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What does energy efficient mean to you, your house and your energy bills

Who thinks their energy bills are too cheap? No one. Right, in fact, some people’s household energy bills have increased a lot since 2016, may be well above CPI.

You might have tried to save energy in your household. I suggest switching your hot water service off and just having cold showers. Not only will you save energy and money but you’ll also feel invigorated! If you feel cold afterward, there’s no need to turn the heater on, just put on eight jumpers and you’ll be fine. This is actually what my boyfriend does in our household now this winter to save our energy bills.

All jokes aside, it’s no fun having to sacrifice creature comforts for energy savings. The best houses are passive houses. They are designed so that they don’t need air conditioning or heating to keep them at a good temperature. They take advantage of thermal mass, sunshine and strategically located windows to control the temperature. People love these houses – they sell at a premium.

It’s not just passive houses that are popular in Australia. Research indicates people love living in a place with sustainable features, like solar panels, electric vehicle charge points, and rainwater tanks.

If you own your own home, you’re in a great situation. You can turn your house into one of those eco-villas with solar panels covering the whole roof, water tanks everywhere and insulation so effective that it could be -20 degrees outside and you’d still be as warm as a wombat.

But if you’re renting, things aren’t so easy. Renters normally don’t have control of their house – they can’t just install solar panels on their roof without consulting their owners or building managers.

What’s more, it’s pretty hard to tell from the outside how energy efficient a house will be when you’re looking to move.

You might be thinking “Hang on – don’t we have star ratings for houses like those labels on fridges so that you can see the energy consumption?” You’re absolutely right, in Australia, we do have NatHERS ratings for residential properties. But…there are some issues with this system.

Just to check – who here knows what NatHERS is?

NatHERS stands for the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme.

It is a system to evaluate how energy efficient a house is.

Given the best hotels in the world are 6-star hotels, how energy efficient do you think a 6-star house would be? Who thinks would be really efficient?

Yeah, most people would think a 6-star house would be really energy efficient. Afterall, a 6-star hotel is really awesome!!!

The problem is NatHERS is out of 10 stars, which confuses people. Furthermore, NatHERS has no mandatory reporting requirement, which is less effective. What do you think would happen if you go house hunting, and you see a big one-star rating on the for sale sign, would you go in? You probably wouldn’t. But right now, property agents wouldn’t publish this information, as it’s not in their best interest.

The other issue with NatHERS is that houses are not audited. There have been reports that many of the 6-star houses are not actually 6 stars. Builders know they can get away with not building in an energy efficient manner as no one is going to check up on them.

I am passionate about improving energy efficiency and stopping dangerous climate change and see this policy gap in residential energy efficiency as a big problem. That’s why I decided to do something about it. I’ve created a website called GreenRenter.com.au that makes it easy for people to find a space to live in that is good for them and good for the planet.

GreenRenter only lists properties with an audited 6-star NatHERS rating or better. I also showcase sustainable features such as solar panels, batteries, EV charging points and of course, water conservation features like water tanks and greywater systems.

On my website, you can filter based on whether the house has solar panels, rainwater tanks, and a good walkability score.

I have been working on this idea with Energylab, an organisation which supports clean energy startups and innovative ideas. I am building my idea with them in the Women in Cleantech program at the moment in my spare time. It’s been really helpful – they’ve given me lots of encouragement and feedback.

I’ve also been talking to the Inner west council, City of Sydney and I’m trying to find more contacts particularly with real estate agents and facility managers.

I am also keen to have more chats and interviews with people in general, to understand what their approach is to saving energy and living sustainably.

If you have any ideas for who I can talk to, I’d love an introduction.

 

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