WHAT DOES ‘ENERGY RATING’ MEAN?
To many Australians, an energy rating is one of those grey areas that seems complicated and way over our heads.
We hear about it. We read about it. It’s in the news… over the last 20 years or so, we’ve certainly witnessed a lot of hype about home energy ratings, but a lot of us are still confused about what it means!
At Hensley Park Homes, we understand that the theory of energy ratings may seem a bit daunting. But we want you to know that we understand it and can help you through it, step by step. And believe us: it’s not as hard as it may seem!
Let’s make a note here: in this article, we’re not talking about appliance energy ratings. We’ve all seen the star-rating stickers on new washing machines, dishwashers, and ovens. While it’s important to choose appliances which are energy smart, we dont cover that here. This article focusses on utilizing energy in nature (the sun) and making smart choices with the layout and building materials to reduce the overall energy usage in the home.
The Background of Energy Ratings
Before we launch into the subject too deeply, let’s take a quick look at the history of the Energy Rating system.
Around about 20 years ago, a lot of public awareness and discussion was generated around the cost or energy consumption in maintaining a ‘comfortable’ home. With a lot of people at that time living a modern lifestyle in older, inefficient houses, the cost of running heating and cooling systems was very high.
In 2003 the Australian government introduced a set of minimum requirements detailing how a new home should handle the sun. (i.e. how to maximize the energy the home receives from the sun and use it to help reduce the electricity consumption of that home). The energy rating system had a three-pronged purpose:
- to make the home more comfortable for those living in it
- to reduce the cost of living
- reduce the impact of the home on the environment by reducing ongoing energy consumption
The Energy Rating Scale
The energy rating system was introduced as a star rating out of 10. In theory, a 0 or 1-star home (albeit impossible) would fluctuate wildly with the outside temperature: the internal temperature would be exactly the same as the external temperature, 24/7. Again, in theory, a 10-star home should maintain a constant temperature all year round without any artificial heating or cooling, regardless of whether it was 3° or 42° degrees outside.
Today, the government regulation requires a 6-star rating for all new homes. This has been regulation for several years now and ensures a comfortable and reasonably efficient home.
The ‘measuring tape’ used to gauge the energy efficiency of a house is based purely on the plan and fabric of the home, i.e. the layout and the materials used in its construction. It’s not influenced by furnishings (carpets, curtains etc.) or any sources of artificial heating or cooling. To maximize the energy received from the sun, the system encourages homeowners/builders to think about the way the sun hits the home. Where possible, position living areas facing north and utility rooms such as bathrooms, laundry etc. facing west, and choose appropriate cladding and insulation.
The energy ratings for each state vary according to the demands of the climate: for example, in Victoria the focus is on the heating of the home; in Queensland, the focus is largely on the cooling of the home.
Does the Energy Rating System really work?
The answer is Yes! When the science of energy efficient design is put into practice, homeowners are the ones who enjoy the benefits of lower electricity bills.
How are Energy Ratings assessed?
Ratings are assessed by accredited external energy rating providers. These providers operate specialized software which analyzes the location and orientation of the home, the design or layout, and also the fabric of the home (cladding, roofing, window glazing, insulation etc.). Every detail is considered: for example, the size of doors, penetrations through the roofing, size of windows etc. In short, it’s a highly technical procedure which requires a lot of skill, knowledge, and experience.
At Hensley Park, our homes have been designed to comply with the Australian Energy Ratings. The Science Behind our Designs allows our homes to be right up there with the best, both in efficiency and comfort.
Disclaimer: an energy rating is based on ‘normal usage’. Therefore it doesn’t guarantee certain outcomes regarding heating and cooling of that home
Peace of Mind
Once your home design has ticked the boxes and had its energy rating approved, how can you as the homeowner, be sure that your builder actually builds what was specified? Does he actually put the insulation in? Did he use the right level of window glazing? Have the proper down-lights with the specified wattage and rating been installed?
Many builders these days try to cheat in the construction process, which ultimately impacts the energy rating of your home. A 6-star home on paper may only wind up being a 5 star home in reality. An approved building surveyor is required to ‘sign off’ on the home after its completion to ensure that it’s up to scratch, and if your builder has cheated, it could end up costing you extra dollars.
You need to be able to trust your builder, and that’s where Hensley Park Homes really shines: we build exactly what’s on the paper. Our company policy and personal integrity ensure that our homes are what we say they are. That’s why we pride ourselves in building peace of mind, and homes that are as efficient as they are beautiful.
Keen to find out more?
Reach out to us. We’re here to help.