Building a home? Here’s how to make it energy-friendly

Published On: June 7th, 2024|9 min read|

In a world focused on financially-savvy, environmentally-friendly living, it’s no surprise that residential building strategies have evolved with our futures in mind. Those building a home are looking for new ways to innovate both financially and in terms of their environmental footprint. But these days, building a savvy new property isn’t just about putting solar panels on the roof.

In fact, there are several unexpected components of a home that can drive up your yearly costs just by purely existing. For example, it’s recently hit the news that something as seemingly minute as the colour of your roof can cost you almost $700 more per year in energy bills. Why? Because you’re using a significant amount of electricity to maintain an optimal indoor temperature, which all adds up on that quarterly electricity bill. With that in mind, let’s break it down and have a good look into the nuances of building a new home that’s energy-friendly, and kind to your wallet.

Choose your roof wisely

As we mentioned before, the colour of your roof matters. While having a black roof might seem sleek and aesthetically pleasing, the reality is that dark colours tend to absorb more radiant heat from the sun. This excess absorbed heat can make your home’s ambient temperature several degrees warmer, meaning cooling your home will require more energy.

On a larger scale, a bunch of dark-roof houses can draw in so much sunshine that the overall ambient temperature of the neighbourhood can change. Experts speaking to the ABC broke it down by saying that a 40-degree Celsius day can turn into a 45-degree Celsius swelter due to a mass of dark roofing in a single area. Inside a dark-roof home, you can only expect things to get warmer. Let’s take a well-known warm environment like Darwin, for example, where the cost of cooling one single large room is $357 per year. Add a dark roof to the mix, and that air con would need to work even harder to offset the extra heat, potentially adding hundreds to that total – just for the one room. So, what can new home-builders do to ensure they’re not running their finances dry just to beat the heat?

Opting for a ‘cool roof’ (i.e. a lightly coloured roof with reflective properties) is something that is considered both contemporary in its aesthetic and simultaneously sensible for your wallet. Experts go as far as stating that a cool roof could absorb only 12% of the heat from the sun, while a dark roof could absorb up to 83%. With all that extra heat being reflected, your home won’t be drawing in as much warmth, keeping your air con running costs minimal in comparison. So, as you begin planning your new build in a hot climate, remember to request a ‘cool roof’ as a priority.

An optimal temperature is in the details

Of course, not all Aussie climates are sweltering hot, and that’s where Passive Design would come in, to ensure your home is built to keep the temperature comfortable – humidity, heat, sleet, or snow. Passive Design covers all the bases from glazing, shading, insulation, thermal mass, passive heating or cooling, and everything in between.

When building a new home, there are certain codes and regulations to abide by, and for Queensland residents, for example, a 7-star energy rating out of 10 will be required from May, 2024. With these regulations in mind, your builder will often have many of these passive design choices covered. When thinking about passive design, it’s not just about building an energy-friendly home, it’s also about considering what will cost you the least when it comes to home heating or cooling, once you’ve moved in and settled. So, let’s dive into some popular passive design options and their purpose.

Window orientation: 

The orientation of your windows (i.e. which direction they face) can play a huge part in your home’s internal temperature. Generally speaking, Australia’s sun path is angled north-wise, and you can plan your home’s window orientation depending on the climate in which you’re building.

For example, in a cooler environment like Tasmania or Victoria, a north-facing window will offer more radiant heat in the home to keep you naturally warm during cold snaps. In a warmer environment like North Queensland, south-facing windows will receive little sunlight, ensuring that the heat from the sun isn’t being unnecessarily added to your home on a hot day. In either circumstance, optimising your window orientation can help you significantly save on your power bills, as you’re not constantly running a heater or air conditioner to maintain a suitable interior temperature.

Sun tinting:

Window tinting can be beneficial if you are particularly interested in keeping the sun’s rays at bay. A window tint can certainly be a higher-cost option than curtains or blinds. But over time, the tint won’t wear out as quickly as these sun-blockers and has been heralded as a preferred choice for those keen to keep their home’s interior cool.

Pairing window tinting with window orientation can really make the difference between your warm-climate home living room feeling like a greenhouse, or just feeling comfy despite the hot Aussie sun. Moreover, sun tinting could also spare you some significant cash in cooling costs.

Passive temperature management:

Have you ever walked on your kitchen tiles on a hot day and felt that they’re still nice and cool? This is because they (along with the help of the concrete slab under your home) have a high thermal mass. Materials like concrete, bricks and tiles are great at absorbing and storing heat and releasing that heat through airflow and convection when the house naturally cools in the evening. Considering thermal mass when you’re building can make the difference to both your in-home comfort and the amount your air con adds to your power bill.

On the flip side, if you’re living in a cooler Aussie climate and are keen to keep things nice and warm inside, the Australian Government’s Your Home initiative recommends high levels of insulation, paired with airtightness. Additionally, timber building materials have a low thermal mass, and will not absorb much heat from the sun, leaving that natural ambient heat to warm up your home. Of course, these are not the only passive temperature management strategies, but these are good starting points to consider when starting a new build.

What’s on the inside counts

When considering an energy-efficient new build, it’s not all about the walls, roof, windows and insulation (although these aspects are important) – what’s on the inside counts as well. While building a new home, a lot of thought goes into the costs of the land, the build, and the furniture. But thinking about ongoing costs like your bills and their bottom line, is also a vital consideration. With that in mind, it’s important to think of ways to keep your bills low from the get-go.

When it comes to saving on bills, your electricity bill is worth considering. And, as it turns out, a minor change can make a major difference. Studies have shown that in Queensland, for example, about 8% of a home’s electricity costs are from household lighting. By changing household lighting to utilise incandescent light bulbs, those lighting costs could be cut by more than 80%.

While you’re looking at slashing your power bills with lighting changes, it pays to review the number of bills that you’re signing yourself up for, too. Gas stoves and gas-powered hot water systems have their popularity. But at the end of the day, gas appliances aren’t only creating another utility bill for you to manage, they’re also costing the environment with the emissions they produce. By opting for electrical appliances, you’re not only cutting out the need for that separate gas bill, you’re also giving yourself the opportunity to utilise solar power to help run these electrical appliances, potentially unlocking even more savings.

Optimise your solar 

First things first, as you’re building your new home, adding solar panels is almost a no-brainer. Not only are there Government Initiatives available to support a ‘solarised’ home, but there are also significant opportunities for you to save on your power bills, and sell your generated solar power back to the grid for a feed-in tariff. To get started with solar, all you need to do is get a quote from a trusted installer in your area.

Once you have your solar system installed, optimising your solar usage by running large appliances (or charging EVs) during the day while the sun is shining will help you avoid purchasing grid power in the evenings while your solar isn’t producing. That said, when the sun isn’t shining, you will still be purchasing grid power and adding to your power bill. So, if you’re keen to save even further, you could consider a home battery storage system.

Imagine your electricity bill showing a credit, rather than a payable figure. That’s the reality for many Australians, including happy Redback customer (and Redback Smart 3-Phase Hybrid System owner) Gareth Oakes. Within 4 months of installing his new home battery system, Gareth’s bill went from $600 per quarter, to just $22 per quarter. Another 12 months down the track, Gareth was $500 in credit on his quarterly bill.

With a home battery system, you’re able to store excess solar for a rainy day – literally. When the sun isn’t shining, your home’s essentials can tap into the battery’s stored energy to keep things running, without needing to purchase grid power. On top of that, that stored energy can come in handy during a grid outage (or a ‘blackout’), powering your home’s lights, security system, fridge and other essentials while everyone else is in the dark.

We’ve been talking a lot about temperature management and cooling costs in this article – and importantly, fans can optimally be run on your home battery system’s energy stores, keeping your home cool, and your power bill low. Getting started with a home battery system is easy. The first step is to get a quote from a trusted installer. Overall, home battery systems are a savvy investment for homeowners (or ‘homebuilders’) keen to keep things running in the dark while utilising their own self-generated solar power instead of grid-powered ‘bill-fuel’.



Not only is building a new home an exciting life event, it’s also an opportunity to optimise.  Whether you’re optimising your home to suit the climate, optimising building materials to keep you comfy, or optimising your expenses by slashing your power bills, your financial future can depend on a savvy build.

So, if you’re building a property, do yourself a favour and have a chat to your builders about energy-savvy home additions that are both kind to the environment, and kind to your quarterly bills.