Energy supply and use is becoming a more considered decision-making process than it once was. Every home uses electricity, but how that electricity is delivered is changing – it’s no longer just wires running into your house, with options such as solar voltaic cells, wind generation, and MicroCHP systems, which use gas to generate electricity and the surplus heat to warm the house and/or hot water.
You can feed excess generated electricity back into the national grid and watch your meter run backswards(!), Tesla has introduced a home battery so you can recharge you new electric car and a NZ inventor has created a device that manages your energy use so that things like hot water cylinders can use the electricity at night when it’s not needed for other uses, maximising your energy efficiencies.
Gas is used in many homes around the country for heating, cooking and hot water, although its residue is CO2 and water so ensure your system is flued, and is and excellent method for hot water and house heating, and for cooking.
You’d be surprised at just how much wire goes through a modern house . . . but given the number of electrical ﬁttings we all use these days, you need it! If you’re building from scratch, this is where good planning can really pay dividends – think not only about what you want now but what you may need in the future.
Solar Water Heating
Water heating accounts for about 40% of your electricity bill and this can be considerably reduced with a solar water heater.
The key parts of a solar water heating system are the collectors which sit on the roof and the storage cylinder. Solar water heaters can be combined with other heating methods such as wet-backs, and gas.
Solar water heaters come in two main forms, thermo-syphon or pumped. Thermosyphon systems use the temperature of the water in the collector to induce circulation to the storage cylinder which must be above the collector. Pumped systems use a small, automatic pump and the cylinder can be anywhere in the house. Both types incorporate methods to protect the system in frosty weather.
In very cold areas further protection can be provided by two stage systems in which the collector and exposed pipes are loaded with anti-freeze solution and the heat is transferred into the cylinder via a heat exchanger.
Solar collectors work best pointing North at an angle equal to the latitude but considerable variation is permissible with only a slight loss of performance.
In some situations the collectors can be built into the roof to provide a less conspicuous installation.
The installed cost of solar water heating systems depends on size and type and is typically between $3500 and $6000 giving a return on investment of 8-12% .which will increase as power prices rise.
When considering solar water heating you should get advice from suppliers who are members of the Solar Industries Association.
Lighting, entertainment, internet access, home automation and security are all elements of the electrical ﬁtout that may need specialist attention, so consult widely during your planning. For lights, light switches and power points, walk through the plans with your designer and project manager to ensure that they’re in positions that are convenient and functional.
Here are a few points to consider:
- Check you have sufﬁcient power points through the house. Check, too, that power points, light switches and intercom boards are installed in line with each other and with other elements on the wall, rather than higgledy-piggledy.
- Consider hard-wiring your home entertainment system into the walls and floors; you can put music throughout the home from one central source, and there’s no more tripping over endless cables!
- Photovoltaic power generation is now becoming an affordable option with companies offering no deposit and time payments, although the payback on the unit can be many years. There are new technologies being introduced all the time, too, with new electric cars and the new Tesla Home Battery – this is an area that needs lots of research and careful consideration.
- Future-proof for new light ﬁttings, appliances or heating units, and install appropriate wiring (think outdoor heating, stereo speaker wire, outdoor lights, etc.).
- To prevent interference and avoid hazards, your electrician will need to ensure that all your different cable runs are protected from one another.
Consider using specialist installers for Home Theatre/AV set ups and computer cabling.
There are very good, and surprisingly affordable, Smart Home options and this is the perfect time to install – have a look at the options on our Smart Home page here.
There are a number of reasons to consider gas as an energy source in your home. It’s a very practical option for heating and hot water systems. Gas is surprisingly low on emissions; burning more cleanly than coal or oil. And New Zealand has plenty of locally extracted gas to continue the supply to the domestic market.
If you don’t have access to natural gas piped to your home, there is always the option of using LPG in the form of gas bottles, which can be housed conveniently outside the home and piped to speciﬁc gas appliances and costs no more than piped gas.
Given that gas appliances must be installed by a qualiﬁed gas ﬁtter, it makes sense to employ a plumber or gas ﬁtter at the design stage; they can offer advice on options which could save you thousands of dollars.
Although your professional fitter will cover all the regulatory and safety issues, there are a number of points for you to consider, for instance:
- Will you add gas heating or cooking to your outdoor areas, and how are you going to supply this gas?
- Is the gas ﬂued correctly to avoid moisture build-up and duct any potentially harmful gases from your home?
When building your new home it is imperative to ensure you cover all possible bases in terms of communications outlets.
The obvious two items to tick off are internet and phone lines, but it isn’t always that simple. For example, do you want a phone in your bedroom and kitchen? Perhaps even one in your bathroom in case of emergency? And with the internet there are a couple of options now – will you have wireless or cabled internet? If you are setting up a home office, the most practical option is cabled, so will you have prewired with ethernet cables to allow for this?
With the many hidden options, it pays to do your research and make sure you are prepared for every eventuality, especially at this stage in the build, as rewiring later on will be expensive and damaging to your home.