Energy efficient home – Peter and Ailsa

When it comes to being sustainable, Wahroonga couple, Ailsa and Peter, show that it’s the little things that count. Over many years, choice after choice have led to a low impact lifestyle and an energy efficient house.

How do you keep your house so cool in summer?

Ailsa: We fitted awnings and blackout curtains to the western windows and whirligigs in the roof to keep the roof cavity cool. We also have a “thinking cap” on the roof, which opens up when the air in the roof gets too hot and vents heat out.

Peter: We’ve lived here 27 years and every time we renovated some part of the house, we put more insulation in the walls and ceilings. There are a lot of trees around the house and the shade helps keep temperatures manageable. In winter, a duct system distributes warm air from our heated lounge room to other parts of the house. 

How else have you reduced energy use?

Ailsa: We have solar hot water and solar panels on the roof which keep our electricity bills low. For what we do use, we purchase 100% Green Power. We do not have a clothes dryer – we installed a retractable clothesline undercover in our back courtyard for rainy days. We also do not have a dishwasher - when we have friends for dinner washing up can be quite a nice part of the socialising.

Peter: There are no down lights in our home because they are very inefficient. The compact fluorescent lights are quite efficient but in future when they fail, we will change to LEDs.  We put in three Solar Tubes which capture sunlight on our roof and send it down reflective tubes into the dining room, kitchen and laundry, which were all a bit dark before. Each little thing makes a difference over time.

Do you have advice for others who want to reduce their environmental footprint?

Ailsa: I think it’s about habits. You can swap plastic bags for green bags when you shop, swap your cleaning products to biodegradable garden-friendly ones, and use washable micro-fibre cloths instead of sponges or paper towel. We try to buy Australian-made to reduce travel miles, and check the energy/water efficiency ratings. It’s not particularly hard to do once you decide to make the switch.

Peter: We have invested in some bigger items – rainwater tanks, low maintenance recycled plastic decking, a large compost bin and a hybrid car. Not everyone can afford to buy these items, but if you compare the upfront cost with the long-term savings and factor in the environmental cost, then I think we’re well ahead in terms of dollars and impact. But there’s always more you can do – next on our wish list is a Vegepod, a raised bed to grow vegetables protected from local wildlife.