They might look like normal houses from the outside, but two Mandurah homes have much more to them than what meets the eye.
Solar panels, fixed sun control louvres and drip irrigation systems are only some of the environmental hacks Mandurah’s home owners Maggie and Sarah Love are using to make their homes greener.
On September 17, they will open their homes to the public and share their environmentally-friendly tips and tricks for Sustainable House Day.
Beating the cold with clever design
Sarah Love realised something was wrong with her Wannanup home after spending $300 on every bill in gas to heat up the place.
“I hate being cold, there’s a reason why I don’t live in London anymore,” Ms Love said.
“You are in a house that’s freezing and it’s really warm outside, that’s not right.”
Tired of being cold in her own home, the local teacher decided to subdivide her property and build a new house in her backyard.
This time, though, she was going to build a cleverly-designed solar passive home.
She met with specialised architects and researched the topic herself, and two years ago she moved into her brand new house.
She hasn’t looked back since.
“The coolest it’s been all winter is 18 [degrees] in the middle of the night,” she said.
“In winter we were probably spending $300 every bill on gas to heat the place, whereas now, my electricity bill for the whole house is $120.
The house living areas all face north, while the bedrooms mostly face south.
There is also large windows in the main living spaces to let the sunlight in during winter, which is then stored in the thermal mass tiles and released during the night as temperatures drop.
Both the roof and the walls have been insulated, and the plumbing system has been set up to allow for the installation of a grey water tank in the future.
The whole house is universally accessible, and the garden features mostly low water consumption native plants.
Ms Love said she would like people to be more design-wary and embrace more sustainable practices.
“I just find it weird that people don’t do it,” she said.
“Even if you just build your living areas facing north that makes a huge difference, and I think the more people that ask the builder about that the more builders are going to do it.”
Ms Love will be opening her home on September 17 to any residents interested in learning more about solar passive housing.
“I think people will look and go OK, it’s not hippy dippy crazy house,” she said.
“That’s not for everybody, but everybody can do this, this is just an ordinary house.”
A sustainable hub in central Mandurah
Mandurah resident Maggie hasn’t paid an electricity bill since 2010, the dream of many home owners, and all thanks to a cleverly designed house and 3kw solar panels.
Tired of not being able to find a unit for her mother in town that wasn’t dark and cold, Maggie decided to build three solar passive units in central Mandurah in the early 2000s.
Interested in environmentally-friendly solar passive design since the 1980’s, she decided to incorporate as many solar passive design features to the homes as possible.
All three units in the complex feature good isolation, sun control louvres and thermal mass tiles.
Each home’s living areas face north, with most of the bedrooms facing south, a feature which helps make the most out of the winter sun.
The position of the houses and the presence of the sun control louvers allow the sun to come into the living areas in winter, while preventing it from heating up the house in summer.
Most rooms feature windows in at least two different walls, and they all open at the right angle to allow airflow in summer.
“It’s about making a home comfortable to live in,” Maggie said.
However, she would like other people to take solar passive design on board.
“There is no excuse for people not to learn about it anymore,” Maggie said.
“There’s no downside to it, not one.”
Maggie will open one of the units in the central Mandurah complex to the public on September 17 for Sustainable House Day.
Visitors to the event must register through the Sustainable House Day website to obtain the addresses of open houses.