As we mention on the Eco Homes page, there are numerous benefits to building green homes, including reducing your eco-footprint through clean green energy production, savings on power and energy bills, the health benefits of living in a fully-insulated home and more.

As well as using PV (solar) panels, solar water heating, hot water heat pumps, thorough insulation and all LED lights, creating functional green homes also includes using fully-integrated water and energy solutions (such as those offered by LEAP described below) that make your home more comfortable, more eco friendly, and cheaper to run. This is a great alternative in the situation where it isn’t a custom-built eco house, but a refit or renovation.

SS Homes works with quality providers to ensure we are using top-of-the-range products and taking all steps possible to not only create an energy eifficient home, but to save you money for the long term. This means you can experience the benefits that eco homes offer even if you are looking at a renovation or refit. For custom-builds we can design from the ground up and incorporate the best systems for your site and budget. Read on to get an idea of what is possible.

Saving Electricity: LED lights, Insulation, Free Electricity, Hot Water Heat Pumps and more

LED Lights

Pretty much a no-brainer, LED lights have completely dominated the electric light world, and with their long-life (around 50,000 hours) and power-saving advantages (using around 90% less energy than incandescent light) you can see why. We incorporate LED lights into all new builds and can recommend on lighting solutions for refits.


Another no-brainer, there aren’t many people in NZ who don’t realise the benefit of insulating your home. While NZ homes were not traditionally insulated, it has become an issue over the years and there are now a lot of households taking care of the important and easy-to-insulate areas of their houses such as the ceiling and under-floor. Walls are being retrofitted with insulation, and services exist to spray insulation into walls to avoid having to pull them apart.

One of the big benefits of building an eco-house is the intrinsic insulation that is part and parcel of this way of building. As well as roof insulation, eco houses incorporate double-glazing, insulated walls, and in most cases an insulated slab on the ground floor.

SS Homes are proud to work with MAXRaft, whose slogan is “warm, healthy and energy efficient homes from the foundation up”, and who provide the only fully-insulated slab foundation on the NZ market. The ~R4.5 products allow the slab edge to maintain a higher surface temperature than traditional methods, increasing the comfort of your home whilst lowering your heating bills. And if you are considering underfloor heating MAXRaft can save 30-40% on the running costs.

MAXRaft Insulated Slab Foundations

Free Electricity?!

This is working well for us, and with a bit of planning it can work well for you too. The power company Electric Kiwi offer what they have dubbed the “hour of power“. You can choose an hour each day (off-peak) where you will receive free electricity! Off-Peak slots are between 9AM-5PM and 9PM-7AM.

If you coordinate this well you can use this time slot to:

  • Run your dishwasher
  • Run your washing machine
  • Use your clothes dryer
  • Take a shower right at the start of the hour
  • Charge your car if you have an electric vehicle
  • Get your tools out and go nuts

What kind of savings can you expect? The graphic below is from the Electric Kiwi website and can only be used as an indication, but if you are currently using dishwasher and washing machine daily, using your dryer regularly, having long showers etc, the results below could be seen.

hour of power savings

Making Electricity: PV Solar Power Production

PV (Photovoltaic) Solar Panels by Solarcity

Solar panels can result in savings of $100+ or more a month, especially when combined with the other systems discussed below. We work with Solarcity, a major player in the industry, to create the perfect solar energy system for your location and energy use profile. If you are building a new home, or if your power bills are more than $125/month, you use power during the day, and your roof faces North, East or West, solar energy could be perfect for you.

How a Grid-Tied Photovoltaic Solar Energy System Works

Basically, your house produces power whenever the sun is shining. Whenever you are producing more energy than you are using the excess energy can be sold back to the grid ensuring there is no “wasted” power. Combine this with other things, such as using your dishwasher and washing machine during off-peak hours (or during the free energy hour if you have followed our advice above about Electric Kiwi) and this can result in substantial savings, especially if you are in a region of high sunlight hours such as Hawke’s Bay.

creating eco homes - Grid tied photovoltaic system by solarcity

Water Management: Save Water and Save Money on Hotwater

Save Water: Traditional Vs. Maniflow by LEAP

Though water might be free in NZ, Eco Houses are also about conserving resources and reducing your ecological footprint. The Maniflow system by LEAP is a modern alternative, and can save thousands of litres of wasted water a year. Not only that, it can save you money in the following ways:

  • It cuts waiting time for hot water
  • It cuts the volume of heated water stored in the lines by 50%
  • It makes it easier for plumbing to be designed to reduce hot water waiting time.

how maniflow saves water

Save Money: Hot Water Heat Pumps

We use and recommend Rinnai Hot Water Heat Pumps – they reduce costs while minimising your carbon footprint. On their website, they state that the Rinnai HotFlo Hot Water HeatPump can save an Auckland resident 60% compared to an electric storage cylinder. They can be retrofitted to virtually any brand of electric hot water cylinder, and installation is quick and easy. A great option for  a new build, and equally as suitable for someone looking to maximise the energy-efficiency of their existing home.

How much can you save using a Hot Water Heat Pump?

The image below is just for comparison, but gives you a clear indication of the benefits of a hot water heat pump over several years. Note that Gas is cheaper than power, but not by nearly as much.

water heater cost comparison

Thermal Mass

Thermal mass refers to when the building materials used (usually dense materials such as concrete and brick) are good at absorbing and storing heat energy from the sun. With proper design and construction, and thought about the differences between Summer and Winter and how to best manage these, thermal mass can be effectively used to cool your house during the day in Summer, and retain warmth in your house over the Winter. You can get an idea of how this works in the image below.


As noted on the diagram the building is insulated, shading cuts out the sun to avoid too much heat, and the thermal mass absorbs heat energy, releasing it at night to keep your house warm.

Thermal mass in summer eco house

Thermal mass in summer - 2


In Winter the sun is allowed to penetrate creating natural warmth, and the thermal mass will hold and store heat and slowly emit it. Heat loss through windows, walls, the roof and the ceiling is minimised.

Thermal mass in winter eco home

Thermal mass in winter - 2

Where to from here?

Would you like to learn more about how the systems outlined above can work for you – to save you money and reduce your environmental footprint? Whether you are considering a new build or a renovation, to find out how SS Homes can provide you with a water and energy efficient home please get in touch with Jason.