Adapting the older Australian home

A report from presentation at Mitcham Institute, Mitcham Cultural Village, Sunday 2 June 2013

A group of 38 people attended Andrew Marsh’s illustrated presentation about ways to retrofit and adapt older houses. A professional engineer, Andrew who has conducted numerous energy audits of old houses and made significant alterations to his own home.

Focusing on energy efficiency, Andrew suggested giving careful attention to both eastern and western walls; increasing insulation, installing tinted glass or double glazing or placing screens in front of walls to increase shading and encourage airflow. Ceiling fans can improve both cooling and heating in individual rooms.

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On the topic of lighting Andrew recommending against popular halogen down lights which he says are inefficient in both energy use and lighting. Daylight in older houses can be increased by adding a number of skylights, although these can be a source of extra heating in summer unless additional protective measures are taken.

Andrew gave a helpful list of value-for-money alterations. At the top of the list was checking for gaps under doors which are responsible for draughts and air leakage. He made the point that a draughty house is almost impossible to heat successfully, but it is a problem which can be cheap to fix.

His suggestions about reducing power use included checking that electrical appliances are unplugged when not in use. When it is time to replace a fridge or freezer make sure that it is no bigger than necessary. Further good suggestions about reducing energy and increasing efficiency in Andrew’s book Sustainability and the old Australian House.

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