Creating a comfortable home

15 Feb 10 12:10PM EST
Post by Seth Mortensen

On a sweltering summer afternoon my house is hotter inside than out. To solve the problem, I've been researching a few solutions that wont run up a huge energy bill.

Adequate insulation is really important. Unfortunately, the government has axed its home insulation scheme, following all the adverse publicity. It will be replaced by a new renewable energy household bonus scheme. In the meantime, I can research my home insulation needs so I don't get ripped off.

Before installing roof insulation, it's worth getting a professional installer to check if the roof area has adequate ventilation to avoid possible condensation problems.

Insulating the underside of a timber floor is almost as important. However I'll have to pay for this myself and make sure joists are not covered so I can still inspect for white ants in the future. Cross-ventilation under the floor space can reduce breathing problems caused by mould.

Here's an easy one. Applying reflective or tinted film to windows apparently buys you 3 or 4 hours of cooler temperatures before the house heats up.

Planting deciduous trees on the northern aspect of the house keeps the summer sun out and lets the winter sun through. Recommended trees include Maple, Tulip and Prunus Serrulata, however it's best to get a horticulture expert to check the ground first.

If there is no room for trees then try deciduous vines (Wisteria, potato vine, ornamental grape 'Alicante Bouchet') on a pergola. Shadecloth stretched over the pergola can work until the vines are established. Larger pergolas with outdoor shadecloth on the east and west can also help.

If you're renting a property and your landlord isn't interested in insulating, then think about erecting temporary shade structures on the sunny side of the house.  Keeping potted plants there will help keep the space cool. Open up the house for cross ventilation during the cooler parts of the day.

In winter, place draft stoppers at the base of external doors. Install plug-in floor heating mats under scatter rugs. Another heating option is an 'Eco fireplace'; they run on ethanol, and can be moved around as they don't require a flue.

If you have any tips on making a house more comfortable and healthy, please let us know.


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