Retrofitting To Reduce the Carbon Footprint of a Household

Retrofitting To Reduce the Carbon Footprint of a Household

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Executive summary

This report aims to explain the interconnected nature of human behaviour and the result it has on the residential environment. Despite finding that human behaviour changes from household to household, it can be concluded that human behaviour and activities ultimately has an impact on our energy consumption. Hence, this report details the finding on how different retrofitting measure that may be invested in can change the energy consumption of a household, lower their annual running costs and carbon footprint.

In the processes of researching different measures of improving energy efficiency, I also analyse my own house and determine measures I could take to further improve our consumption and what behavioural changes my family and I can make to modify our habits. I look at retrofitting measures including; energy conservation measures, heating, insulation, lighting, PV cells, solar hot water, water tanks and windows and doors, and determine the disadvantages and estimates of total costs that are associated with each selection.

Table of contents

Title page


Executive summary


Table of contents




Building description


Retrofitting measures


- Energy conservation measures
- Heating
- Insulation
- Lighting
- PV cells
- Solar hot water
- Water tanks
- Windows and doors

Three most beneficial measures


- Energy conservation measures
- Water tanks
- Windows and doors
- Consideration and rejection of measures








Sustainable housing is a major part of residential development and is increasing getting larger. Sustainable development aims meet our needs while not depleting resources and not compromising the ability for future generations to meet their own needs (Green Building Council Australia, 2014) because the capacity of our world is finite.

The phases of a building’s life cycle impacts greatly on the environment and it is a system encompassing the extraction and processing of raw material, the embodied energy in construction and manufacturing, transportation and distribution; use, reuse, maintenance and recycling and final disposal of waste (Khasreen, M, Banfill, P & Menzies, G 2009, p. 676). Human interactions and behaviour also impact upon energy and resource consumption within the residential environment and contribute to our carbon footprint and hence changing and modifying our actions and habits can have a great impact of the lifestyle we lead.

This report will detail the findings of many sustainable technologies that are available commercially and aim to reduce our impact on the environment through retrofitting, to modify the efficiency of household components. It will also factor in the disadvantages and costs involved in retrofitting efficient energy measures.

Building description

The house I am currently residing in is a single story, fully detached dwelling, built in the late 1970s and is a 758sqm property in Templestowe.

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"Retrofitting To Reduce the Carbon Footprint of a Household." 25 Feb 2020

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It has 4 bedrooms, a study, two bathrooms and a two car garage. The orientation of the property is a westerly direction. The living spaces are zoned towards the northern side of the land and the bedrooms are on the south. The building fabric of the facade is brick veneer with cement roofing tiles and the interior materials pine wood flooring in the dining and living rooms, ceramic tiles in the kitchen, laundry and bath rooms and recycled material carpets with 9mm underlay in all the bedrooms. Some current features and designs that have been implemented in the house to reduce energy consumption are:
- PV cells- 8 x 190 watt (1.5 kilowatt) panels and 1 x 2 kilowatt Digital Inverter with dual circuits installed in 2009- accounts for 67% of energy use.
- Solar hot water- 2 panels plus a 26 L/minute gas boosted instant hot water.
- Lightning- LED (16), CFL (8) and fluorescent (1) lights. No incandescent/ halogen light except for oven (1), range hood (2) and security (4) lights. Skylight in the kitchen for more natural light.
- Insulation- ceiling insulation with a rating of R2.
- Shading- awnings with 90% shade for the windows facing the setting sun of the westerly side of the house. A large proportion of the windows on the westerly side are screened by the garage that reduces the heat coming through during the evenings in the summer.
- Heating- 4 star gas heating system. The thermostat is set to a maximum of 19 degrees to lower running costs in the winter. Areas are manually zones to minimize costs.
- Cooling- evaporative cooler which stores water for three days and if it not used within that timeframe it expels the water. Using wall fans for moderately hot days. Two large whirly birds on top of the rood cavity draws warm air out, increasing air flow in summer and reducing the amount of condensation within the cavity in winter and prevents the insulation from getting wet.
- Water conservation measures- 3 star shower heads and dual flush toilets in bathrooms. Restricted water flow add-ons on all taps.
- Landscaping and garden- large deciduous trees provide shade in the summer, drip irrigation systems, mulch, automatic timing hose and two compost bins. The garden is also used to grow fruits (banana, apricots, plums, strawberry, tomatoes, etc.) and vegetables (potatoes, pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant, chillies’, etc.).
Interactions and behaviour: There are four people living in the house including myself. During the weekdays there is no one home during the afternoon and on weekend the most commonly used rooms are the bedrooms and living room. All appliances are switch off at the power sockets when not in use except for the fridge. Overall, the house is considerably energy efficient however there are other measures that can be taken to improve the sustainability of the residence.

Retrofitting measures

1. Energy conservation measures

Nearly one third of all energy consumption in households can be attributed to appliances, as well as, 45% of greenhouse gases emitted by a household (Your Home- Appliances, 2013). Appliances and equipment including refrigeration and cooking account for 33% of energy use and of that 33%, the TV and fridge freezer account for the higher percentage (19% and 18% respectively) (Appendix A). Selecting energy efficient appliance with higher star ratings saves money in the long run and also reduces the environmental impact. The Energy Star Labels, which are a requirement made by the Australian Government for all new products, shows buyers the energy consumption of each product and running costs so they can compare each product. Turning appliance like the TV, computers and lights at the power source conserves more energy and also reduced running costs.

2. Heating

Heating account for one third (32%) of energy consumption in an average Victorian household (Sustainability Victoria, 2014) (Appendix B). Passive design measures can reduce the need for heating and increase comfort in a home. Zoning off similar rooms, insulating walls and ceiling, draught sealing all windows and doors and having heavy drapery all contribute to retaining heat and minimising loss. There are two main types of heating and they are convection and radiant heating. A combination of both sources should be used in large rooms, convection heating in small rooms and radiant heating in draughty rooms like a bathroom (Your Home- Heating and cooling, 2013). Gas heaters are the most energy efficient followed by wood heater if they are sustainably harvested. The key to heating efficiently is to close all the blinds, only heat the rooms in use, wear suitable clothing for the weather and to keep the thermostat between 18-20 degrees (Your Home- Heating and cooling, 2013).

3. Insulation

Ceiling insulation has and huge impact on energy efficiency and comfort in a household (Sustainability Victoria- Insulation, 2014) because it provides a barrier between the hot summer heat and the cool Victorian winters. In most areas of Victoria a minimum of R3.5 is recommended household (Sustainability Victoria- Insulation, 2014). Insulation refers to materials that provide substantial resistance to heat flow and when it is installed in ceilings, walls and floors in reduced the heat floor through the house and therefore reduced heating and cooling costs (Sustainability Victoria- Insulation, 2014). There are different types of insulation including bulk insulation (available in boars, batts, blankets and loose filling) that trap air in its structure and reflective foil. Packets of insulation can be bought at hardware stores ranging from $50 to $100.

4. Lighting

Lightning composes about 11% of Victorian energy bills each year and using LED or CFL lights can reduce energy consumption for lightning by up to 80% (sustainability Victoria- Lighting, 2014). Based on an average usage of 3 hours per day, the annual energy cost of LEDs and CFL lights ($15) is considerably lower than standard Halogen lights ($75) (Appendix C). Although, of LEDs and CFL lights initially cost more- about $9-12 per light at a hardware store- they last up to ten times longer than a standard light.

5. PV cells

Photovoltaic cells or solar panels capture the suns energy and convert it into electricity and it the second fastest growing renewable energy resource after wind. The cost if solar panels are increasingly getting more affordable- around $2,000-$4000 including installation (Energy Australia, 2012)- and despite the initial cost for installation the panels are relatively low maintenance. The installation of 6-10 panels can save upwards of $400 in an annual electricity bill (Energy Australia, 2012) (Appendix D). However, there are some disadvantages to solar power including, the need for large areas of land for installation and the low functionality during the night and cloudy days.

6. Solar hot water

A solar hot water system captures the sun’s energy through solar panels or evacuated tubes and uses it to heat water for household needs. The panels and the insulated water storage tank is also connected to a booster, either gas or electrical and when the thermostat of the water drop below a threshold the booster picks up and heats the water until it reaches its set temperature (Living Greener, 2014). The only real disadvantage to solar hot water is during cloudy day when there is less solar energy available for conversion and despite the high upfront costs associated with the system, it pays back quickly.

7. Water tanks

Rainwater collection is an alternative source for quality water that could be used for gardening or even internal use, like for flushing toilets. Having a rain water tank installed gives a source of convenient water supply and they come it a range of sizes to fit different household budgets. Water tanks can be found at multiple places including hardware stores and the range in price from about $400 (1000l) to $900 (2000L). Some benefits of rainwater collection are: reducing water bills, reduce the need for more and dams and desalination plants, protect environmental flows and reduces infrastructure operating costs (Your Home- Rainwater, 2013). However, installing rain water tanks does involve a high investment cost, regular maintenance, and the water quality and quantity may vary in different regions. They can also become breeding places for insects.

8. Windows and doors

In a home, there is approximately 20% of heat loss is through windows and doors (National Insulation Association) and window size, orientation, glazing treatment, frames, shading and internal coverings can have a significant impact on a buildings energy efficiency and comfort (Sustainability Victoria- Windows, 2014). But windows also allow natural light to enter the home and allows for ventilation.
Reducing heat loss through windows and doors can be combated in a few different ways. Firstly, it’s to reduce heat loss by sealing gaps in the windows to reduce draught by weather stripping the gaps and having thick window covering on the interior. Draught sealing foam can be bought at hardware stores for $5-12. An alternative and much cheaper option than double glazing is adding awning or blinds. Awnings and shutters on the north and west facade can reduce heat gain during the summer months. Where double glazing cost around $3,000-$5,000 more than single glazing (Rob Schneider, 2013), for a similar price, awnings or shutters can be installed with the option of opening and closing them as the occupants of the home prefer.

Three most beneficial retrofitting measures for my house

Windows and doors- draught sealing the house with weather stripping foam bought from hardware stores (about $6-$12 for a packet) will reduce the air flow through the gaps and will reduce the need for heating. Replacing blinds with thick drapes, and zoning off and closing doors when heating will also prevent heat loss.

Water tanks- installing a 3000L water tank (retailing at $900-$1200 with installation) will provide water for gardening and for use in the bathrooms for the toilets. It will reduce the water bills and it will provide a convenient source of water.

Energy conservation measures- purchasing appliance with a higher energy star rating would reduce running cost and increase the household’s energy efficient. The most used appliance in my house includes the refrigerator and washing machine and they have a four star (Old Star Rating) and a one star energy rating respectively. The refrigerator uses 511 kWh per year and the washing machine uses 50 kWh for a cold wash and 609 kWh for a warm wash. A 5 star washing machine retails for around $1000-$1500 and 3.5 star (New Star Rating) refrigerator retails for $700-$1500.

I believe these are the most beneficial to increase the energy efficiency of my house because we most likely lose a majority of our heat through the windows and doors because they are not draught sealed and that in turn may be increasing our heating needs during the winter. Most of our appliances are about 7 years old and they consume too much energy so it would be excellent investment to buy higher energy efficient appliance to reduce running costs and adding a water tank can reduce our water bills and increase the productivity in the garden with more water available to use during the winter and into the spring when there is a high rainfall. However, we could also renew the insulation in the ceiling to comply with current regulations since the insulation batts in the ceiling our only at a R2 standard. I rejected the other retrofitting measures because we currently have most of them installed except for the passive energy systems and the three beneficial measures I considered provide the best return on investment when added to the current measures that are in place.


The earth’s carrying capacity is really sensitive and it is our duty to protect it. We can do it by reducing our carbon footprint starting from our own household and changing our behaviours and habits. It is clearly evident that if we simply change the layout of our building to maximise natural resource and invest in retrofitting measure to increase energy efficiency we can change our energy consumption significantly. It will not only be beneficial for the environment but it will also reduce the running costs in our households and provide us with extra savings for other things. Despite the initial high costs of most retrofitting measures, it is an investment and the pay back is immediate over a short period of time. It reduce household energy consumption and makes residential areas more energy efficient overall.


Appendix A- Energy conservation measures
Energy use by appliances and equipment

Source: Your Home 2013

Appendix B- Heating
Energy use in an average Victorian household

Appendix C- Lighting
Lightning costs

Source: Sustainability Victoria 2014

Appendix D- PV cells
Solar systems

Source: Energy Australia 2012


• Energy Australia, 2012, ‘Solar Power’, Energy Australia, retrieved 12 April 2014,

• Green Building Council Australia, 2005, ‘What is Sustainable Development?’, Green Building Council Australia, retrieved 5 April 2014,

• Living Greener, 2014, ‘Solar hot water systems’, Australian Government, retrieved 12 April 2014,

• Mohamad Monkiz Khasreen, Phillip F.G. Banfill, and Gillian F. Menzies, 2009, ‘Life-Cycle assessment and the Environmental Impact of Buildings: A Review’, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, retrieved 5 April 2014,

• National Insulation Association, ‘Where does all that heat go?’, National Insulation Association, retrieved 12 April 2014,

• Rob Schneider, 2013, ‘How much does double glazing cost?’, Home Improvement Pages, retrieved 13 April 2014,

• Sustainability Victoria, 2014, ‘Energy Efficiency At Home’, Sustainability Victoria, retrieved 12 April 2014,

• Your Home, 2013, ‘Australia’s Guide to Environmentally sustainable Homes’, Australian Government, retrieved 13 April 2014,

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