Ecoheat solar panel

Economical & eco-smart

From innovative solar systems that cost almost nothing to run, to highly efficient building systems, today’s in-the-know builders are delivering heating and cooling solutions that don’t cost the earth.

Photo courtesy Ecoheat

In a typical Australian home, heating and cooling accounts for more than 40 per cent of total energy use. Poor insulation, large areas of single glazing, and poor orientation – which result in interiors that become hot in summer and freezing in winter – can further inflate these costs.

Today’s home buyers, increasingly mindful of both rising energy prices and the environmental impact of fossil fuels, are seeking ways to keep their homes comfortable through the changing seasons, without it costing the earth. In direct response to this market demand, we are seeing industry innovation focused on the development of new, ‘greener’ heating and cooling solutions such as hydronic, geothermal and solar.

Solar, so good

An increasingly common – and smart – approach is to install roof-mounted PV panels to generate electricity and offset the energy used for heating and cooling. However, a lesser-known but highly innovative concept makes it possible to channel the sun’s heat and energy more directly to cool and warm any dwelling.

The product is called Ecoheat and, like most great inventions, the premise is surprisingly simple. As the sun warms Ecoheat’s panels, a fan is activated and distributes warm, fresh air throughout the home.

To ventilate and cool the home in summer, the system pumps a large volume (240 cubic m/hr) of cool night-time air inside. This flushes the hot air out and effectively brings the interior down to a more comfortable temperature, so it starts from a lower base the following day.

Another benefit of this cost-friendly solution, according to early-adopter customers, is that Ecoheat really comes into its own during spring and autumn, by intuitively maintaining optimum temperatures in these harder-to-gauge months.

‘Customers understand that it pays to heat your home consistently,’ Ron Knight, founder of Ecoheat explains. ‘By simply harnessing the heating effects of the sun, the system pumps fresh air at the right temperature into the building in winter, regardless of whether the customer is at home or not.’

The product also delivers an excellent return on investment, with nearly zero running costs following installation. ‘We’ve noticed this cost comparison is very appealing to cost-conscious family customers looking save on their heating and cooling costs over the longer term,’ Ron adds.

Ecoheat is set to disrupt substantial pockets of the customer market who want a simple solar solution with a ‘set and forget’ approach that comes with no need for maintenance, and negligible running costs.

Ecoheat solar panel
As the sun warms Ecoheat’s panels, a fan is activated and distributes warm, fresh air throughout the home
Photo courtesy Ecoheat
Maxiwall house
MaxiWall delivers four times greater thermal resistance than standard house bricks
Photo courtesy Big River Group

Seal the deal for thermal comfort

The effectiveness of any heating and cooling system can be further enhanced by strategic home design and construction techniques. Passivhaus, a European-based method that focuses on insulating and sealing the building envelope to regulate the internal temperature, decreases energy consumption by retaining heated or cooled air.

The Passivhaus model, which is ideally suited to colder climates, operates on eliminating uncontrolled air leakage through the building enclosure. This reduces overall energy use, and improves occupants’ thermal comfort and indoor air quality, says Dow-DuPont Performance Building Solutions.

Air leakage should not be confused with planned mechanical ventilation, which is fundamental to the operation of a Passivhaus home. Ventilation air is not intended to originate from cracks or holes in the building shell, but should be delivered through a well-designed heat recovery ventilation (HRV) system, which flushes stale air from the building and replaces it with a fresh, temperature-controlled, filtered air.

The impact of air leakage on the thermal envelope is the loss of insulation performance through reduced R-value, and the transportation of unconditioned moist air into living spaces. Air can carry significant amounts of moisture that can be deposited on cooler interior surfaces, leading to interstitial condensation. Repeated condensation events, coupled with slow drying rates, could lead to significant moisture degradation of building materials. Weather barrier envelopes with high vapour permeability give the wall and roof cavities the capacity to dry.

Dow-DuPont Performance Building Solutions manufactures a range of envelope products that are designed to work together and provide the air barrier required for a durable water-tight and high-water vapour permeable building envelope. Look out for Tyvek® HomeWrap, DuPont Tyvek® Tape, DuPont™ Flashing Tape and DuPont™ FlexWrap NF.

The Passivhaus model operates on eliminating uncontrolled air leakage through the building enclosure

Insulate and regulate

In warmer areas builders can use solar passive design, which leverages insulation, thermal mass and controlled solar gain to keep homes naturally cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Building with materials that offer inherent thermal insulation properties, such as Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC), will help maximise the effectiveness of a solar-passive design.

MaxiWall, a new AAC product from Big River Group, delivers four times greater thermal resistance than standard house bricks, which means the amount of energy required to heat or cool the finished home will be greatly reduced, providing ongoing savings to the homeowner.

Big River Group says that MaxiWall also offers excellent fire protection, insulation, and soundproofing qualities to deliver a superior home living experience at a competitive cost. The product is also extremely durable: when finished with an external render, it’s unaffected by the harsh Australian climatic conditions. It is classified as a 100 per cent non-combustible building material; resistant to fire up to 1200°C, and achieves a two-hour fire rating when installed with approved systems.

MaxiWall is a pollutant-free building material, sourced from world-class production facilities using German technology and automated processes to ensure every panel is of optimum quality and consistency. By using reduced raw materials it helps reduce around 30 per cent of environmental waste and 50 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional concrete.

The use of MaxiWall panels leads to faster construction times and decreased site costs, as their light weight makes them safer to work with and easier to cut, shave, shape and install. Importantly, MaxiWall is also fully compliant with current Australian Standards and has Australian Codemark Certification.


This article was compiled with contributions from Big River Group, DuPont Australia and Ecoheat.

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