David and Anne Wicks’ Eco-Friendly House.
When we designed our house to be built 2002, we based our plans on the inspiration we had from seeing Viola and Phil Palmer’s house in Waikanae. We did not have a lot of money so had to choose carefully how to spend it.
Our section is long and narrow and this dictated a long narrow building with all the main living areas facing due north and the lounge on the western end to get the evening sun. The living areas (family room, kitchen and dining areas) are tiled so that in winter when the sun comes in, the floor absorbs the heat and this radiates out at night. In summer, the angle of the sun means there is no sun in those rooms by day and, with plenty of windows and doors to open, the house is always cool.
We investigated insulation and heard that Pink Batts ‘could be the asbestos of the future’. We therefore decided on Novatherm Polyester Insulation (recommended by BRANZ) which is a blanket thermal material. It looks like cotton wool and is easy to cut up and be stapled into wall cavities as well as rolled out in the ceiling/roof area.
We were committed to solar power for water heating and were recommended a system by our plumber. The manufacturers have since gone out of business but we are very pleased with results. We did have a problem after a couple of years – the rubber coating on the piping on the roof perished because of the intense sunlight. The plumber covered it in silver foil and while it does not look particularly attractive, no one sees it on the roof, and the foil has increased the efficiency of the system.
We need extra heating on cold nights in winter and on sunless days, and initially used electric heaters. We have now replaced these with a heat pump and have been delighted at the reduced power costs. Another change could be to have double glazing in the south-facing guest bedrooms as they are the coldest part of the house.
We pay well under $1000 a year for our power and that includes the cost of cooking as well as indulging in electric blankets in winter.
Another feature we chose to install was old wine barrels to collect the rain water off the iron roof. The plumber installed the downpipes so that the water flows straight into the barrels and there is an overflow system for excess water to flow back into the drains. We use watering cans to water the garden and this has proved very useful in some of the very dry spells we get in summer. If we just use a couple of cans a day, a night of heavy dew will refill the barrels.