There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about the impact of unhealthy homes. Homes that are damp, cold, and mouldy cause a whole range of health problems for the people who live in them.
Not only are unhealthy homes a danger, they end up costing more. Inefficiencies and poor quality building end up costing homeowners through high power bills as well as doctor’s bills.
Initiatives like Homestar are a positive step towards improving the health of homes, and therefore people. Think about how much time you spend inside your home… don’t you want it to be a healthy place for your family?
Homestar is an environmental and energy efficiency rating system for new and existing homes in New Zealand. It was developed by the New Zealand Green Building Council in partnership with various experts in sustainability and building science. The organisation gives homes a star rating, much like the Energy Star rating on appliances. A home is assessed for how healthy and energy efficient it is based on energy, health and comfort, water, waste, home management and more.
A standard home that complies with the current Building Code will probably achieve a 3 or 4 Homestar rating. A slightly higher specified home that has considered positioning and high insulation may achieve a 6.
In May 2015, a home in Papamoa, Tauranga, achieved the highest Homestar rating available with a perfect 10 Homestar Design rating – construction is due to finish soon. This is the first house to achieve the highest rating and is an indication of how building technology is improving in New Zealand. Some of the key features that helped the house achieve the 10 Homestar Design rating were:
- Good orientation for sun
- High levels of insulation
- Photovoltaic panels for solar energy
- State-of-the-art system to control when appliances switch on
- Smart piping system to captures passive heat to warm the home
- Leak detection unit
If these clever ideas get you thinking about your own home, then jump on the Homestar website for some great ideas on building an efficient home.
If you would like to have a Homestar rating on your home, you’ll need to make application before you start the build process. Assessments are carried out by trained Homestar assessors who consult during the design process (a Design rating), as well as carrying out a post construction certification of the building (a Built rating.)
If you already have built your home and are renovating or extending, you can go straight for a Built rating. It’s a good idea to jump on the website and do a self-assessment to get a provisional idea of how your house might rate – Homestar offers a checklist of practical, unbiased advice on how to improve your home’s performance.
Research from Homestar states that 87% of New Zealand homebuyers place a value on good orientation for sun, and 82% value high energy efficiency. A Homestar-rated house provides independent assurance to buyers about your home’s warmth and efficiency, so may end up achieving a higher sale price.
An efficient home will add value through its ability to keep the cost of power bills down.
Building a Homestar home doesn’t have to cost more than a normal build. Sometimes small adjustments and clever design can make huge differences.
Or, talk to the experts. There are a number of project home builders who specialise in creating Homestar rated homes, with many achieving a rating of 6 or higher.
If you’re looking at buying a house that has a Homestar rating, you’ll know the house has been cleverly designed and well built from the start. There is reassurance in knowing that the house will perform well and continue to be low cost to maintain.
Even if you’re not going to get a Homestar rating on your home, it’s worth using the website as a great resource for ideas on making your home more efficient.
- Think about selecting materials such as LED lighting and high quality insulation.
- Think about what you do with waste water.
- Think about where you place your home. If your home is situated to capture sunlight for a large portion of the day (ideally loads in winter), then your home becomes far more efficient to heat.
- Homes without high quality floor coverings, or that have gaps in walls and windowsills, will not retain heat efficiently. This adds up to high heating bills.
If you have already built a home, you can do a self-assessment on the Homestar website to see what rating your home achieves.
The Homestar website goes through a series of questions about the way your home was built across the topics of energy, health and comfort, water, waste, and home management.
The questionnaire takes about 20 minutes and will give you an idea of how your home compares to an average home as well as a good explanation of where improvements can be made. It’s a great resource if you’re planning to renovate your home. You may find some simple ideas for making your home warmer, drier and healthier.
If you’re building a new home, it’s worth thinking about creating a healthy environment for you and your family. You can download a free guide from the Homestar website which provides all the information you need about designing an energy efficient home. Homestar is a great place to start for any new build or renovation project.