Retrofitting insulation to a house is not such a hard task if you are at all handy and very beneficial if you make the effort to do it.
Many people can retrofit their homes with different types of insulation to save themselves money and are thereby minimise the use of fossil fuels.
There are a number of simple, fairly cheap and practical methods to protect a house from the seasons and so stop you from having to resort to flicking a switch or turning a knob.
I am keen to know that when I have to spend some power I am not trying to heat or cool my entire neighborhood.
So I motivate myself to gain the maximum benefit out of my heating or cooling equipment during the hot and cold seasons by making it my mission to find any gaps that may have developed in my weatherboard clad house during the previous season.
Apart from the obvious places where draughts enter homes, such as windows and doors, look for warped wall joints within and behind cupboards, check in the corners of a room where wall meets wall and for any loose skirting and floor boards that may conceal gaps and leakage points.
An inexpensive way to insulate existing rooms is to fit heavy drapes and pelmets to stop the heat transfer through windows and to block the gaps at the tops of windows where the heat leaks out.
Some people renovate their homes and as they do they retrofit the house with insulation combined with double glazed windows.
While I am discussing double-glazing I should mention that some people might think that buying a double glazed window is way too expensive. The cost of these windows is not that expensive if you buy a readymade product. The more expensive double glazed windows are those that have been custom made to fit a design.
To get an idea of what is the most effective insulation there are standards that have been developed to indicate how efficient a particular type of insulation is. The higher a product’s the R-value the more effective the insulation is.
R-value measures the resistance of a material to heat transfer so the higher a product is rated the better at insulating a house it will be if installed correctly.
R-value is stated in a numerical form with the number one indicating low insulation properties with higher figures obviously indicating more effective insulation properties.
Insulation products come in 4 main forms namely as blocks, or batts, as a loose material, in rigid sheets (often polystyrene based) and as a wrap (usually aluminium foil).
To efficiently insulate a house ideally you should put insulation in the roof, walls and under the floor and couple it externally with strategically planted vegetation.
I have a friend who has made the effort to insulate under the floor of his weatherboard house that sits on raised stumps on a very windy hill. He has cut to size and placed insulation batts in between the floor joists under the house.
He then stapled to the floor joists an aluminium based foil insulation sheet and virtually sealed the entire under house area with it. The effect has been beneficial as it cuts the wintry draughts and has also deadened the sound of the wilder winds when the cold weather cranks up.
My friend is single and I am not so sure his other method of stopping heat transfer through a window would suit everyone. He has cut some fibre wool insulation batts to size and then stuffed them up against his windows. Not the most attractive look but it is very effective.
Always check after any work is carried out in a roof or wall where insulation batts have been laid to make sure existing insulation is replaced or repaired, as any gaps will reduce its efficiency.
A simple way to help cool your house in summer from outside is to build a type of trellis and attach it near a wall that gets the western (setting) sun.
Plant a barrier of heat seeking vegetables under it such as tomatoes or pumpkins in a cluster in a raised bed of rich soil and keep watering (install a trickle irrigation system with a automatic tap timer) and watch them grow.
The pumpkins in particular will climb so by mid to late summer you should have big leafy foliage lapping up the suns rays, shading your hot wall and later giving you the ingredients for some pumpkin recipes.
The other traditional method of blocking sunshine from directly entering a home is build a pergola adjacent to a picture window and plant a grapevine so it grows on it.
The plant offers shade in summer and then drops its leave and allows more sunshine during the colder months. Be frugal and plant a grapevine that gives fruit but remember that birds like to eat grapes too so get in early and net them as they ripen.
There is also the simple method of planting deciduous trees with a lengthy lifespan in a strategic spot away from the house that will offer a barrier to the harshest summer sun and winds.
Some more novel ways to insulate and generally reduce your reliance on fossil fuels can be seen visiting the Alternative Technology Association website at http://www.ata.org.au