A question that we are often asked by our clients is: “what extras go into a Homestar home? Is it worth it?” The answer is that many of the considerations for the Homestar rating are good standard design practice which should be incorporated into every home. A few of the other considerations are more specific to a Homestar home and while they have great benefits, they do have associated costs which may put off the average homeowner.
In today’s post we will look through each of Homestar’s “Energy Health and Comfort” credits to see how they apply to this question. In following posts we will look at the other Homestar credits.
EHC-1 Space Heating
All houses need heating, so this is something which should be integrated into any home design – we don’t want to need oil heaters in every room! Homestar simply quantifies the effectiveness of the space heating, ensuring that heat is transferred to all areas where it is needed.
A great product which we used for this credit – as well as for many other credits – is our heat recovery ventilation system. This extra has been a great investment! It brings in fresh, outdoor air to keep your home healthy, fresh, dry and ensures that incoming air is cooled in summer and warmed in winter
EHC-2 Hot Water
Again, hot water is something that all houses need and as it is a huge part of most household’s energy consumption it makes sense to invest in a good and efficient system. To get full points in this Homestar credit you really need to use solar, which is a great way to get hot water for free from the sun. However, as it requires a large initial investment and isn’t suitable for all properties, it isn’t for everyone. There are other options compatible with Homestar such as energy efficient gas and electric systems. For our project we are using instantaneous gas units which we often recommend as they provide hot water quickly and efficiently.
Basically, if you use LED lights then you get a lot of points for this Homestar credit. We recommend LED lighting to anyone building or renovating as it is a great way to save both money and power.
EHC-4 Whiteware and Appliances
This isn’t something we usually specify as designers, but anyone buying appliances should be looking at energy ratings. This has become second nature with the large energy rating labels on most appliances.
EHC-5 Renewable Energy
This credit really is an optional extra that won’t suit everyone. Systems such as our photovoltaic panels require a large initial investment, but it means our family will have no power bills and it is great for the environment. These systems require a bit of extra design, including space for inverters and batteries if you need them. Although producing one’s own power isn’t for everyone, backup from the mains means that you can cater a system to suit your needs and budget.
EHC-6 Thermal Performance
Again, thermal performance should be considered in all design. The NZ building code requires a reasonable amount of thermal performance, but more/better insulation is always better. We recommend using the highest rated insulation you can fit in your walls, floors and ceiling. Increasing your framing to suit additional insulation is a great decision, but the extra costs involved mean that it won’t be for everyone. Windows with a thermal break are also a great way to reduce heat loss.
EHC-7 Moisture Control
Ensuring moisture sources (stove, bathrooms etc.) are ventilated should be common practice. Having our heat recovery ventilation system was also useful for this credit as is keeps the air in the home healthy and dry.
EHC-8 Washing Line
Washing lines are often just put wherever they fit once the house is built. It’s a good idea to consider them a little more to ensure that a tedious chore is made as easy as possible. Having an area to dry clothes in wet weather is a great way to avoid using the tumble dryer and may be as simple as installing a retractable line in the garage.
EHC-9 Sound Insulation
If your home is in an urban area, external sound insulation is important to think about but for this project it was not a concern. Internally, the “noisy room” involved some additional cost but it will be great to have a place for the kids to go and make as much noise as they like without disturbing the rest of the household.EHC-10 Inclusive Design
For this credit, you can refer back to our post on inclusive design. A lot of the relevant considerations – such as wider halls and doors – are good standard practice, while others can be difficult to incorporate – such as having everything on one level or providing accessible bathrooms. If you’re disabled or elderly (or planning to become elderly) it is a great idea to consider inclusive design as you design your home
EHC-11 Natural Lighting
Homestar basically requires double the minimum requirement for natural lighting. This is fairly standard design practice and should be included in every design where possible