Take that old man winter
Abode’s architectural expert, Greg Young, explains the finer details of insulation
If only maintaining warmth in the home was as simple as stuffing our roofs and floors with insulation and blasting the heat pump. While this approach definitely works better than the chucking-on-another-layer-of-clothing method of times gone by, there is an art to getting the insulation equation right – and it’s backed by clear-cut science and experience.
Striking the balance between the right number of windows and their locations, the materials the house is made from and where they are placed, the orientation of the house, and whether a roof overhang is wide enough to prevent overheating in summer yet small enough to allow sunlight through in winter, is not an easy undertaking.
When you add different ceiling heights with their corresponding air volumes into the equation, not to mention the wide variety of heating options available, throwing on an extra woolly jumper suddenly sounds so much simpler!
The easiest way to illustrate how a successfully insulated home looks is by example. My experience has taught me a few things, and, when it comes to insulation, the first thing I consider when approaching the design is the positioning of the house on the site. The relative positions of the sun at different times of the day and throughout the year, as well as the prevailing winds, play a vital role in determining where I position each room.
To maximise sunshine, I position rooms that require afternoon sun, such as living and outdoor entertaining areas, on the northwest aspect of the site. Rooms that require morning sun, like bedrooms and bathrooms, go on the northeast. Then I ensure that the windows of these rooms are positioned to capture fully the sun’s rays. This enables us to maximise the free energy the sun provides to heat the home, saving precious resources and reducing power bills.
Rooms that don’t require the sun, like utility rooms and garages, are positioned on the south side, where I either minimise or eliminate windows altogether.
Create the ideal ambient temperature by following these insulation tips
Floors - Concrete is just one building material that contains great ‘thermal mass’ properties, which means it absorbs, stores and releases energy to moderate temperature gain and loss. As a result, the sun supports greater economy and efficiency, when there is additional heating within the concrete. To prevent heat ‘leaking’ out of the floor into other areas that don’t require it, simply install insulation under the concrete and around the edges.
Roof - As the majority of heat loss occurs through the roof, this is one area that requires as much insulation as possible. To further maximise heat retention, fill the gaps around recessed downlights.
Walls - When building from the ground up, increasing wall thickness is a simple and highly effective way to ensure heat retention. Another area where heat escapes is in the structural areas. Heat loss is minimised most effectively by offsetting the frames or installing external wall insulation, which acts like a big blanket wrapped around your entire house.
Windows - No matter which way you look at them, even with the latest technological advancements in glass, windows never provide as much insulation as a well-insulated wall can. However, they do allow valuable heat from the sun to shine through, so it’s all a matter of balance. I personally recommend using high performance glass wherever possible, and thermally broken frames for windows and doors.
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