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Efficiency retrofit saves thousands in energy bills

Energy efficiency consultant Richard and his wife took a staged approach when they began retrofitting their home.

Richard and kate sitting on steps of their home

Image: Marnie Hawson

As an engineer who consults in energy efficiency, Richard Keech had more than a passing interest in making his own home efficient. Richard and his wife, Kate, spent seven years gradually transforming their Essendon home into the most energy-efficient space possible.

They took a staged approach, improving the thermal envelope and replacing appliances, lighting and heating to reduce household consumption. They installed a solar system and replaced the gas hot water with a solar and heat-pump hybrid system.

“Mostly, we invested in things that might have been done anyway, like replacing an old, inefficient air-conditioning unit with a much more efficient one,” Richard says.

Their work reduced household energy consumption by 80%, with the remaining 20% fully offset by solar. By the time they sold the house in 2022, the savings they’d made on their power bills had covered the cost of the investments and there was an ongoing saving of around $5000 a year.

The couple has now built a new home at The Cape, an energy-efficient community in Cape Paterson. “The old house achieved what I wanted to do with a retrofit, but you can only go so far,” Richard says. “The new place let me build my dream home. It is super energy efficient, and the outcome has exceeded all our expectations. It is a certified passive house.”

Richard wrote the 2015 book Energy Freedom Home and co-wrote a 2012 report, The Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan, saying the benefit wasn’t just economic. “You’re not just spending less on your energy bills. You’re becoming more comfortable. You’re cosier in winter and cooler in summer, and the number of hours you need heating is reduced, so your energy use is reduced, too.”

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