Too hot to handle – Designing a climate sensitive home

Feb 13, 2017 | Anoushka's Blog, Interior design and decoration

Unless you’ve been away or already live in a home that has been designed for optimal climate control…and haven’t left it in weeks…you’ll know it’s been very hot in Sydney!

And whilst the great Australian climate helps us to live an outdoors lifestyle, feed ourselves very well and keeps most of us happy; it’s human nature that we want to escape heat, and of course the cold later in the year.

Humans are generally comfortable within a very narrow range of conditions as our body temperature is about 37°C.  We still generate heat even while at rest, so to be thermally comfortable we must lose heat at the same rate it is produced, and gain heat at the same rate it is lost. And the key factors influencing comfort when it comes to climate are:

  1. Temperature
  2. Humidity
  3. Air movement (breeze or draught)
  4. Exposure to radiant heat sources
  5. Exposure to cool surfaces.

The Australian government suggests that approximately 40% of household energy is used for heating and cooling our homes. This rate could be cut to almost zero in new housing, through efficient and effective climate control. However, in most homes, halving the current rate to 20% is also achievable.

So, based on the reduction of energy usage there are three main benefits to effectively managing the thermal efficiency in our homes:

  1. Based on the five points above our thermal comfort needs are better met
  2. We have a smaller environmental* footprint and therefore consume less energy
  3. Using less energy means smaller energy bills.

*I wrote recently about sustainable home solutions, which you can read about here.

So, bearing in mind thermal comfort, both hot and cold, here are my top five tips for designing a climate sensitive home.

Effective cooling and heating systems

These will depend on where you live, i.e. the climate and topography, and what you’re comfortable spending and consuming.  Central heating, reverse cycle ducted AC, under floor heating, geo-thermal heating etc.  Talk to local suppliers about what sells well, and pay specific attention to energy ratings, whilst asking about installing and running costs.

Appropriate glazing and doors

Regardless of whether you’re trying to cool or heat your home, money / energy can literally be pouring out of your windows and doors.  Make sure they fit, have little to no drafts, consider blinds and window coverings with UV and heat protection qualities, and potentially try glazing films to improve thermal efficiency.  Talk to reputable glazing specialist to understand your options, and ask friends and family in the local area what products / solutions they use.

Just like glazing and doors, thermal insulation will keep your property cool or warm and can, if it’s the right solution for your home, reduce your energy consumption.

Flooring

Naturally, this is a no brainer, but can be a little tricky to get the balance right…let face it we’ve all done a silly walk across the cold bathroom floor in the middle of the night.  Try to use a mix of flooring with the right cooling and heating system for your home / that area.  And don’t discount hard flooring options in cold climates or carpet in warm climates, both can be thermally efficient.  Talk to a flooring specialists first to determine what products will work best.

Fans and heaters

Smaller solutions are more immediate but can have costs.  So really think about how you’re using them, specifically how long are your using them, and where you place them.  Typical usage includes ceiling fans, bathroom heaters, pedestal fans etc.  And for big spaces, consider larger more commercial solutions.

Yes, there are a lot of things to consider, but we want our homes to be comfortable…right?  And if you’re not sure where to start, start with a conversation with a designer who can put you in touch with the right suppliers for you.

To book a call with Anoushka form SmartSpace Interiors, click here.

NOTE: Images used under Fair Use, and the above commentary is a personal view and not commercial in nature, and were sourced from a variety of online sources and personal archives.

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