We are building a new home, and like many want it to be future proofed, and as sustainable as possible.
To be honest, our house has ended up being as sustainable as I can afford!
Many of the choices offered in the mainstream in terms of sustainability involve raising the bar on the specifications, and therefore the cost. We have found it very hard to get good information about alternative products, and to have enough information to do a cost benefit analysis on whether it is worth paying more up front costs in return for lower running costs, or even in return for doing my bit to save the planet.
There is a website dedicated to Future Proof Building in New Zealand which has some good information, but it is also seems to be funded by people trying to sell you things, rather than giving you the information and power to compare alternatives.
Solar energy seems a no brainer in some ways – of course we should tap this totally renewable resource, and make it work for us.
What are some of the ways we can use it?
Build your house in a way that enables the sun to warm it, without overheating in the summer. Hold that heat from the day time into the evening through good insulation and thermal mass.
Use the sun to heat your Hot water – this seems to me to be old technology these days, but the pay back time on a new system is very attractive, and I loved it when I have had it in the past.
PVs – Photovoltaic
The minimum these days in a new house is to wire for this in the future. However more and more PVs are appearing on NZ roofs without any attempt at government subsidies, like there are in other countries. The Consumer has a very good report on it, and using a grid based system, without the hassle of batteries seems a good way to go in the city. Heating your hotwater this way is also a good way to store the power for later use when the sun is not out.
Solar City give some great options for helping you decide – you put your power bill, and some information like whether you are home during the day, and they will tell you what your savings will be over 20 years. You can pay for the entire system yourself, or Solar City can own it, and you share the benefit of power prices.