Carly walks over to her mailbox. She’s nervous because it’s at the three months mark and she’s expecting that dreaded energy bill. She grabs the envelopes inside and soon becomes aware that the bill is staring back at her. Carly rips it open—just like a band-aid—and unfolds the paper quickly. Her heart races, stomach sinks, and the dismay overcomes her as she realises that it’s 15% more than her last home’s bill.
Just like Carly, there are many Canberrans who panic at the sight of an energy bill. The rising cost of electricity has seen people forced into paying these prices or sacrificing comfort in their own home. The conflict of energy has had massive repercussions including pensioners opting to go without food in order to make their payments on time. It even saw our Prime Minister booted from Parliament.
A report, released earlier this year, claims that the low energy efficiency of Canberra’s rental housing is costing renters $39 million a year. Frozen out: The Burden of Energy Deficiency on People who Rent by advocacy organisation Better Renting found that a three-bedroom home with an energy efficiency rating (EER) of zero would cost renters an extra $2,800 a year in heating costs compared to a home with a rating of five. It has been estimated that just over half of all rental properties have an EER below five.
Another report found that if you have a home with a high energy efficiency rating (EER), home buyers are willing to pay more for it. The research from the University of Melbourne shows that compared with three-star properties, homes with EERs of five and six had an increased value of 2 and 2.4 percent respectively. Properties with an EER of seven had an increased value of up to 9.4 percent.
The good news is that homeowners, just like Carly, can improve the EERs of their properties. We spoke to Robert Lowe, Director at ACT Property Inspections to tell us how.
Sealing your home against air leakage is one of the simplest and cheapest upgrades you can make. By doing this, you can reduce your carbon emissions by up to 25% and improve your EER by 0.5 stars. Air typically seeps through unsealed or poorly sealed doors, windows, vents, skylights and exhaust fans. Gaps in or around ceiling insulation, wall penetrations or poorly fitted or shrunken floorboards also contribute.
“Start by weather-stripping your doors which can prevent air leakage through the small cracks between the doors and the door frame. We recommend sealing as many external doors as possible, as well as internal doors connecting to wet areas such as bathrooms and laundries,” Robert recommends.
In some cases, the installation of double glazing can improve an energy rating by up to 2 stars. Often upgrading only specific windows which are subject to direct sunlight is sufficient to significantly improve an energy rating.
However, Robert says, “in older homes that lack wall insulation, we may recommend taking more cost-effective steps prior to installing double glazing, such as upgrading insulation within walls, roof and floors, or installing energy-efficient curtains and pelmets.”
Another way to easily improve your energy rating is by addressing that lovely fireplace sitting in your living room. Located just above the firebox, a fireplace damper is designed to seal the fireplace chimney shut when not in use to eliminate the heated air from the home escaping up the chimney. “Installation of a damper can possibly improve your EER by 2 stars and is something that everyone can do straight away,” Robert says.
Heavy Drapes & Pelmets
The lining and close weave of a heavy drape is supposed to minimise air leakage through the fabric. “The curtain should extend down to the floor and over-extend the width of the window. The pelmet (the framework placed above the window, used to hide the top of curtain fixtures) should cover the top of the door or window by a narrow border of cloth or wood, concealing the curtain fittings and helping insulate the window,” says Robert.
Insulation acts as a barrier between indoor and outdoor temperatures. Good insulation in your roof, walls and floor will keep your home cooler in summer and warmer in winter and could save you up to $100 every year. The ACT Government recommends starting with the roof first as you can lose up to 40% of the heat in your home through the roof; 20% through walls and up to 15% through the floor. “Wall insulation can potentially boost your EER by 2-3 stars,” says Robert.
“There are many types of insulation and materials. All insulation materials are rated for their performance in restricting and resisting heat transfer. This is expressed as the R value, meaning the higher the R value the greater the insulating effect.”
As every home is different, it’s recommended that you get a professional energy assessment before making changes to your home to improve an energy rating. If you’re like Carly and fed up with your electricity bill, a tailored solution will give you the capacity to change your EER without taking up too much time or money. If it’s not in the cards just yet, check out our Energy Saving Tips for inspiration from our favourite TV shows.