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To Renovate or Retrofit?

By Donna Page, Beechworth Urban Landcare and Sustainability

I live in an old Miners cottage in Beechworth and a few years ago I decided that my priority was to retrofit rather than renovate. What’s the difference?  Renovation generally implies getting rid of the old and bringing in the new. Retrofitting refers to the addition of new technology or features to older systems.

Older houses bring with them their own challenges.   For example, they have not been designed to optimize northern sunlight, but  they are still sturdy beings, worth preserving.  Bringing my 70s kitchen and bathroom into the modern era meant generating loads of waste and buying lots of new things with high environmental and financial costs. So I decided I could happily live with my 70’s kitchen and bathroom but wanted to do some things that made my home more sustainable.

I wanted my house to be warmer in winter and cooler in summer. I’d like my energy bills to be lower.  With the help of a green energy assessment I was able to make decisions about how I would achieve this. I then applied for a green loan and was able to install a heat pump hot water system and a much more energy efficient cooling system and I still have a little left towards the rainwater tank that will supplement town water through hard summers.  

There’s lots more I can do that doesn’t cost the earth. Pelmets above the curtains where lots of heat is lost and draught stopper tape around windows and doors.   My wish list for the future includes Solar PV on my roof when I pay off my Green loan.  There are a number of ways to go about getting Solar PVs on your roof.  At the moment expressions of interest are going out to all North East Victorian residents for a bulk purchase of solar PVs, solar hot water and rain water tanks through the Solar Hubs Project. You can access information regarding this bulk buy by registering your interest at www.solarnortheast.com.au   

The whole process has challenged me to think about my needs as opposed to my wants. What I want is to reduce my environmental footprint, lower my energy bills and have a comfortable house to live in. My house might not be cutting edge contemporary but my hope is that it keeps me warm and cool when needed, saves me money and reduces my carbon footprint.