What would you do if they asked you not to smother their houses and gardens with smoke?

      (I'm not asking to be beligerent, but I don't think enough of those type of questions ever get asked, and they really should get asked.)

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    2. Bernie Masters

      environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

      In reply to Matthew Thredgold

      Matthew, my wife and I live in a solar designed home and we use the wood fires only in the depth of winter on a limited number of days/nights per year. Our neighbours have never complained although your concerns about the carcinogenic nature of wood smoke are absolutely correct. Fortunately, we live on the side of a hill and our smoke, when it does fall to the ground, doesn't go near any other houses as we have vacant land of various types below us.
      Research in SW WA has shown that the worst places…

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    3. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to Bernie Masters

      Yeah, I've come across Smartburn before - http://cleanairnz.com/2013/03/31/smartburn-inadequate-testing-misleading-advertising-and-greenwash/

      That's not an answer to anything.

      As for the higher temperatures and less polluting models - the manufacturers have completely failed to deliver. I doubt that there is a technological solution at all, despite the BS they sometimes come up with.

      If only they burned snake oil.

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  16. Joanne Gamage

    Home Carer

    The cheapest and most effective low carbon heating products I have purchased were a wool jumper from vinnies, thermal leggings and singlets, and a silk doona...I leave double doors open at night and enjoy snuggling with my partner (and our two dogs). My pet hate is dressing for winter and walking into heated buildings and having to remove coats and jumpers. Summer is a much more difficult proposition, where in Perth smart ventilation is the key.

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  17. David Jones

    Engineer

    "It doesn’t matter how it does it – radiant bars, a hot wire and a fan or a clicking oil-heater – 2.4kW of electricity becomes 2.4kW of heat and not a drop more."
    Whilst this is true, it is a very poor basis for selection.
    Thermal comfort is more complex than just air temperature. Radiant heaters achieve the same degree of thermal comfort at a much lower air temperature than non-radiative heating because much of the heat your body loses is in infra-red radiation. Radiant heaters effectively balance this out so you feel warmer. You may be just as comfortable sitting near a 500 watt bar radiator or oil filled radiator as near a 1500 watt fan heater. It is very worthwhile spending more money on a radiant heater, apart from noise and draughts, it is much more energy efficent in achieving the same degree of thermal comfort.

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  18. Felix MacNeill

    Environmental Manager

    This one is a bit of a question for Will or Evan...

    I have an old monocrete bungalow in Canberra. I now have very good ceiling insulation (thanks to the much-maligned home insulation scheme). A previous owner lined all the insides of the external walls (glued fairly flat battens to the concrete and fixed plaster board over that0 - while it's not high-tech I believe it's reasonably effective.

    But I've been experimenting with a slightly different approach to external wall insulation: growing…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      I suppose if you kep the sun off the concrete Felix, it'll have a huge effect just as some people with flat roofs have put earth/gardens on top of a waterproof membrane.
      They would need to have faith in the membrane not failing after a few years!

      I commented above re the Grand Designs BBC/ABC show and one of the most fascinating if ugly constructions was a couple who built a very boxy style of house and it may have been a garage or something they planted on top of but the woman had done her own…

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  19. sarah olijnyk

    woman of the world

    we rent and live in adelaide and our house has no insulation and some large windows. usually i rig some shadecloth over the huge south facing window and a sail over the north facing window. this summer, which had some extraordinary periods of heat, i sprayed the with water on the inside surface and then placed aluminium foil over the damp surface. surprisingly it stuck! it had the effect of blocking the light.does anyone have an idea of how effective this would be.

    i felt effective as this solution ticked the boxes of economy and ease.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to sarah olijnyk

      I'd reckon the Al foil would have heated up Sarah but it would have been far enough away so as radiated heat to the windows would not have been an issue but it might have felt warmish if you were standing alongside it.

      I'm surprised the foil clung to the shade cloth just using water, maybe some sort of capilliary suction effect working or was it the inside of the window that you put the foil on?
      That would have had a marginal effect for though sunlight heating through the window would still have…

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  20. Tim Forcey

    Energy Advisor

    Out of sight / out of mind:

    When using ducted gas heating, make sure to check your underfloor ducts / ensure that they are kept in good nick. I inspected a home (as a volunteer) and found ducts crushed, perforated, and even completely parted. Heated air just pouring out into the outside air (underfloor). The home owner then theorised that the damage had been caused when his son was playing underneath the house - 20 years ago!

    Some heating systems (such as reverse cycle AC system heat pumps) don't have ducts. Which could be a good thing, because some ducts are very difficult to inspect. We tend to think (hope?) that what we can't see can't hurt our comfort, pocketbooks, or our climate...

    Also, I have recently found that our ducted gas system uses quite a lot of electricity: for the blower / fan. 330 watts. These days, one can run a good-sized efficient air-source heat pump with that amount of electricity.

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    1. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Tim Forcey

      "Also, I have recently found that our ducted gas system uses quite a lot of electricity: for the blower / fan. 330 watts."

      Yes, old induction electric motors were terribly inefficient. Also, I discovered that the ventilation fan motor (dc) in some cars was pretty inefficient too. Made you want to turn on the aircon just because of the heat from the motor. Also on the subject of car aircon, I'd rather have a car with electric windows (which the driver can easily control) and no aircon than a car with manual windows and aircon.

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  21. Richard John Petheram

    Retired Senior researcher

    I'd like to mention a couple of things on your good starter article - thanks Will. Certainly commercial double glazing costs $800-122 per sq me, and has a 30-50 year pay-back period - so worth it mainly for new buildings. (Payback will depend on the particular window, and future energy and glazing prices.) In cold old Ballarat we advise on DIY Double glazing using perspex- type glazing (12mm gap) for many window types at a cost of $80 - $160 per sq m. We believe this is as good or better than some…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Richard John Petheram

      I can recall reading once, quite a while back Richard that double glazing was only really effective if you created a vacuum between the two layers.
      Is that achieved by the DIY perspex approach?

      Just for interest, the latest window design in Europe is a triple laminated glass that has the middle layer generating electricity, bit like a window PV unit I suppose, though they did not mention insulating properties.
      They also provided for some screening as far as looking in from outside whereas views from inside were unaffected.

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    2. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to Richard John Petheram

      Also worth considering is a very cheap way to do DIY double-glazing, sold as a kit (http://www.clearcomfort.com.au)-a few $100 for a whole house and you can try one room first before doing the lot. I did this on various windows in my house almost 20 years ago. It is still holding up just fine.
      The gap of still is more important than the extra thickness of glass. Too thin and heat conducts across, too wide and convection carries heat across. 6mm or less is too narrow. 8mm is much better and about…

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    3. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      "The gap of still is more important than the extra thickness of glass."
      Make that "The gap of still AIR is more important than the extra thickness of glass."

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    4. Richard John Petheram

      Retired Senior researcher

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg in our DIY double glazing we don't try to seal the gap but just enclose a 10-15 air gap, usually using a strip of adhesive foam between a wood spacer and the frame. This allows easy removal and fear of moisture blotches. Vacuum sealing and argon filled DGlazing gives little improvement in U value for a very much higher cost.
      Most of the 'heat loss' can be calculated simply by the formula Watts = U vale x Area of pane x T (Temp difference detween inside & outside). So if I reduce U value of my Aluminium frame window (with single 3mm pane) from the usual 7 to say 3.5, I can halve the power required to counter the heat loss - from say 100 kWh to 50 kWh per sq meter of window over the winter. Higher windows and those closer to heaters lose most heat and can be tackled first. We don't think tripple DIY glazing is Cost effective here. Tables showing U values of various glazing and building products are really revealing. Thanks for the interest.

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    5. John Barker
      John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

      In reply to Richard John Petheram

      Richard- your clear and concise analysis illustrates the central issue of this discussion- that is, that the cost-effectiveness of most energy conserving measures can be calculated quite precisely- at least for each particular situation.

      This may sound trite, but in my (far-too-long) experience, I have found that most people have no idea that energy flows in buildings can be calculated, let alone perform those calculations themselves- although, as you illustrate, the maths is often very simple…

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    6. Richard John Petheram

      Retired Senior researcher

      In reply to John Barker

      Thanks John ED - what a great idea to have a website (on-going TC blog) on the vital topic of Home ennergy efficiecy - especially if it can be organised under some key headings. Can The Conversation host such a resource.

      The discussion started by Will suggests so far that there is strong interest, generally little understanding of the basic physics, and huge scope to develop an effective source of information and ideas. I've picked some up already.

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  22. Richard John Petheram

    Retired Senior researcher

    re. Discussion on wood fires, most of which currently have high methane and particulate emissions. One can get low emission wood fires of course, but these are not often properly adjusted or used (or regulated). A good alternative is wood pellet (another biofuel) heaters - which have very low emissions, are very automatic and provide extremely comfortable heat. These are used widely in New Zealand, Europe and US (also vailable here). Annual heating costs are under $500-800 per year for medium house…

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    1. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to Richard John Petheram

      I've seen neighbourhood complaints from both wood pellet fires, and from olive pips. The olives pips really stink when burnt.

      Wood pellets are cleaner than wood, but that is not saying much. One problem is that some people heat their water with it, and instead of just winter pollution you're stuck with woodsmoke in summer as well, and there goes the neighbourhood.

      All solid fuel burning should be banned until otherwise proven clean (which is almost impossible, because solid fuel burning is not clean). People shouldn't be free to stink up the neighbourhood, with the onus on the neighbours to try to get rid of it. If they are currently allowed where you live that is a policy failure and a potential problem for everyone.

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  23. Peter Hindrup

    consultant

    The most efficient ---- judged by keeping the place warm, holding embers overnight, and amount of wood burnt --- wood heater I have ever come across is a hexagon box with a venturi air intake from the lid in the top of the unit.

    Removing ash is a bit messy, though it generates remarkably little.

    No visible smoke once it is burning, easy to light. The wife of a friend who put one in complained that she could not see the fire. Guess that you cannot have everything!

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  24. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    Possibly the cheapest and simplest method of heating would be to wear thermal underwear.

    Should be compulsory 'for office workers in office buildings which consume large amounts of electricity at the environment's expense.

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  25. Sally Fryar

    Adjunct Senior Lecturer - Biology

    Great article. We have done most of these things in our home. The double glazed windows on the north side of the house are amazing once the sun comes out in winter. Makes and enormous difference to the temperature in the house.

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  26. Terry Reynolds

    Financial and political strategist

    Thanks Will, this is the first time I have ben able to read the facts comparing heater types.

    When you say the best thing is to insulate, insulate, insulate does that mean that Federal Governments allocation of $2 billion for stimulus spending in 2008/09 to fit ceiling insulation to well over one million or 12% of our nations homes for essentially households that may have not otherwise been able to afford it making their homes warmer in winter and cooler in summer and energy bills lower, was in fact a very astute use of vital stimulation funds at the time to keep employment up? All I here from Sydney shock jocks and conservative politicians is sneering about the waste of public money spent on "pink bats" albeit the bats were yellow and other insulation, especially in Queensland, apparently aluminium sheeting.

    I would welcome someone like yourself with good knowledge of the subject expressing some facts so I can understand if that insulation policy was a success or a failure.

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    1. John Barker
      John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      Good point, Terry. Doing a first approximation cost-benefit analysis on the "pink batts" program is not difficult: assuming a reduction of the "U-value" of ceilings from 3.2 to 0.5, and an average of about 1200 degree-days of heating and cooling, and an average of 10cents/kwh for energy (gas, electric,wood guesstimate), then it's not difficult to calculate that the ANNUAL possible savings from ceiling insulation is about the same cost as the insulation- about $10/ sq metre.

      This would be about…

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    2. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      ""pink bats" albeit the bats were yellow and other insulation, especially in Queensland, apparently aluminium sheeting."

      And even though it was the Aluminium foil that was the work safety problem, the shock jocks and conservative politicians endlessly droned on about pink batts.

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  27. George Michaelson

    Person

    Adequate ventilation is also necessary. If for instance, you have a fire or gas heating, lack of adequate ventilation can cause Carbon Monoxide poisoning. People die every year in the UK due to this.

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  28. Mike Stasse

    logged in via Facebook

    It's such a shame 99% of houses are so badly designed they even need heating. Or cooling for that matter. Because designing/building houses that need NEITHER, is easy as pie, even in places like Tasmania......

    Our fuel of choice is THE SUN. It's free and it works. Our power bill just came in....... $294 in CREDIT.

    Sure we have PVs to sell power to AGL, but the really important part of our bill is that whilst the average two person in our area (according to the bill itself...) is 1288 kWh…

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    1. John Barker
      John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      I agree, Mike, it is a shame that 99% of houses require heating and cooling. But they do, and that is the reality that we face. It is heartening to read that some people have been able to create total solutions, albeit in situations that the average suburbanite can't replicate in full.

      If we wish to solve the energy, financial and environmental problems that beset us, we have got to focus fairly and squarely on this 99%. We have known how to design and build comfortable, environmentally friendly houses (in Australia) for decades. The key questions for us now are: why has this knowledge not been adopted by new home builders, despite its relative simplicity, and what are we going to do with the 99%? Most of our effort needs to be focused on these two issues, not on how to flourish on 10 hectares in the wilderness.

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    2. Alan John Hunter

      Retired

      In reply to John Barker

      Quite simple really,builders like to stick to what they know best.

      Owners want a house that will sell easily and appreciate in value, not some experimental weird alternative idea, that people might laugh at.

      Councils throw their hands up at anything out of the norm, and demand engineers certifacation, which can run into tens of thousands of dollars.

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    3. Richard John Petheram

      Retired Senior researcher

      In reply to Alan John Hunter

      My particular bug-bear is the continuing building of brick-veneer houses in our suburbs, when we know that these structures are totally unsuited to energy efficiency in heating and cooling. Again this (and building with no-eaves) is perpetuated by the out-of date practices and habits of builders - and the refusal of councils and states to regulate responsibly for the more efficient building and planning codes that society needs.

      While it is possible to cover the outside of brick-veneer with an insulating cladding (so the bricks are moved to provide thermal mass on the inside where it is needed), this is an expensive and ridiculous process to go through to achieve energy efficiency in our outdated houses. In general, building estate developers and builders appear to be ignorant of the long-term damage that they are perpetuating, and builders seldom advise clients about materials and practices available that would greatly reduce energy consumption and emissions in the future.

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    4. Alan John Hunter

      Retired

      In reply to Richard John Petheram

      I am afraid that builders know sweet fanny adams about materials and practices available that would greatly reduce energy consumption and emissions in the future.
      They are in it for the money not to save the world, I was in building for 50 years.

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    5. Richard John Petheram

      Retired Senior researcher

      In reply to Alan John Hunter

      Very enlightening thanks Alan. How should concerned climate action organisations try to tackle this widespread ignorance and malpractice in the building (and local govt planning) industries?

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    6. Mike Stasse

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Barker

      Alas John.......... there isn't very much that CAN be done about the 99%......

      When I became an accredited Energy Rating operator (and with my knowledge and expertise in energy efficient design) I thought that the energy rating tools (I used BERS) would be most useful at isolating the problems built into bad houses, and rectifying them to achieve at least five star ratings would be a cinch..... but was I in for a shock. Once a lemon, ALWAYS a lemon!

      For the uninitiated (not you I think…

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    7. Mike Stasse

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Alan John Hunter

      Absolutely....... the building industry in this country is a shameful affair.

      I certainly don't consider my house 'weird', and most people who visit usually go 'wow!'... but I couldn't get anyone to build it (it was at the start of the last building bubble) and so I did it myself. And if I can do it, you can imagine how easy it would be for a proper builder!

      It didn't cost me "tens of thousands of dollars" in engineering certification, but the Council balked for MONTHS at my alternative and state of the art sustainable sewerage system which cost me heaps in wasted time while the cost of concrete and steel and labour went skywards.....

      Because we had very publicly won a sustainability award, the Council let me get away with murder (I doubt anyone else in this shire would've) as they knew that if they gave me too hard a time they would've been exposed as eco terrorists in the local media!!

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    8. Nick Buss

      Just a guy

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      It seems to me that the developers are the ones with the most power to affect change. They can impose caveats on the land and work with council/builders/suppliers to get the whole estate done right. Of course, most developers probably don't give a toss about sensible and green housing design. Unless we form our own sensible housing development collective I don't see much changing in the near future.

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    9. Dorothy L Robinson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Nick Buss

      One simple zero-cost solution would be to allow local councils to set their own energy efficiency requirements, instead of (in NSW) a BASIX certificate.

      Councils with an air pollution problem such as Armidale (see pictures at http://environmentprogress.com/?p=7724 ) would jump at the chance to reduce pollution by requiring new houses to be more energy efficient. But the State Government won't let them.

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  29. William Raper

    Retired

    Another two additional cheap improvements are to provide selective shading of north facing windows (sized to allow sunlight to enter windows in winter but not in summer) and to plant deciduous trees outside west facing windows with a similar result.

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  30. Robert Tony Brklje
    Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

    retired

    Serious warmings about this article. Depending upon the heating method do not, repeat do not seal off the room, it could kill you. Always be aware of the volume of the space, the number of people within the space and the type of heating. People thrive in fresh air, the do not do so well in stuffy air and do far worse in air contaminated by carbon monoxide.
    In commercial air spaces 10% fresh air must be continually introduced to ensure a healthy environment by law. In Residential air spaces, there…

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  31. John Barker
    John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

    "'Twas always thus!" Most people are almost totally ignorant about the thermal performance of buildings- hence my previous comment about Aristotle- who had the right idea about events having causes, but "anthropomorphised" those causes eg "it's in a stone's nature to wish to fall to earth". Similarly, most people ascribe the thermal discomfort in their house to "the nature of the house"- not the fact that it has unshaded expanses of east or west facing glazing, or large gaps under the doors or breezes…

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  32. james burke

    SMALL-FOOTPRINT ENVIRONMENTALIST

    Two issues.
    [1] Type of Fuel -WOOD is Ideal, depending how you harvest and dry it.
    I grow my own trees, constantly Pollard them. The Local Shire also trims the trees, for Mulch or for Fuel. Not an issue.
    Also [1] Timber cutting gangs in the city pay $40-$50/tonne to dump their Timber .What a waste, as it is Ideal Fuel. Wood is only stored Solar Energy.
    The 2nd issue is the Capital Cost of the AIR-PUMPS. What figures can the Authors supply to show the ameliorated expense over time of Air-Pumps.
    How does this add to the unit cost of Heating in that case?

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    1. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to james burke

      And the pollution issues, do we just ignore them? After all wood smoke is toxic. It kills hundreds if not thousands of Australians each year.

      It makes people lose their homes as they have to move away from polluting neighbours.

      I am still fighting for justice after losing my house to woodsmoke.

      I think wood burning should be banned from all but the very remotest properties.

      i.e. it is far from ideal as a type of fuel. It is just too dirty to use.

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    2. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Matthew Thredgold

      "wood smoke is toxic"

      If some people think wood is such a valuable source of energy then the only responsible way to burn it is in power stations that can be relied on to burn it as efficiently as possible and with legally regulated treatment of combustion waste. The electricity thus produced can be turned back into heating using heat pumps with an overall efficiency at least as high as a woodfire in suburbia. Why they are not banned from suburbs is beyond me.

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    3. james burke

      SMALL-FOOTPRINT ENVIRONMENTALIST

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris , your information is quite misleading.
      [1]You say "wood smoke is toxic".. and suggest wood fires be " banned from the suburbs". Be realistic, if you are such an advocate of removing Toxic Fumes out of the Suburbs, Then Start with the Most Toxic - Petrol fumes, both combusted emissions and unburnt Petrol from car exhausts. Better still, REMOVE DIESEL as that is X20 as Dangerous as Petrol. I'd like to see your chances.
      [2] My Wood fire does NOT emit visible Smoke Nor does it smell as it is burnt at such a high Temperature. But my initial comment said that - used DRY WOOD, in my case I wait 2 years get it really dry.
      I will promise follow your campaign against Deadly Diesel Pollution with interest. Again,Good Luck.

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    4. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to james burke

      "You say "wood smoke is toxic"".

      No I quoted that.

      "if you are such an advocate of removing Toxic Fumes out of the Suburbs, Then Start with the Most Toxic"

      You opinion aside, many wrongs don't make a right.

      "My Wood fire does NOT emit visible Smoke Nor does it smell as it is burnt at such a high Temperature."

      Good for you. I will follow your campaign against polluting wood fires with interest. Again,Good Luck.

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    5. Dorothy L Robinson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      The problem is that the decision-makers have not seen nor understood the research showing that wood smoke causes 12 to 30 times as many mutations and tumours as the same amount of cigarette smoke. They haven't worked out the average wood heater emits as many PM2.5 per hour as in the smoke from 500 to 1,000 cigarettes and contains more dangerous chemicals than in the smoke from perhaps 10,000 cigarettes.

      They haven't worked out that a typical Australian wood heater produces more PM2.5 pollution…

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    6. james burke

      SMALL-FOOTPRINT ENVIRONMENTALIST

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      I am so pleased that you are happy with a WOOD FIRE that does Not Stink out the Neighborhood.
      Your support is welcomed. But again you make basic errors [1] You dismiss Deadly Diesel Pollution with ”Your opinion aside, …”. NO CHRIS, not opinion, ACTUALLY FACT. Instead of just going off half cocked, look at the Research. And [2] regarding my clean-air Wood Fire , you say “ Good for You”. WRONG CHRIS, actually GOOD for my Neighbors. Keep your Focus on the Positive where it exists. Have not got time to join your campaign against Diesel, as I’m too busy fighting self-indulgent pompous Narcissists.

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    7. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to james burke

      "My Wood fire does NOT emit visible Smoke"

      Is that meant to be reassuring? My neighbour, the one who cost me my home, thought they were doing everything right too?

      Burning dry wood still creates toxic wood smoke. The temperatures that can burn wood without the pollution (ie are hot enough for complete combustion) are not achievable in a domestic woodburner because the steel would melt.

      If you are burning solid fuel and you have neighbours, you can kid yourself all you like, but you are still doing the wrong thing. If that wasn't the truth I'd still have my home.

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    8. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to james burke

      I have found that people who have understood the toxicity of the chemicals in woodsmoke are perfectly apt at understanding the toxicity of chemicals in diesel and tobacco smoke, and I'd happily regulate all three of them.

      So yes regulate diesel emissions.
      Ban tobacco,.
      Ban domestic wood burning and rural burning off.

      And just to reiterate your woodfire is not as clean as you believe and like most so-called clean fires they are anything but clean. See these studies: http://www.environment.gov.au/atmosphere/airquality/publications/emission-factor.html and
      http://ecan.govt.nz/publications/Reports/air-report-emissions-residential-wood-burning-appliances-nz-000805.pdf

      There is compelling evidence to ban all woodburners, and I've never seen anything to say the contrary. It is bad policy that woodfires aren't already banned, and an oversight of government not to have already done so.

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    9. Dorothy L Robinson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to james burke

      PM2.5 (considered to be the most health-hazardous air pollutant) are defined as particles less than 2.5 millionth of a metre in diameter. The smoke from heater producing 4 grams of PM2.5 per hour can't be seen - but using it for just 25 hours will still more PM2.5 than a new diesel car will produce in a year.

      Yesterday's climate spectator has some very alarming news:
      "On current trends, the Arctic will probably be sea ice-free in summer by 2015 and in winter by 2030. The Greenland ice sheet…

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    10. james burke

      SMALL-FOOTPRINT ENVIRONMENTALIST

      In reply to Matthew Thredgold

      Any discussion that ignores the Particular Size of the different Pollutants suffers badly in accuracy, in regard to the effect on Human Health.
      Diesel is so fine, it alone gets down deepest into the Lungs of Humans and THEN presents the opportunity of unwanted mutations.
      That is why Diesel is X20 as dangerous over Petrol

      Look forward from any correspondents references to the research on Particle Size for Wood Fires. Clearly those writing on the dangers of Wood Fires have some knowledge here. Hopefully.

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    11. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to james burke

      Woodburners emit particles in both the PM10 and PM2.5 range. The airquality standards in Australia and New Zealand address only PM10s and is set at 50ug per cubic metre as by the WHO standard. There is no PM2.5 standard.

      50 micrograms is probably about twice what it should be set at and recently the Australian standards committee recommended setting it at 25ug/m3 but the Australian Home Heating Association vetoed it (The AHHA in my opinion are scum for continuing to push substandard products at…

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    12. james burke

      SMALL-FOOTPRINT ENVIRONMENTALIST

      In reply to Dorothy L Robinson

      Dorothy, you appear to have the correct attitude for the World for the Long Term. If we all threw our Wood Heaters away tomorrow, the Timetable you outline for the Polar Arctic Cap would hardly change.
      The rate of destroying the Lungs of the world(Indonesia, Brazil) by World Corporations, plus the rampant breeding of Humans will over-ride anything we do in Australia.(Last night, SBStv, one African shown, 2 wives, 8 Kids ) That is the Start of overuse of resources. Until you solve that issue, the rest is just LaLa Land. The
      Germany Government's New Law to allow you to sell ROOF-TOP Electricity to ANYONE is brilliant. Do that in Australia AND Wood Heaters would indeed disappear at a rapid rate.

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    13. Dorothy L Robinson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to james burke

      Anything less than 2.5 microns can penetrate the deepest recesses of the lungs and unload any toxic chemicals they contain into the tissue, or even the bloodstream. As well as reduced cognitive function in children whose mothers used wood (as opposed to kerosene) stoves, women with the longest exposure to woodsmoke has nearly 6 times as many cervical cancers.

      Autopsies of human lung tissue also show that, once in the lungs, PM2.5 can stay there for many years, unless dealt with by the immune…

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    14. Dorothy L Robinson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to james burke

      About half of current warming is caused by short-lived greenhouse gases and aerosols. If we stopped emitting them tomorrow, global warming could be halved within 20 years.

      The UNEP/WMO recommended 16 measures (including phasing out domestic wood heaters in developed countries) to reduce emissions of these shorter-lived health-hazardous substances that also cause global warming. These 16 measures would reduce global temperature by 0.4 to 0.5 degrees from 2040 onwards.

      The 50 expert scientists who wrote the report thought this could be enough to slow the melting and help prevent the catastrophic climate change that could occur if the icecaps and permafrost melts rapidly and releases large quantities of methane into the atmosphere - http://woodsmoke.3sc.net/greenhouse

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    15. Richard John Petheram

      Retired Senior researcher

      In reply to Dorothy L Robinson

      Dorothy how do you view wood pellet heaters, which have been promoted as a very clean alternative to wood fires, with very low particulate (and methane) emissions - because of the more complete burning process?

      Australia is now starting to make enough high quality pellets to bring the price down to a very competitive level with other fuels, and the heaters are very automatic and comfortable to use. Should we be encouraging people to move from wood fires to pellet heating?

      In parts of Victoria multi- fuel heaters have been selling well (instead of pellet heaters) because they can be run on (otherwise wasted) olive pits at half the price of wood pellets last year.

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    16. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to Richard John Petheram

      If I can be as rude to jump in Dorothy's place.

      Looking at this study:
      http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/energy/emissions-testing-pellet-burners-tokoroa-jun07/emissions-testing-pellet-burners-tokoroa-jun07.pdf

      The mean emission is still 1.43g/kg of fuel (although one in the study - a 'faulty' one was measured as high as 24g/kg - and what's the bet that there'll be lots of faulty ones if they were widely used).

      This study would suggest gas burns at 0.1 g/kg fuel burnt http://ecan.govt.nz/publications/Reports/R02-28.pdf

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    17. Dorothy L Robinson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Richard John Petheram

      Pellet heaters are an order of magnitude better than log-burning heaters - see http://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/items/12-065 They don't have anything like the pollution or global warming problems of conventional log-burning heaters.

      In the longer term, I'd much rather see a switch to 100% renewable electricity for grid-connected properties. Two independent reports have both estimated the cost of 100% renewable as less than the cost we currently pay for additional infrastructure to satisfy…

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    18. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to Dorothy L Robinson

      One order of magnitude cleaner than a woodstove is still quite dirty.

      The upper limit for allowable domestic particulate pollution should be set at a level that an economically viable gas heater can achieve when it has been properly installed. And a home may have more than 1 heater so I'd set it at 0.5grams of particulate emissions in a 24 hour period per household. To put that in perspective that is still 860 kg per night of particulate pollution in a city the size of Sydney.

      If a pellet burner or a wood burner could actually achieve that then ok, but there will never be any that clean. So I support a full ban on both pellet burners and woodstoves.

      I think it impossible for anyone to make a moral case that they should be allowed to heat their home in a method that isn't the cleanest method, especially for excceeding it by a magnitude of 2 in the case of wood pellets or 3 in the case of woodsmoke.

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    19. james burke

      SMALL-FOOTPRINT ENVIRONMENTALIST

      In reply to Matthew Thredgold

      GLOBAL Warming
      To Dorothy, Matthew and the rest of the Anti-Wood Heater Brigade. Why oh why do you not look GLOBALLY for the MOST EFFECTIVE SOLUTION? Turn your TV on and see what is happening in SINGAPORE, form INDONESIAN FIRES. I truly suggest you get some perspective. The TAIL will Not wag the Dog. Look at the Wood Burning in Africa and elsewhere in the World.
      Further, display some Fortitude and go to the source of the problem, why the Indonesians are burning the Jungle, what plantation replaces the existing vegetation, AND which GLOBAL Company is the driving force behind that destruction. Act there first, and Global warming will truly be abated. Quickly. But you need some Fortitude.

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    20. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to james burke

      You're just looking for excuses to not have effective clean air quality policies in place in the community that you live.

      I am not part of any "anti-wood heater brigade." I am part of the community that wants effective, proven to work policies that protect the air that I and my neighbours have to breathe. If I say wood heaters are rubbish products that shouldn't be sold, then there is a very good reason. They are rubbish polluting products that shouldn't be sold.

      Please don't confuse acting…

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