As Ballarat enters another painfully cold winter and power bills continue to soar, one couples advice is think long term.
Maggie and Evan McDowell also believe adapting a home to be sustainable and low energy can fit in with Ballarat's heritage values.
“I was looking at the hay bale houses and they’re gorgeous and you go, oh wow that’s great, but I live in Ballarat Central, I’m not going to be able to do all that,” Ms McDowell said.
“But you can, anyone can do this no matter where you live.”
Instead of building a new house, they decided to renovate their inner city 1920s weatherboard home.
The first part of the house is the original structure where small improvements have been made such as roof and underfloor insulation. The new extension has some more noticeable eco credentials.
The McDowell’s decided to dig up their entire driveway to fit in a 5,000 litre underground water tank that collects the storm water from the house, garage and shed roofs. The water is then pumped into two toilets and an external tap.
They also installed solar panels on the roof and built the structure on a concrete slab. This thermal mass absorbs and stores solar heat energy and releases it in the cooler evening period. The result is a constant temperature of around 15 degrees.
“You walk in and it’s 15 or 16 and then you top it up to 20 until you get to bed,” Ms McDowell said. “We don’t even have an air conditioner for the summer. We haven’t missed it at all.”
However, these improvements had a hefty price tag. Ms McDowell estimates the extension, including the energy-saving measures cost the couple over $300,000.
The windows alone came to $30,000.
Despite the cost of this venture, the architect of the project, Darren Bowman said you don’t have to spent vast sums of money to make an impact on your carbon footprint and save money on your energy bills.
“It’s absolutely obtainable to build a sustainable house or make an existing house more efficient on a budget.”
“The first thing that comes to my mind is getting good insulation in the ceiling. It doesn’t cost much and it makes a significant difference,” he said.
Next on Bowman’s list is inspecting your house for gaps in doors and windows. This traps the hot air in for winter and keeps the cool air in for summer. He also said windows can make a huge difference to a house. The orientation of the windows and double glazing bring energy costs down in the long run.
“When I’m designing a new house, I try to make sure the windows are north facing. They bring in the sunlight which warms the house in the cold seasons,” he said.