For a little while the Australian Government was extremely keen on its home efficiency assessment program. This involved sending out hoards of assessors to conduct free reviews of residential houses, looking for opportunities to deliver environmental improvements. Due to fallout from some of the other programs (notably the home insulation program), this has now been essentially moth-balled. In particular, the interest free green loans have been cancelled, one of the main reasons for having the assessment done.
Still, many months after having an assessment out of curiosity, the report turned up in the the mail this week. I’ve scanned the two pages of the report (click on the images to get a PDF version):
In general, our house is above average on all counts: running costs, greenhouse gases and water usage. The recommendations made were as follows, alongside my comments:
|When renovating, consider installing an on-demand hot water recirculation system to reuse the cold water in the pipes between the tap and the hot water service.||This is probably the best tip. I have vaguely heard of this technology, so now it will go on the list for our upcoming renovation.|
|Replace your hot water system with a gas-boosted solar model.||I had already replaced our ancient hot water system with a 6.9 star gas on-demand system, so this recommendation misses the mark I think. (We also don’t have the available roof space for solar hot water as well as solar power.)|
|Replace your toilet with a water efficient model (min 4 star) or a composting toilet.||Yes, definitely on the list. A pretty obvious recommendation.|
|Install insulation with a minimum of R2 in external walls if you have, or expect to have, access to the well cavity.||One slight problem: our house is double-brick without a cavity. So nowhere to put any extra insulation.|
|Install under-floor insulation (if access is available)||This is an interesting one. I did a lot of research early on to understand the potential benefits of under-floor insulation, and the results were ambiguous. I couldn’t find clear indications of benefits, and I’m concerned that it will cut down on the cooling effect during summer. More research required.|
|Install photovoltaic panels to generate electricity (min 1KW system capacity)||Done! These were installed after the assessment was done.|
In summary, the results were somewhat interesting, but hardly earth-shattering. We already know a lot, but even taking that into account, I’m not sure the assessment would really help the average family to make changes. In the absence of a proper cost-benefit analysis, some of the recommendations seem very costly in terms of the benefits they might bring.
I’m hoping that the results of all these assessments are being passed to some Australia-wide research project, as this would probably deliver more benefit than the changes made by individual houses.