Sustainable Household on ABC Stateline

Stateline reporter Melissa Polimeni chats with a Canberra resident who produces up to 80% of his electricity. Energy audits and cost effective energy upgrades are discussed including Magnetite's retrofit double glazing system.

CHRIS KIMBALL, PRESENTER: It's now possible to have your house energy audited, with some quite surprising results. Once audited, there are some simple and not always expensive measures to be taken.

One local family did just that with their old home, and they're now producing for themselves over 80 per cent of their electricity. Melissa Polimeni joined John Wood at his Ainslie house.

MELISSA POLIMENI, REPORTER: John, here we are outside your home. What prompted you to make all these changes?

JOHN WOOD, SUSTAINABLE HOUSEHOLDER: Well I guess the first instance it was here we are living in a 1927 weatherboard Ainslie house, the most inefficient houses probably ever built in Canberra. And so we decided to get an energy audit done and that confirmed our worst fears, that it was an absolute disaster in terms of energy consumption, and gave us the indication of things that we had to start doing.

MELISSA POLIMENI: So what was the very first change that you made?

JOHN WOOD: OK. Well, the very first things were getting the insulation fixed up, getting extra insulation put into the roof space and getting under-floor insulation done. That was particularly important 'cause it was very drafty and there was no insulation at all under the house. And then getting very simple things like door and window seals done. So they were inexpensive things in the first instance.

MELISSA POLIMENI: John, what are some of the main features or some of the main changes that you've made inside your home?

JOHN WOOD: OK, well the first thing we had to give attention to was fixing up the windows and doors because there was a lot of heat loss through those. And so one of the things we did with these windows was to get this system, which is a magnetic Perspex system, which is a lot cheaper than double glazing, for example.

MELISSA POLIMENI: Can you give us a rough idea of how much cheaper?

JOHN WOOD: Yeah, this was about - the unit here was about $520, as compared with probably about $1,500 to replace it with full double glazing. So that was a big saving and very effective. And then the - these cellular blinds, vertical blinds, were another mechanism to kind of cut down heat loss through these big areas of glass here. And then finally, the door seals, jam seals and window seals, they were another part of that component of trying to stop heat loss from the house itself.

Well this is the western side of the house, of course and this is the part that gets hottest in mid-summer. So, because we had no overhanging trees to provide natural protection, we decided to put in these adjustable awnings all the way along, and they have had an incredible effect on reducing the heat load for the building. Something like two hours less heat build up - peak heat build up during mid-summer. And of course that then has consequential savings in terms of energy, cooling and so forth. So it's been a very, very effective way of managing that heat load.

So we couldn't get at the pipes underneath the bathroom and the laundry for grey water recycling purposes, so we just decided to use the very simple and quite inexpensive system for grey water from the laundry. So, it's just attached to the washing machine pipe there, comes into here, there's a submersible pump in this bin and then water comes out through this control here and the purple pipe. So you can either just gravity feed it, turn on the gravity feed it for the laundry, or if you want a faster delivery, you can turn on the pump, which is an electric one and also put a sprinkler on it to get a broader spread if you want to.

The photovoltaic system here and the water tanks are installed later on in the process. The photovoltaics of course is one things which you put in last because you want to get all the insulation and energy leakage, etc. fixed up in the house first. And the result of all of that has been that it's given us something like a 50 per cent reduction overall for everything we've done in the house, 50 per cent reduction in our electricity consumption.

MELISSA POLIMENI: So, John, at the end of day, what does it mean to have a sustainable house?

JOHN WOOD: Well, I think the old adage is pretty true, kind of making the - leaving the least mark on the planet as you can. That's a big statement, but I think everybody can make a contribution towards that. So for us it's kind of reducing energy consumption to the maximum, try and produce as much energy as you can, where the circumstances apply, and to grow as much of your food as you can in a sustainable way. So, investments in all those things, I think, end up having that kind of positive result.