Case study: Bek and Simon, Tallygaroopna

When Bek and Simon bought their four-bedroom rural home at Tallygaroopna, near Shepparton, in June they knew that renovating would have to be a priority. Looking for ideas to make their home more comfortable and energy efficient, the couple turned to a Victorian Residential Efficiency Scorecard assessment to help them make a plan.

With six children aged two to 15, Bek and Simon needed to renovate to create more space. And the brick house, built in the 1980s, was also in need of a makeover to make it more comfortable and energy efficient.  

Bek and Simon outside their home

“One of the features that attracted us to the house was that it’s north-facing with eaves, so it makes the most of winter sun while reducing summer sun,” Bek says. “But it’s an older home, so we knew there were improvements to be made.”

Accredited assessor Ratko Mrkogaca checked the house from top to bottom to gather all the information required for the Scorecard. He put all the information into the Scorecard assessment tool to generate the Scorecard Certificate.

The house rated at 5 stars out of 10, a medium score boosted by the large, 5-kilowatt solar system on the roof. Ratko could see right away that changes were needed to lower electricity use: the old off-peak electric hot water system was inefficient, there were gaps around external doors and where the brickwork met plaster in the brick feature walls in the entry and lounge, and openings around most of the downlights in the ceiling meant air was escaping straight to the roof space.

Single-glazed windows everywhere were another sign that the house was unlikely to retain indoor warmth in winter or coolness in summer. And when the assessor turned to inspecting the level of the home’s insulation, Bek and Simon were in for a shock – there was very little in the ceiling and none in the walls. To improve the energy efficiency of the house, insulation would have to be high on the agenda.

“We knew the single-glazed windows would be an energy sinkhole and the electric hot water service is on the upgrade list,” Bek says, looking over their ‘to-do’ list. “We definitely need to seal the home better, but our biggest surprise was the roof insulation. It’s not something we had considered an issue or we would have thought to check.”

The assessor came up with plenty of recommendations on how to improve the home’s building shell. Most of the work is excluding drafts: as well as sealing gaps and repairing cracks, he advised them to get rid of leaky underfloor ducting for a heater that’s no longer being used and to fit covers to the ceiling vents of their evaporative cooler in winter. All downlights would need to be replaced with fully-sealed versions approved to have insulation over them.

Bek and Simon's home

Double glazing would improve the performance of windows but it’s beyond Bek and Simon’s budget at the moment. However, heavy curtains fitted close to the wall and floor with pelmets would also reduce energy loss through the windows. The assessor recommended ceiling insulation of a minimum value of R3.5 and ideal minimum of R2 in the walls.

Bek and Simon were advised to consider upgrading their hot water system to an energy-efficient electric heat pump, making use of the electricity generated by their solar system. Covering the valves of their hot water unit to stop heat loss and fitting a low-flow shower head in the bathroom would mean they wouldn’t need to heat as much water. Updating their original slow combustion heater to a modern version would also make their house more comfortable and cheaper to run.

If Bek and Simon made all the improvements suggested, their home would achieve a top Scorecard rating of 10 stars, and a high building shell rating of 4 out of 5, up from just 2 in the initial assessment. Seeing this leap in the building shell, Bek and Simon see that insulation, draughtproofing and glazing upgrades will make a difference to the family’s bills and comfort levels in the home.

They plan to make changes step-by-step in coming years. “The assessment highlighted where we are best to concentrate our initial efforts to make the most difference,” Bek reflects. “We do want to change things like single-glazed windows in the long run, and we know that we can retrofit double glazing or blinds to help their efficiency.”

“Lots of ideas have come about from the assessment. It pointed out some things we wouldn’t have thought about and where to get the most bang for our buck. Overall it was a real eye-opener.”

Thinking of renovating your home? Contact an assessor and organise a Scorecard assessment

Page last updated: 26/11/18