Solar Heating - Retrofitting Your House

Solar panels should face true north for best results.
Heating provided from solar is still the best alternative energy solution to save you money.

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What does retrofitting your house really mean?
With simple modifications which most people can undertake to an existing home you can make significant reductions lowering global greenhouse gas emissions.
Altering your house could be as simple as cutting down household costs while helping to preserve the impact on the environment.
If your serious about reducing waste including gas emissions, retrofitting is the key which unlocks this door.

So what does this mean and how does it help?
Question; What is retrofitting?
Encompasses modifying an existing house taking full advantage of natural energy which is all around us but under utilised or recognised by homeowners, unfortunately most architects / builders have pondered change until recently exposing large quantities of houses in need of attention.
Advanced planning to houses can produce significant worthwhile savings in annual running costs when basic guidelines are observed of which significant amounts of these waste reducing alterations cost less than $100.

Why should I bother to retro-fit my home?
1. Reducing electricity consumption is possibly number one, remedies may include installing low power consumption florescent light bulbs consuming around 1/5th of the equivalent incandescent bulb offering approximately 8000 hours of service. (warm light seems to be the best)
Consider installation of photovoltaic electric panels on your roof, this option has dropped in price considerably but still remains stubbornly high, one of the growing benefits of this option is the ability to sell surplus power back to the grid.
Towel rail timers are great way to save $100 plus per year, compact units tuck neatly behind virtually any towel rail face plate.
"Pilot lights" or standby silent consumers, choose appliances carefully checking power consumption details.
Stand-by lights on appliances are bigger wasters of electricity than you may think, clocks on ovens and microwave ovens, lighting which is not being utilized properly.

2. Harvesting rainwater ideas brings solid financial returns....especially when you are council water meter connected.
Water conservation methods include, reducing water bills, toilet flushing, washing machines, car washing, garden irrigation.
Saving all rainwater on site re-using as much as possible before releasing to storm or grey water drainage systems saves not only the cost of the water but also council charges for grey water. Install water tanks either
in-ground or locate near a downpipe above ground if possible, elevate the tank for gravity feed concealing for

3. Avoid airconditioning if possible instead choose a vertical buoyancy air flow type system, financially a lot lower cost, more effective creating less pollution.

4. Install double glazing on the cold side at your location, this can be achieved without the need to change your window frames, you can save between 6-8 kilowatts of heat every day from good sunlight in a well designed house.
5. Being earthquake prepared for a seismic event isnt exactly going to save you money although checking your hot water cylinder has an earthquake restraining strap especially if the cylinder is located above living areas could save you the problem of water leaking through the house, the benefit of securing your hot water cylinder is you may have created a water supply if the water mains have been severed. Should you loose water pressure after an earthquake turn your water meter tap off to prevent your hot water cylinder draining back to the water main from your hot water cylinder unless a backflow valve has already been fitted.

What is solar access, how can home owners increase their share, would you as the home owner benefit ?
It is the ease of access of solar radiation or insolation to a house or building so that the exposed energy on the structure can be used in an effective and efficient way.
Trees are the biggest culprit followed by buildings which can cause solar access problems, until recently consideration was rarely given to building designs enabling solar radiation to be used inefficiently in the house. Includes the psychological value which we place on daylight in our homes, sunlight in the form of infrared energy includes ultra violet radiation or insolation can also be used for the purification of polluted water.

What is a split pressurized solar hot water system?
Split system, split pressurized refers to either retrofitting your existing hot water cylinder or installing a solar ready cylinder to any solar heating panel / hot water cylinder and solar heating panel are effectively in two pieces only being joined by pipework.

How can we identify which solar heating system would be best for your home and lifestyle?
Black flat plate solar heating absorbers of solar energy require optimal placing in relation to the sun's path during the day. Evacuated tube solar heating system absorbers allow a little more flexibility and are more effective particularly on cloudy days or colder climates. Open loop solar heating systems are the most common in New Zealand mainly because they are more efficient than closed loop systems never the less solar hot water installed anywhere in New Zealand will cut your power-bill off at the knees.
The evacuated solar tube system is more frost resistant but also far less expensive now having sharper prices than the equivalent flat plate solar hot water system.
Heat pump systems are more flexible as they absorb their heat from the surrounding air, can be placed indoors if outdoors wall penetration will be required but won't affect roof layouts or designs.
Carefully check the warranty conditions for heat-pumps, areas near beaches or thermal mass will not be covered.
Heat pumps are not as efficient in their use of electricity, there has been several articles in the news pointing the finger at the level of surprise of how high customers power bills have been, nevertheless are effective converters of surrounding heat into useful domestic heat.

Are there any options for shading our homes for keeping them cool in summer and warm in winter?
Orientation of the main rooms is the main focus. Effective external shading of sunlit windows is by far the best measure rather than internal shading such as curtains and blinds.
External shades should prevent infra-red heat radiation from reaching windows but should permit daylight to penetrate the window so that electric lighting is not required in the daytime. Such shading should be adjustable to shade in summer and permit the winter heat radiation to pass through.
Wide fixed eaves are good in summer but are often inefficient in letting heat penetrate in winter, north facing eaves must be adjustable.
Windows facing east and west may need a more careful design approach as the sun is lower in the sky, external and internal venetians may be useful.

How to effectively insulate to reduce energy consumption and which type do you use?
Insulation although expensive is essential in modern homes reducing heat loss to outside during the colder months while helping keep heat out in the summer.
My own experience is soft and fluffy like Batts is good for ceilings where as polystyrene in walls and floors is easy to install and doesn't sag.
Reflective insulation may be better where radiant heat is flowing up or down but its presence is not as pronounced as it once was in underfloor installations unless it is used to cover other insulation.
Insulating your ceiling this is where your largest thermal energy loss occurs,  heat loss can save up to 42%, is usually the easiest form of insulation and quite possibly the lowest cost.
Floors are responsible for more than 10% of heat loss - plus older homes with wooden flooring are even bigger wasters of energy so it pays to insulate underfloor as well.

Hot Water Cylinders
Believe it or not your hot water system at home accounts for nearly a third of your total energy bill.
Review how to heat your water for less.
Most homes in New Zealand use electric storage cylinders for water heating
Uninsulated hot water cylinders were mostly installed prior to 2002, if you have one of these storage cylinders you will be paying more than you need for electricity.
Check your cylinder for manufacture date and review the specifications, you can purchase a cylinder wrap and install yourself saving around $140 per year on your power bill.

What are your suggestions reducing bathroom water

Cleaning your teeth can waste more water then you think, train yourself to turn off the water when you scrub your teeth.
In my opinion changing to high pressure household water systems is a massive waste of water, low pressure systems may have issues but the water consumption difference between the two is huge however installing a reducer which may be a simple stainless washer with a smaller hole into the shower head pipe or the installation of low flow shower heads will notch up more savings.
Dunnies, always a popular subject, the building code stipulates all toilet installations must be dual systems, you can still modify these units with a simple lead weight from the Auckland city council which stops flushing as soon as the button is released.(big saver - very easy fitted).

Several top suggestions reducing your water wastage
Modern automatic dish-washers can consume around 40 litres of water every completed cycle. To achieve sparkling dishes / glasses using a much lower volume of water view new models with 3 star / AAA rating these models consume around 18 litres of water per cycle. Regularly clean your dish-washer filter so your machine works efficiently. Avoid eco friendly dishwashing powder, products are notorious for having to repair your dish-washer.

Wait till your dish-washer racks are full before turning the machine on, you will use less water and energy resources, plus reduce waste chemicals from entering the grey water sewerage system.

Frozen food should be thawed before using or perhaps microwaved removing the need to immerse under a running tap.

When washing your hands place the plug in the sink resisting temptation to holding them under a running tap.

Water leaks need to be checked regularly especially taps, dishwasher hoses, washing machines etc, play your part reducing water wastage. Statistics reveal more than 2000 litres of water can be lost through one faulty tap.
Ceramic taps either leak or not, screw type taps need to be turned off lightly, reduces tap washer pressure, repair any tap leaks immediately.

Without sacrifice fitting an aerator to your tap outlet is inexpensive, reducing water consumption without any noticeable reduction in water use.

Instead of turning on your water tap till the water is cold enough to drink, store the water in your fridge for later use.

Rinse fruit and vegetables in a plugged sink, this method is easy and effective saving water.

If you dont have a dishwasher wash your dishes in a plugged sink saving the need for a running tap wasting water.

Microwaving your vegetables is the most efficient method, followed by pressure cookers and steaming. Reducing water loss is possible when boiling food in pots by fitting the lid then turning down to simmer reducing power consumption.

Can I make any improvements to my car garage?
Probably not, but you could check the gaps around the entry (not the car garage door) door into your home remedying any drafts.
Whats parked in your garage "your car" could have some simple checks to reduce your fuel consumption.
Possibly the worst offender is your tyres, yeah I know their round and black and look ok too. Tyre pressures are very important mainly because your engine will find pushing your vehicle much easier if your tyres are inflated correctly, manufacturers recommended pressures are usually found inside the door frame, in New Zealand my experience has shown these are on the low side.
Example; Toyota Corolla door frame suggested tyre pressure rear tyres 26 psi front tyres 28 psi, suggested replacement for these pressures, rear tyres 30 psi  front tyres 35 psi, for heavier loads with highway driving
you could add a little more. Your payback will result in lower fuel consumption plus your tyres are more likely to wear evenly provided the wheel alignment is correct. Check with your local tyre shop.
Check your cars engine air filter and replace if in any doubt.
Since the introduction of unleaded fuel sparkplugs seem to last forever, check the electrode gap every 30000 kilometers, lifespan could reach 100000 km.
Keep your car windows up when driving if possible will help save fuel.

Where should I start ?
Probably the best place to embark on your new lifestyle would be a phone call or visit to the Auckland City Council they will have suggestions which will include a lead weight for installation in your toilet cistern this may still be free or alternatively you may find them at the home show.
For people who live in other towns and cities of New Zealand your own council will probably have similar cost saving suggestions.
You as the home owner can get up to $5,000 in financial assistance from the "Auckland Council
Retrofit Your Home Programme"   plus you may be eligible for ENERGYWISE funding for insulation and efficient alternative heating solutions for your home. Financial assistance offered by the Auckland City Council is for a loan - this financial package is re-payed over 9 years through your rates.

Conservation does not have to mean deprivation

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