Building and renovating your home is the best time to install insulation. Insulating your home will save you energy and money – keeping you cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
As hot air rises in your home in winter, most of the heat escapes through the ceiling if it isn't insulated. In summer, insulation creates a barrier that helps stop heat from your roof space entering your home. After a warm day, open windows and doors to ventilate your home as insulation can slow the escape of warm air trapped in your home.
Insulation will reduce your heating and cooling costs as it helps to retain the cool or warm air in your home. Ceiling insulation typically offers the greatest benefit for the least cost, particularly when retro-fitting as it is a relatively simple and cheap process. In Queensland the typical savings have been estimated at $105 per year*.
If you have ducted air conditioning, well insulated ducting helps reduce the energy your air conditioner uses. With older, poorly insulated and sealed ductwork up to half the heating or cooling energy can be lost before it even gets to the room. Typical savings from insulating the air conditioning ductwork are estimated at $186 per year* in Queensland conditions.
It's important to ensure your home is insulated to recommended levels for Queensland. The Building Code of Australia sets out minimum requirements for the R-values of materials used in construction of buildings. Recommended levels for Cairns, Mount Isa and Townsville are for R-4.1 value for the roof and ceiling and R-2.8 for the walls.
In Queensland, there are now energy efficient building standards that all homes must meet to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. New houses and townhouses, and major renovations to existing buildings, must achieve a minimum 6-Star energy equivalence rating. New unit buildings and major renovations to units must achieve a 5-Star energy equivalence rating. The more stars, the more you'll save on ongoing home energy costs.
This energy equivalence rating for new dwellings is determined by the design of the building envelope or 'shell' (i.e. roof, walls, windows and floors) and energy saving features like insulation.
Tips to make the most of your home insulation
- Use light colours on roofs and walls to help reflect direct sunlight and heat.
- When insulating your home aim for 4.1 R value for the roof and ceiling and 2.8 for the walls.
- Install high performance windows or tint windows at home to reflect heat – heat reflective window tinting can reflect around 80% of the sun's heat passing through your windows.
- Use trees to shade your walls. Deciduous trees are best as they shade your walls in summer and reduce the amount of heat entering your home, whilst in winter they allow the sun's warmth to heat your home.
Installing insulation at home
If you are considering installing insulation, you will need to consider factors such as the type of insulation and the construction of your home.
It is important that all electrical wiring is appropriately sized or it may overheat when covered by insulation, causing a fire hazard.
If installing insulation yourself, it is recommended that you seek advice from a licensed electrician prior to installation. You should also organise all wiring to be inspected by a licensed electrician after installation to ensure it can be safely covered by insulation.
Make sure insulation is installed to form a consistent and continuous barrier. Any gaps allow heat in or out and reduce the efficiency of the barrier. Insulation must not interfere with the operation of other installations, appliances or domestic services (e.g. downlights).
You can also insulate hot water piping from your hot water system to help prevent heat loss. Locate your hot water system close to the room where the most hot water is used - generally your main bathroom or kitchen. This stops heat loss from the pipes delivering the hot water to your shower or sink.
Where can I find more information?
Adding insulation to your home will help increase your home's energy star rating. For more information, including how to achieve rating compliance for your home, visit the Queensland Government website.
For more information, including tips on how to install insulation and health and safety considerations, visit the Your Home website.
Talk to a professional
To find a professional or learn more about insulating your home, contact an industry association – Insulation Contractors Australia and New Zealand or the Insulation Contractors Association of Australia.
Contact a licensed electrician for expert advice on installing downlight covers and other safety precautions.
* Estimated savings obtained from "The Value of Insulation Based Residential Energy Savings Measures in Australia".