GALLERY | House secrets open to all

Michael Whitehouse’s Wilton home produces enough solar energy to power not only his home but another seven houses.

Residents will have the opportunity to see the house when he opens his home to the public this Sunday.

Mr Whitehouse has designed and built his home with key sustainability features including solar panels, extra insulation, solar hot water, LED lighting and high performance, low-e coated windows.

His home is net-energy positive because of these extra design elements. Mr Whitehouse’s home produces as much renewable energy as it consumes over the course of a year.

“For two people, our energy usage is a quarter of what a typical two person household would use,” Mr Whitehouse said. “I want to show locals that sustainability choices can make a big difference to their energy bill.”

The sustainable features cost Mr Whitehouse $50,000. He said $20,000 of that money would be recouped within two years of building the home.

“The essential sustainability features include a solar hot water system, extra insulation in the walls and ceiling, solar panels and LED lighting,” he said. “The other $30,000 were features I wanted. They added to the comfort and design of the home.

“For example, the high performance windows cost $10,000. I could justify installing them because they sound proof the home, slide nicely and have a nice frame.”

Mr Whitehouse is opening his home – 12 Berrima Road, Wilton – to the public as part of Sustainable House Day on Sunday, September 11.

“The open day is a unique opportunity to showcase what I have built,” he said.

“The changes don’t have to be big lifestyle choices. I want to let people know there is the technology available.

“The construction industry is cost-driven and sustainability features are usually the elements to get cut first.

“Homeowners should start with installing insulation and a solar hot water system. They might spend thousands more but they will save that money in two years.”

Mr Whitehouse said research suggested that 50 per cent of household energy savings could come from modifying habits rather than spending money.

“Simple tasks can save families money. Two people don’t need more than two lights on,” he said.

“People should firstly change their mindset and habits before modifying their house and spending money to make it more sustainable.”

Mr Whitehouse’s company Whitehouse Concepts does residential design work with sustainable initiatives.

He was also a part of the University of Wollongong team that won the Solar Decathlon China 2013 competition. The team transformed an existing house using retrofit technologies to create a sustainable home.