Room by room energy efficiency guide: The Living Room

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Room by room energy efficiency guide: The Living Room

As one of the busiest rooms in the house, there’s no doubt that the living room can be an energy hotspot. So when renovating it’s important to consider design features and appliances that will create an energy efficient, relaxing environment.

What’s more, prolonged periods of extreme weather have prompted home owners to find energy efficient ways of controlling their internal environment to adapt to the climate they live in.

In Australia, we have a very diverse climate (as anyone who’s moved between Melbourne and Brisbane knows too well).  This is recognised officially by the Building Code of Australia (BCA) which defines up to eight climate zones across the country – each main zone having multiple regional sub-zones that possess unique local geographic features and come with their own requirements to make a home energy efficient.

Use our guide below to determine the best ways to approach design and interior of your living room.

Living room design considerations by region and climate

City Climate Zone Type and No. Summer neutral cooling temp °C Top 5 design considerations for your living area renovation[1]
Canberra Cool temperate7. 24 Canberra has low humidity, cold to very cold winters and hot dry summers.
1. Minimise east and west-facing external wall areas and use deciduous trees or awnings to shade your north facing living area from the summer sun and welcome winter warmth.2. Install double glazed doors and windows to allow light in only during the extended winter period when there are 19–20 hours of heat loss through glass, with a maximum of 4–5 hours of heat gain.3. Use bulk insulation in walls, ceilings and exposed floors to keep the heat generated in winter in, and the summer heat out.
4. Ensure all spaces around doors and windows are sealed from draughts and provide airlocks to entries.5. Cooling should be unnecessary with good cross or closable ventilation and ceiling fans in living areas.
Melbourne Mild temperate6. 24 Melbourne experiences mild to cool winters with low humidity and hot to very hot summer, with moderate humidity.
1. Minimise east and west-facing external wall areas and use deciduous trees or awnings to shade your north facing living area from the summer sun and welcome winter warmth.2. Consider double glazing or close fitting curtains with pelmets above the windows to further insulate the window.3. Install bulk insulation in ceilings to keep summer heat out and any generated winter heat in, and include thermostatically controlled roof ventilation.3. Install ceiling fans to cool the living room in summer, and minimise heating use in winter if required (where possible use space heating rather than central heating for the entire home)4. Seal thoroughly against draughts, and if possible, install airlock entryways.
Sydney, Adelaide, Perth Warm temperate5. 25.52525 Sydney can experience moderate humidity, while Adelaide and Perth can be quite dry, yet all homes will benefit from measures designed to minimise energy use through heating and cooling.
1. Shade all east and west-facing walls in summer.2. Use deciduous trees or awnings to shade your north facing living area from the summer sun and welcome winter warmth.3. Install bulk and reflective insulation in ceilings, and either type of insulation in walls.4. Install ceiling fans to cool in summer, and minimise heating use in winter if required (where possible use space heating rather than central heating for the entire home)5. Ensure all spaces around doors and windows are sealed from draughts.
Country NSWOrangeArmidaleNowra

Wagga

Dubbo

 

Hot dry summer, Cool winter4. 2324

24.5

25

25

 

Country NSW experiences dry winds during very hot summers and cool winters.
1. Install screened, shaded outdoor areas that allow winter sun penetration inside, and use double glazed windows for living areas.2. It is critical to use deciduous trees or awnings to shade your north facing living area from the summer sun and welcome winter warmth.3. Install bulk and reflective insulation in ceilings,  and either type of insulation in walls.4. Consider installing a whole house evaporative cooler to ensure high level flows of cooler (south-side) air in summer and a complete seal in winter.5. Seal thoroughly against draughts and use entry airlocks.
Brisbane Warm humid summer, mild winter2. 25.5 Brisbane has hot to very hot summers with mild winters.
1. Seek maximum exposure to cooling breezes and cross-ventilation by installing shutters that admit light and air, but keep out rain and direct sunshine, or bi-fold doors that can fully open.2. Shade all east and west-facing walls all year round.3. Install bulk insulation in ceilings to keep summer heat out and any generated winter heat in, and install thermostatically controlled roof ventilation.4. In summer, use ceiling fans first to keep cool in summer, and minimise heating use in winter (where possible use space heating rather than central heating for the entire home).5. Ensure all spaces around doors and windows are sealed from draughts.


Tips for purchasing appliances for the living room

Once you have designed and renovated your living room to accommodate your local climate, it’s time to consider what appliances will complement your new energy efficient space.

Lighting

  • Install or replace old halogen or incandescent technology with energy efficient LED globes and save up to 80% on lighting energy costs
  • If you have high ceilings, install floor lamps fitted with LED globes and light coloured shades.

Home entertainment equipment

  • Choose an energy efficient television with a high star rating (aim for something with 6 or more stars)
  • Control stand-by energy consumption to networked appliances by using an energy saving master/slave power board, which provides constant power to your cable TV box or recorder while automatically cutting power to games consoles, Bluray or DVD players, speakers and headphones whenever the master appliance (the TV) is switched off.

Low energy heating and cooling appliances

  • Only use these devices when all passive measures of heating or cooling (e.g. wearing loose fitting clothing in summer/warm clothes in winter) have been attempted but you’re still uncomfortable
  • Use fans to cool down in summer first – a breeze of 0.5 m per second provides a one-off comfort benefit, equivalent to a 3°C temperature reduction.
  • Ensure all ceiling fans have a low speed ‘winter mode’ feature
  • Consider installing whole house evaporative coolers in low humidity areas – it provides a lower-cost, low technology alternative to refrigerated air conditioning, as it uses water evaporation from the outside air to cool the temperature and circulated through a house or building by a large blower
  • Purchase good quality energy efficient electric throw rugs to warm you when reading, watching TV or gaming instead of turning on the heater – they are much more energy efficient, using a maximum of 150 Watts.

Space heating and cooling appliances

  • When purchasing a gas heater or reverse cycle air conditioner, consider quality brand units with the most stars on their energy rating labels. The more stars, the higher the performance and energy efficiency than the same sized units with less stars
  • Before selecting any unit, seek professional advice on the correct sizing for either a ducted system which can be zoned to service your living area during the day and bedrooms at night, or an energy efficient split reverse cycle air conditioning system or gas space heater
  • When sized, installed and used in accordance with manufacturer instructions, you can better control your new unit’s performance and energy consumption.

So, if you do your research and design your living room to suit your climate zone, you could not only be saving yourself the headache of high energy bills – but will be able to sit back, relax and enjoy your own little piece of paradise.

For more energy savings tips, visit www.originenergy.com.au

[1] http://www.yourhome.gov.au/passive-design/design-climate

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