CHAPTER 4: HOW TO GET OFF GAS
Get advice with an energy efficiency assessment
There are different ways to assess energy efficiency depending on whether you’re looking at an existing or planned home.
All new single and multi-residential dwellings need to meet energy efficiency requirements for building approval. In most states and territories, the 2022 National Construction Code sets these requirements at the equivalent of a 7 Star NatHERS rating along with requirements for efficient appliances and/or solar.
An energy efficiency assessment is formal evidence of a building’s performance to meet the energy efficiency standards of the National Construction Code. Thermal Comfort Assessments use advanced computer models to determine how much energy will be required to keep your house in a comfortable temperature range, which is not too hot in summer nor too cold in winter. Generally, assessors can choose between calculating a NatHERS rating using computer simulation software or complying with the more detailed elemental provisions that set specific requirements for features of the home.
Residential Efficiency Scorecard
The Residential Efficiency Scorecard is a national rating program for existing homes, accredited under NatHERS. The Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) provides energy ratings for new dwellings. The Scheme can now rate the energy performance for the whole home including the major appliances, solar panels and batteries, in addition to the star rating for the building shell. The minimum requirement for new houses and apartments will increase from 6 to 7 stars (out of 10). A new annual energy use budget will also apply to account for a home’s major fixed appliances and any energy generated (e.g. solar panels).
In a scorecard assessment, the assessor will thoroughly inspect the building and provide a detailed report on how energy is being used in your home, including thermal efficiency, solar, storage, and appliances.
Before you talk to an assessor, work out all the things you would like to achieve. When considering thermal comfort, it refers the internal conditions inside a house – air temperature, humidity, air movement, and the temperature of internal surfaces as comfortable. Houses that are too cold and draughty are not thermally comfortable, and cold internal surfaces can make this worse. You can also prefigure your short- and long-term budget. Write down all the issues you are experiencing in your home, and then talk to an assessor.
In April 2023, the Australian Government announced funding to expand NatHERS to offer energy ratings for existing homes.
Home energy efficiency disclosure
Providing a home’s energy performance rating and information at the point of sale helps people choose a more comfortable and energy efficient home.
Currently the energy ministers are working towards a draft National Framework for Disclosure of Residential Energy Efficiency Information with the final framework expected in 2024.
The framework will support a market environment that encourages energy efficiency disclosure and will provide coordinated settings for state and territory governments to implement their own disclosure schemes.
Adelaide CBD heritage cottage by TS4, designed and built around sustainable principles to achieve an overall rating of 7.2 Stars (NatHERS). Learn more about this home on the Sustainable House Day website.
What happens in a Scorecard assessment?
During your Scorecard assessment, the assessor will visit your home, discuss your goals and conduct a thorough on-site assessment. They will collect data in the government-supported Scorecard tool of your home’s fixed appliances and features, such as:
- How your house is constructed, and the materials used;
- The size of each room;
- Window information including the size, the kind of window (double or single glazed, low E, etc.). If there are blinds, curtains, pelmets and the direction the window faces;
- How well insulated your home is;
- The hot water system;
- How your home is kept warm in winter and cool in summer;
- The lighting;
- Pool or spa;
- Solar power.
This data is then used to generate your Scorecard Certificate and informs the conversation with your assessor.
Your Scorecard Certificate will give you detailed information about your home’s:
- Energy efficiency star rating out of 10 stars. The higher the stars the lower the costs over a year;
- Comfort rating showing how well your home copes with hot and cold weather;
- Star rating with and without solar power;
- Efficiency ratings for each of the fixed appliances such as heating, cooling, hot water service
- Energy consumption of the fixed appliances over one year;
- Greenhouse gas emissions for the fixed appliances over one year
- It also provides practical options to improve the home’s energy efficiency.
Your Scorecard assessor will discuss how to use the current appliances and features of your home to improve their efficiency. They will also offer tailored advice to help you achieve your goals and ensure any money you spend on upgrading your home’s energy efficiency will lead to a cheaper to run and more comfortable home.
Always make sure that the consultants and contractors you select have experience in the areas you are hiring them to work in and that they are properly licensed, registered and insured for the work they are going to perform.
Plumbing, electrical and refrigeration installation contractors all require separate licences to carry out their work. Consultants and contractors should be able to provide references from jobs they have performed in the past. These references should be followed up before a final decision is made.
Home Energy Toolkits
If you are looking to start somewhere, some local councils are offering to lend a home energy toolkit so you can undertake your own home audit. These toolkits are a low-cost way for households to record and understand where to invest to make the most savings in the short, medium and long term. Toolkits offer a worksheet to fill out which can include questions of orientation, appliance energy use and costs, and behaviours that can help reduce energy use, but you can also borrow tools such as appliance meters and infrared thermometers to figure out where you can make the most savings.
Check your local council website or library catalogue.