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I live in Victoria, Australia. Energy bills are through the roof - almost literally as "insulation" is a thing just about no-one here has any competence with. Whatsoever. I'm talking about builders and building code designers specifically.

Ironically (see the top and bottom positions of the chart), I spent the first 40% of my life in Norway where things do get proper cold as opposed to in Australia where it's accepted to just have a heater pumping hot air through literal slits in the building (e.g. 0.5cm gaps under the external doors, that sort of nonsense), resulting in houses that are never properly comfortable at horrific expense. Yet in Norway the houses are actually insulated for deep, real winters and don't even need active heating at the temperatures costing Australians a fortune (eg 5-15c). I'm pretty sure it's impossible to get single glaced windows in Norway (because it's actually illegal to use), yet here it's a "luxury" item which is priced as you'd expect when not a standard. This gets my blood boiling (hey, free heating).

On a side note, I just started ETH mining on a Pascal GPU, and can still turn a profit. If I still lived in Norway I'd buy a lot of GPUs..




I've had a very similar experience myself, lived most of my life in Victoria, Australia but spent 12 months in Sweden and experienced the depths of winter there.

My family back home couldn't believe I'd walk around my apartment in shorts and a t-shirt with bare feet on floorboards and tiles in Sweden during winter. Turning on the heater in my apartment made you sweat when it was around -15 degrees celsius outside.

Australian's have a similar complex about wearing appropriate clothing during winter. Everyone complains about how cold it is, while wearing a light jumper or t-shirt in winter, even though it's no where near as cold as other countries.


What you describe is the rule in most Western countries. The only countries I know that have their shit together on this are Germany, Sweden and Ireland.

The truth is that fixing these problems is going to be expensive. Governments are just kicking the can down the road because they don't want to be the ones that raise taxes to pay for it (fixing existing houses I mean). But it will have to be done.

Maybe the biggest tragedy is that we are still building NEW houses that will have to be fixed in the future (except in the above countries and some others I no doubt missed). Not mandating higher standards is, however, just loading future generations with more debt, because they will be the ones that have to fix the quality of the housing stock.


Requiring better insulation for new buildings is not really that much a thing where you need to raise taxes, because the cost of proper insulation is passed on to builders - and the end users pay that, but in turn they have lower heating/cooling costs.

(FWIW, Sweden's neighbours like Norway, Finland and Denmark also have houses where it's warm inside in the winter without horrific leaks. And yes, Iceland, even if it has practically free, abundant geothermic heating energy.)

(But what horrifies me in England is not the wind through walls and puny glazing, it's the carpets in bathrooms, including around toilet seat. Experiences are not recent, though, so perhaps they've changed?)


> Requiring better insulation for new buildings is not really that much a thing where you need to raise taxes, because the cost of proper insulation is passed on to builders - and the end users pay that, but in turn they have lower heating/cooling costs.

I was referring to retrofit, sorry for not being clear.

Also, the costs are not passed on to customers. Very few houses in the history of the world have been priced according to what it cost to build. The market sets the price.

Carpets in bathrooms is a kind of baby boomer 1970/80s thing I think - plenty of it still about. Check the corners of the room where condensation pours down the wall into the carpet... after a few years you get a nice dark grey brown mould line.


Sure, that is correct, in the end prices are determined by the market, not cost. So in many cases the cost is not passed on to buyers, it is carried by developers. In some cases the cost becomes a barrier for building, though.

But still, it's not the government that carries this cost.

Retrofit cost goes to government if the government decides to subsidize it. I live in Finland, which is considerably colder than Britain, not to mention Australia, and here the requirement for insulation is simply mandatory in building permits (which is required also for major renovation, not just new houses).

There are no real subsidies for this. Also, there are no heating grants which I hear are a thing in the UK (and a thing big enough to have an impact on how people vote).


Mould? I've seen mushrooms growing. It baffles me how this stuff can be legal.


My first townhouse had a carpeted bathroom. It was built in the 80s. A week after we moved in we found a mushroom growing out of the carpet. We ended up replacing it with tile which looked much nicer.


Having lived in the UK and Australia - the UK may not have its shit together compared to Germany, Sweden or Ireland, but it's streets ahead of Aus.


I'm a UK resident. Either way, the UK will have to fix its houses. There's a trope that new houses are energy efficient... it's not really true; there's going to be a big scandal when everyone realises how the targets (which are pretty poor anyway) are circumvented by developers that are able to employ their own regs assessors, or just send a design SAP and expect that to be ticked off, or go around after an air permeability test removing all the sealing they just added to scrape through the already lenient test.

Whether insulation is actually installed? Who cares about that - quarterly dividend payments all round.


Sorry, this one I don't get. Why would you go and remove sealing after air permeability test? To have air circulation and avoid mold?

Normally, doing that would be additional work and additional cost, so if they do it, there must be a real reason.


A number of examples. One example is that carpets might be fitted afterwards. Because the air tightness design in the first place is so poor, they resort to sealing between floor and skirting and other such bodges. Carpet fitters hate such sealing as it makes it harder to get a pleasing finish. So they rip out the seals.

There's a lot of folksy wisdom in the UK building trade about natural ventilation (which isn't really true). Many builders will deliberately expose small gaps because they have not been properly educated. Having gaps gives poor ventilation - it becomes dependent on ambient pressure differentials which are difficult to control.

All of these are excuses for poor design and workmanship in the first place.

This might seem like more work for minimum wage labourers on site, but it's less work for highly paid designers, so it costs less. But costing is a difficult thing to sum because it's a complex supply chain with opportunities for efficiency all over. It's just that the volume builders (in particular) have a conservative interest in keeping the status quo, and carrying on without rocking the boat.


Ireland? Where you can still suffocate from coal smoke at winter time and the average building does not have proper insulation and they still use hot / cold water taps? I do not think so. Newer housing surely has better insulation and better heating but it is fraction of the market (or at least it was in 2012).


I was referring to the new stock. But be careful with:

> Newer housing surely has better insulation

You only really know if you test and measure.


What? Ireland has terrible isolation and building quality in general compared most of EU.


Indeed. Terrible insulation, walls that might as well be made from cardboard, and mostly electric heating.

On the other hand I can run a homelab at home and don't feel bad about wasting electricity - I need to heat my apartment, anyway.


Existing stock - yes. New stock - they have learned a lot and appear to be serious about making improvements.


> What you describe is the rule in most Western countries.

Say what now? Is the UK the only western country you've visited? because what they describe for Australia is not the rule of mainland western europe, serious insulation and at least double paned windows was the standard in the 90s.


Double paned windows are hardly some kind of best practice. The Mediterranean countries are still poor. Of Western Europe, only Germany and to some extent Ireland appear serious. You also have smaller jurisdictions, e.g. Brussels where some good work is going on.


Mediterranean countries also get less harsh winters, especially in the last years people have preferred installing cheap stoves rather than doing all the work required to properly insulate buildings from the 60s (roof, external insulating coating, window frames, condensing boilers, etc).


They also have more harsh summers. To an extent, in some cases, the vernacular protects them from that with high thermal capacity and decrement delay to buffer energy transfer. But if you then have a fashion for large windows... not so much.

And all that doesn't help with ventilation and maintaining healthy levels of fresh air.


> I'm talking about builders and building code designers specifically.

Noone is a bad generalisation here. There are designers and builders who do know and do care - you just pay extra for the design and extra for materials. If you get a project house on a new estate (like lots of people do)... you're basically getting cheap and simple result that's cheap and simple.

Source: talking to a designer about just that.


I actually wrote _just about noone_, to cover that, as it's just not common knowledge. Of course you can source specialists, but it's the exception and not the rule.

Most investment properties are done on the cheap, shifting the cost asymmetrically to the renters - cross ref the whole negative gearing debate and all.

Minimum standards need to be increased dramatically, yet very little is happening. When some of the earlier Energy Star "standards" were released a few years back, they were just a bad joke - eg door gaps still came part and parcel, however you'd get like a "solar water heating" checkbox.


Try sending an email to your local Labor MLA (state lower house) if you have one, or MLC (state upper house) if you don't. They're real people who care, you just need to make them care about this stuff. Which needs lots of people caring at them.

It will probably feel useless because it won't make a difference right away, but it's got a better chance of a good outcome eventually than a rant on HN.

I know I froze to death one year in a very cold flat which I couldn't heat with a 1 or 2 cm gap under the doors. Every time I'd cook I'd cut myself because my hands were too numb to control the knife. (The rest of the time it was okay because I'd just wrap up under my doona on the couch or wherever.) Now I live over a bakery in an old building so there's lots of old heat and heavier construction keeping it tolerably warm.


Ditto this in Sydney. Literally holes in the walls to outside. I have to tape them up during the colder months. Such poor building quality.


I'd grab some expanding foam and seal them.


I live across the border in SA. I don't think insulation is the whole story. If it is cold I just put more clothes on. We spend nothing on heating the house. I don't know that I would want to pay more for houses to get them better insulated in a country where housing affordability is getting beyond most people and the weather is mild most of the year.

We do spend a bit on air conditioning (we sometimes get several days in a row over 40C) but the difference between winter and summer bills is not that great. Our bills are still very high. We have just replaced our fridge and water heater and I am hoping newer, more efficient appliances will help.


How old is this building you're describing? There's been some pretty huge changes in the past 20-30 years, older houses are shocking for insulation but modern ones are often pretty good.


The building codes evolved at lot up until roughtly 10 years ago. Houses from before the 90ies is not that well insulated with lots of cold bridges. They have mostly been eliminated from new buildings, but it does make building quite a bit more complex.




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