By Sarah Fiess, registered architect + project lead of the Sustainability Victoria Smarter Renovations program
Insulate for a comfortable home
You can’t put a price on comfort. It’s something that you can feel and sense which has an enriching effect on our whole wellbeing. Within a home, good insulation is the most influential way to create comfort.
Unfortunately, current levels of insulation in Australian homes are well below par. We feel this during the winter months, late Autumn and early Spring when the internal temperatures become “uncomfortable” without expensive heating and cooling.
Benefits of insulation
Insulation helps to separate the external temperature from the internal temperature and creates a more comfortable home. Even during the hot summer weeks and heat waves, insulation separates us from the heat outside, protects from the sun, better than any sunscreen can.
Being more comfortable improves our general wellbeing. For example, young children spend most of their time on the floor so insulating under timber floors will improve their winter comfort and reduce the risks of catching colds.
There are also financial savings to be made by installing insulation. A fully insulated home also means you’ll spend less on heating in winter and less on cooling in summer.
Insulate like a thermos and esky
Insulation should be installed in the ceiling, walls and floor to create a continuously sealed building envelope. You should think of insulation like a thermos in winter, keeping the coffee inside warm and an esky in summer, keeping the beers cold.
Check your ceiling insulation
Effective ceiling insulation is the best barrier against the summer heat and the winter cold. Most homes already have some form of ceiling insulation, however, some ceiling insulation can lose its effectiveness as it settles and compacts over time, so check whether it needs to be topped up or replaced altogether. If ceiling insulation is less than 5 cm thick then it should be topped up. To find out more about topping up ceiling insulation visit www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/smarter-renovations.
Plan a smarter renovation
A renovation is an ideal time to improve the insulation levels in your home. Often during a renovation existing ceiling, wall and floor linings may be removed which presents an opportunity to access the internal structure of your home and add insulation.
Not sure where to start in making your renovation more comfortable? Sustainability Victoria has developed the Smarter Renovations Planner to calculate a customised checklist for your renovation, with practical how-to guides to help you create a more comfortable home.
For more information, visit sustainability.vic.gov.au/smarter-renovations-planner
Tips for installing insulation
- Hiring a professional to install your insulation is highly recommended. If you are intending to install yourself, appropriate safety precautions should be taken.
- Have your electrical wiring inspected by a licensed electrician to ensure that it can be safely covered prior to any insulation installation.
- Currently in Australia, there is no requirement for installers to be accredited. So be sure to ask your installers for recent references to ensure a good quality installation.
- On a building site, insulation installers are usually the youngest in the team, so speak to your installers about getting a more experienced member of the team to install the insulation. This may mean their labour fees are higher, but you will receive higher quality workmanship.
Sarah Fiess is a registered Architect and Project Lead of the Smarter Renovations program at Sustainability Victoria (SV). Sarah has trained in both Australia and Vienna which has built her passion for improving the energy efficiency of Australia’s existing housing stock. She specialises in helping people construct sustainable and energy efficient renovations.