Solar, energy, efficiency and all things technical

There are so many things to think about with a new build and it’s very easy to get distracted by all the things that look pretty, but you really need to spend as much, or more, time on the practicality of how the house will run as well. After all, you can change paint colours and pendant lights down the track, but you want to make the right decisions about the big things that you will be living with for a long time. You also want your home to run efficiently and be as environmentally friendly as possible, which is a lot easier these days with the amount of information out there.

There are many things to consider when designing your home and the first obstacle most people face is the orientation of their block, which can make it difficult to meet the requirements to pass the Energy requirements. All new homes and extensions built in South Australia must meet the minimum energy efficiency requirements prescribed in the Building Code of Australia. The extent of energy efficiency measures required depend on the climate zone in which a house is located and here in SA we have 3 climate zones.

I didn’t know any of this! Luckily our builders Scott Salisbury Homes were completely across all the requirements and considerations and made sure we complied. But I’m presuming most people aren’t overly aware about these mandatory requirements, so I asked the fabulous Katrina Oliver, Design Manager at SSH, just what went into making sure we passed. And the list was long!

Some of the requirements and things to consider when building or extending your home, that will comply with thermal performance and occupancy, include:

–  Incorporating northern glazing to allow the winter sun to penetrate – as a general guide the total window area to wall area for each direction is:
North facing 60%
South facing 30%
East facing 15%
West facing 0-7%

– Measures to reduce heating and cooling loads, which can be in the form of shading to the western elevations of the home to prevent the hot summer sun from excessively heating the home.  Alternatively double glazing can act in preventing heat loss during the winter months, and heat gain during the summer months.  Curtains and blinds together with pelmets will help to keep heat inside the home as they prevent warm air from coming into contact with the cold glass.

– Thermal insulation in roofs, walls and floors. Insulation to the roof, and external walls help keep the warmth inside your home in winder, prevent heat from entering your home in summer, which assists in reducing the need for heating and cooling appliances which in turn assists in reducing your heating and cooling relating costs and greenhouse gas emissions of the home.  The concrete slab on ground also assists in creating a thermal mass in keeping the home warm in winter.

– Appropriate building sealing and draught proofing.

– There are a number of ways to ensure your home is energy efficient, and when your building or renovating your home (particularly in SA) an energy report must be obtained and submitted to your local authority to obtain your building approvals. The energy rating certificate, summary report, assessment of other energy provisions and any relevant documentation must also be submitted to the council or private certifier. You can do this via a software program or it can be prepared by a person with appropriate qualifications and expertise in energy efficient building design.

Are your eyes glazing over yet?!

Mine certainly are, which is why I am so glad Katrina handled all of that for us and just made it happen. But it is really important to know that these considerations need to be met, because if you’re like me you would be blissfully unaware. In fact, I didn’t even realise that when we were designing the house so many things were taken into consideration in order to met these requirements, including the following:

– Our block is west facing and the main bedroom faces west, so we have a bay window and need to pay attention to the curtains and blinds we install, so that  we can block out the heat on the hot summer days.

– The kitchen window is north facing, which will flood our kitchen and living areas with  natural light and provide warmth during the winter months.

– The rear of the home faces east so we will be able to enjoy the morning sunshine but on those hot summer days, during the late afternoons and early evenings we will be able to entertain in our back yard and be comfortably shaded by our home.

– Around on the southern side of our home are the minor bedrooms and wet areas which are not as important as the main living areas of the home in getting light.

Lots of people have asked us about the energy efficiency of the weatherboard and while it doesn’t perform as well as a standard brick veneer, which has more thermal mass,  it will be quicker for us to cool the home during the hot summer months.  Weatherboard homes are designed more for the Queensland climate, where they perform more effectively to cool the homes. So with Adelaide being a lot colder in winter on those really cold nights I may have to run the heating a little longer, but to assist in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions we have worked closely with Energy Australia to work out how we can lower our electricity costs.

Which brings me to solar.

Being ambassadors for Energy Australia of course we went to them for our heating, cooling and solar needs. The solar panels we installed are the LG Neon 2 Black solar panels with 4th generation Enphase Microinverters – which are the most advanced in their field. We have also been very lucky because the side of our house faces North, so you can’t even see the solar panels from the front or back of the house. I actually tried to take some photos to include in this post and you couldn’t see the panels in any of them!


The panels are on the left side of the roof, totally hidden.

But even if you could see them these particular panels actually look good, with their black, discreet design, so they can easily integrate onto any roof. They are also award winning and LG tests its products with double the intensity specified in the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) standard. Finally they have an extended product warranty of 12 years.

Along with the solar panels we’re getting the latest Enphase Microinverters, which have a long list of things in their favour.

–    They’re safe and reliable – they are designed to deliver more power, but also with less need for maintenance and repairs. They are made to have minimal impact on your home with wiring and equipment installed out of sight and with a low voltage design that boosts safety.

–  High quality – Enphase uses a state-of-the-art testing facility to make sure their microinverters stand the test of time. They come with a 25 year warranty.

–  Expandable – easy to add and connect more panels in the future with the flexibility of microinverters.

– High system performance, even when panels are dirty or in partial shade – unlike other types of inverters, each microinverter connects to a single solar panel, so the rest of the system can keep running at its best, even if there is a shaded or dirty panel in the mix.

– Wi-Fi supported connectivity – monitor your energy generation and system health in real-time with MyEnlighten on your desktop or mobile. You can see how much money you’re saving day-to-day.

Again, these practical matters are not as exciting as furnishing your home and designing your new kitchen, however they are really important decisions. And if you’re like me and all this technical talk feels like another language then call Energy Australia and they will go through it all in a simple and easy way. They’ll talk you through how solar power works, recommend the right sized system for your home, arrange full installation and will be there to answer questions once your system is installed.

If you would like more info on solar check out the following info:

LG brochure:

Ok, that’s as technical as I’m going to get. But in the interest of making this an informative blog about building it can’t always be about the pretty things!

Having said that, there will be plenty more photos of pretty things coming up next. ;)

Amity x


  1. says

    There a battery involved if so what is its life span will I need an electrician to do some workwhenwould I notice its benefits when all types of energy are going up in price especially electricity.

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