Energy Efficient Homes

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Building For Energy Efficiency

At Shire Homes we believe that energy efficiency should be a key consideration when building any home. Whilst many local councils have energy efficiency requirements for any new home, we work closely with our customers to ensure that they gain the greatest possible energy efficiency rating when building their dream home.

The local Adelaide Hills councils require that the plans for your new home include energy efficiency ratings as a part of the submitted application. This begins from the initial design with orientation to achieve the greatest energy efficiency. Where possible homes built in the Adelaide Hills should be North facing for greater efficiency.

Simple additions or touches to the original design can achieve the most comfortable and efficient living space. With our extensive knowledge of building materials and requirements, Shire Homes can provide the advice you need to design your home for efficiency from the beginning

While many energy efficient building materials do cost a little more initially; such as double glazing. The savings made on this investment over the lifetime of your home can far outweigh the initial increased costs.

8 Key Principles To Designing A Home For Energy Efficiency

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The best aspect for obtaining the greatest energy efficiency for your new home is a northerly aspect. If you are purchasing a block to build your new home look for one that will allow the home to be situated so that it faces north. Ideally your living areas of the home should be placed on the north side as these are the areas where you will spend the most time. A northerly aspect takes advantage of the winter sun, allowing these living rooms warm, light and bright.

East or West

Minimise the size and number of windows facing west or east. If you have windows on the east and west sides ensure that they are well shaded during summer.


South facing windows as these don’t get any winter sun, and therefore are an area of heat loss during the winter, reducing your overall energy efficiency. Always aim to take advantage of any natural light in your initial new home design.

Tips to The Best Aspect

  • Living areas and rooms you spend more time should be north-facing. This allows them to make best use of natural light and to use the sun’s warmth.
  • Bedrooms are ideally built on the southern side. Making them cooler and therefore more pleasant during those summer nights.

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Design and Interior Layout

When designing your new home the overall energy efficiency is one of the most important considerations. Use of good passive design features will generate a higher energy efficiency rating and therefore save you money through having to include extra insulation or double glazing etc to achieve a 6-star rating.

Passive design features include:

  • thermal mass (concrete slab), 
  • external shading (wider eaves, verandahs), 
  • building orientation (northerly), 
  • cross ventilation and 
  • better insulation 

These features will lead to less reliance on energy hungry systems to maintain suitable internal temperatures.

Design principles to consider:

  • Orient living areas to a northerly aspect, take advantage of the sun’s warmth during the winter.
  • Allow the maximum use of natural light. Use of highlight or roof windows for best use of natural light in open living or buildings with deep floor plans. The size and position of windows on your home has a large impact on the amount of artificial lighting required during daylight hours.
  • Create zones in your home. Group rooms with similar uses together, such as:
    • living rooms, 
    • bedrooms and 
    • wet areas
  • Cluster heated rooms together, this allows for more efficient heating and cooling. Separate rooms with doors. Consider internal insulation to walls adjacent to unheated rooms e.g. garage. 

Good building design will be more energy efficient and will decrease power consumption, and therefore save you money.


Double glazing

The windows that you install play a large role in the overall energy efficiency of your new home. The Adelaide Hills climate of long hot summers and cold winters, the use of double glazing for your windows has a large impact on your house’s energy efficiency. 

Windows if not managed well can be a major source of unwanted heat gain and loss. As South Australia has some of the highest electricity costs in Australia, electricity bills are already a major burden for many families. This cost is projected to continue to increase and as the cost of energy rises, electricity bills will become an ever-increasing burden. 

Up to 40% of the overall heat energy is lost through your windows, therefore improving the efficiency of your windows through double glazing has a major impact on your overall energy efficiency star rating and will also help to reduce your energy costs over the longer term.

What are double glazed windows and how do they work?

Double glazed windows are sealed window units that are made using two pieces of glass instead of the normal single glass pane. The two glass panes are separated by an air gap, this sealed air gap acts as a thermal insulation layer between the two pieces of glass. 

Double glazed windows are highly efficient when compared to single-glazed windows. They reduce the heat loss/gain through the window by up to 30%. 

Single glazed vs double glazed windows

With a normal window, the only thing between your home and the outside temperature is a single pane of glass which has very little insulation capability. A single glazed window is not very efficient when it comes to heat loss or gain.

Double glazed windows have two panes of glass with a vacuum air gap between them which creates an insulated barrier. Double glazed windows are much more efficient and effective at reducing the heat loss or gain through the windows of your house.

Double glazed windows help keep heat in or out of your home, and they also reduce external noise. However, their effectiveness can vary based on how they were installed, type of windows and frames used, and the climate in your area.

What are the benefits and disadvantages of double glazing?


The most obvious benefit of double-glazed windows is the increased thermal efficiency. This means it is easier to maintain the temperature inside your house. Thereby, saving energy through reduced use of air conditioners or central heating systems. 

Other benefits include:

  • Energy-efficient
  • Sustainable and environmentally friendly
  • Reduces outdoor noise
  • Durable with low maintenance
  • Increases the value of your house
  • Less condensation on your windows



As double glazing is so efficient, any heat that enters your home during the hotter months is easily stored. This means you should take extra measures to prevent heat build-up in summer.

The final word

The cost of installing double glazed windows is higher than single glazed windows. But they will pay for themselves with lower energy costs over the lifetime of the windows. 

Double glazed windows are an obvious choice when looking at the energy efficiency of your house.

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Building and Construction Materials



Insulation is an important part of the overall energy efficiency of your home. Insulation is designed to reduce heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer. 

What is insulation?

Insulation is normally a layer of material that acts as a thermal barrier between two different temperatures warm/cold. It works to reduce the amount of heat transferred through building materials like brick, plasterboard, glass and metal into or out of the home. By reducing this overall heat transfer it means that the amount of heating and cooling to maintain a temperature is minimised. 

The aim of insulation is to act like a sealed envelope of air in the home. Keeping it cool on the inside like an esky in summer or warm on the inside like a thermos in winter. To best achieve this; insulation should be installed in the ceiling, walls and floors of your home.

Types of insulation

  • Fibreglass or wool bats or blankets
  • Sisalation or reflective foil
  • Pumped loose fill fibre
  • Extruded polystyrene
  • Rigid polystyrene foam panels

Heating and Cooling

The correct heating and cooling system for your new home will have a big impact on your overall energy consumption.

Where possible incorporate passive solar design into the construction of your new home. Things such as: 

  • Use of greater insulation than the minimum, 
  • External blinds and shading that can be adjusted to the seasons, 
  • Cross ventilation allowing natural airflow and cooling

A combination of these will significantly lower your heating requirements in winter and you may be able to avoid the need for active cooling systems in summer.

Underfloor, hydronic heating systems (run by hot water). These utilise a ‘solar-boosted’ heating system, that works just like the solar hot water system on your roof only now the hot water is pumped through your slab to provide internal heating for your home..

If you choose ducted reverse cycle heating/cooling system, it is smart to have individual zones within your house so that you are not heating and cooling the whole house each time, just the areas that you need. This will save a lot of money in heating costs in winter.

A ceiling fan is one of the most energy efficient ways of providing some cooling flow to your home.


When considering lighting for your home, weigh up these ideas:

  • Use natural lighting where possible to ensure living areas, require little or no artificial lighting throughout the day.
  • Choose energy efficient lights and lamps.
  • Install efficient lighting controls such as motion, sound and daylight sensors.

There are many choices available for energy-efficient lighting. The most energy efficient lights are compact fluorescent lights, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). 

These lights do initially cost more, however, during their lifetime they save you money, as they use less energy and last longer.

A compact fluorescent light uses about 25% of the energy and lasts ten times longer than a comparable traditional incandescent bulb that produces the same amount of light.

LEDs use about 20%–25% of the energy of the equivalent incandescent light bulb and last 15 to 25 times longer.

Hot Water Systems

About 18% of the average home’s energy use is hot water heating. Typical ways to reduce this expense include:

  • Reducing your hot water use, 
  • Employing energy-saving strategies, and 
  • Choosing an energy efficient water heater for your home.

4 Main Types of Water Heaters

  • Storage (or tank) water heaters
    These offer a ready reservoir of hot water that is normally heated using off peak power or by your solar system during the day.
  • Instant hot water heaters (gas or electric)
    Heat water directly on demand as you need it. Reducing waste energy in heating a whole tank of water.
  • Heat pump water heaters
    These water heaters use electricity to drive a compressor and the fan instead, rather than use electricity to directly heat water. A heat pump transfers a much greater amount of heat energy to the water, which makes it highly efficient.
  • Solar hot water heaters
    Use the sun’s power to provide hot water

Choosing the best type and model of water heater for your home:

  • Fuel type, availability and cost. Gas v Electricity.
    The energy source you use will not only affect the water heater’s annual costs but also its size and energy efficiency.
  • Size.
    Match the size of the water heating system to the projected demands for the household. The correct size water heater will provide enough hot water with little wastage to maximize efficiency.
  • Energy efficiency.
    To maximize your energy and cost savings, select the most energy efficient water heater that meets your needs.
  • Costs.
    Before you purchase a water heater, estimate your hot water usage and the annual operating costs and compare those costs with other models. 


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