New homeowners are looking at ways to reduce their carbon footprint when building new homes. They are looking at installing solar PV systems with battery backup, passive design to help keep the home cool in summer and warm in winter, whilst managing window treatments to keep energy use to a minimum in winter months. As well as adopting these strategies, new homeowners are looking to be more self-sufficient and limit their dependence on electricity, gas and water services. Some are engineering their designs to become completely off grid. The challenge for designers is that expectations of the new homeowners is that they will have the same comfort levels as if the normal services were still in place.
From looking at heating in the winter, and the provision of hot water, a hydronic heating system with an air to water heat pump is one way to capture solar energy and convert it the heat, storing it in an insulated slab and insulated tank for later use. When integrating with passive energy design such as insulated slabs, north facing windows and energy efficient window treatments, the heating loads of new homes in winter can be decreased. This means that with little input of energy the home in winter can stay warm and comfortable. Hydronic heating systems in the base slab with a reverse cycle heat pump connected to electricity boosted by solar collection is an ideal way to warm a home with a very small dependence on traditional energy sources such as grid electricity or town gas.
Comfort Heat Australia can design and supply hydronic heating systems around Australia which can be integrated into a total off grid system. It is best to get the design right at the beginning of the building process, rather than facing issues further down the line. The earlier Comfort Heat receives the plans the better the integration with the other facets of the sustainable design.
The hydronic heating system becomes just another input of the energy design of low energy homes, together with insulation, energy saving windows, orientation and shading. Solar collection of electricity can be converted into heat which can be stored in a thermal mass for use outside solar collection times. In winter this collection will be lower than in summer and the non-collection times will be longer. This shortfall in solar during winter may need to be backed up in off grid homes with an alternative power source.