An ongoing initiative is helping social housing tenants in Port Kembla find the most cost-effective ways to be more energy efficient.
A national forum took place at the University of Wollongong on Wednesday.
The forum, ‘Low carbon homes for low income households’ was hosted by the CRC for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL).
A key theme was determining ways of delivering housing that is both affordable and energy efficient to help low income households lower their energy bills without making them vulnerable to adverse health impacts.
UOW’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre, a CRCLCL research partner, has found that with the rise in national energy prices, low income and vulnerable residents often report having to choose between paying for fuel and purchasing essential items like food or medication.
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Among those who appeared at Wednesday’s forum was Daniel Daly, a research fellow at the SBRC.
Mr Daly is part of the ‘Sustainable Port Kembla’ project, which works with residents of social housing properties in Port Kembla to find the most cost-effective ways to make them more energy efficient.
The project’s a partnership between the university, state government, Illawarra architects Edmiston Jones and the Housing Trust.
It has been running for a little more than a year.
The initiative includes working with tenants of 13 Housing Trust social housing properties in Port Kembla.
Mr Daly said it was part of a broader project he’s involved with, which is researching energy usage and temperatures in social housing properties across the state.
“We went out and did energy audits on the residents’ properties in Port Kembla to understand what the building fabric is like, what type of hot water systems they have, air conditioners and heaters if they have them, and how they’re using those systems,” Mr Daly said.
After discussions with the Housing Trust, they devised a list of energy efficiency upgrades to the properties which are now being implemented.
“The properties in Port Kembla have just had a roof replacement, ceiling fans installed, an upgrade to the skylights,” Mr Daly said.
“A lot of it’s in some ways remedial work that’s dealing with some of the thermal problems in those properties.”
Mr Daly said in the social housing sector, some tenants were managing their energy bills by sacrificing comfort and well-being.
This included not cooling or heating their home, and rationing their use of hot water and cooking appliances.
“Through doing energy efficiency upgrades, we want to help these tenants to be able to live more comfortably and improve their well-being, rather than reduce their bills, (because) their bills are often already very low.”
Mr Daly said among social housing tenants, although not necessarily evident within their Port Kembla participants, there was a common issue of “low energy literacy”, such as not understanding why their energy bills may be increasing in winter or summer.
He said often under-pinning these issues was poor quality housing stock in the social housing sector, which typically required a lot of energy to heat or cool.
The project’s other facet enabled interested businesses on Wentworth Street to receive a free energy audit and assessment of how they could save energy. Several pilot upgrades will be trialled on Wentworth Street.