Many Australian homes are freezing in winter, but change is in the air

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Cold snaps across the country have shone a spotlight on Australian homes and why they get so chilly when temperatures drop, but new rules are set to make homes warmer in the future. 

This winter has seen temperatures drop below zero across much of the country at times, forcing many people to rug up in their own homes amid rising energy bills and the cost-of-living crisis. 

Part of the problem is the way Australian homes have been built in the past, lacking enough insulation to properly shield from the icy weather and other energy-efficient measures.  

But new building code changes are slowly being rolled out across the country to make newly built homes warmer in winter, as well as cooler during our hot summer months.  

Victoria and Queensland are the latest states to adopt changes to the National Construction Code (NCC) to improve the minimum heating and cooling standards for newly built homes. 

At the same time, Victoria has recently strengthened renters’ rights to improve thermal standards in rental properties across the state.  

Karen Dellow, senior analyst and author of the PropTrack Origin Energy-Efficient Housing Report, said Australians were becoming more interested in improving the energy efficiency of their homes as the higher cost of energy usage and concerns about climate change weigh on their minds. 

“Features such as double-glazed windows and good insulation can help retain more warmth, reducing the need to rely on heating appliances,” Ms Dellow said.  

Australian homes tend to be uninsulated, draughty and fitted with inefficient heaters. Picture: Getty


But there are concerns that the new rules will come at a cost, either by making new homes more expensive or increasing costs for landlords in the middle of a rental crisis.  

“The increase in the cost of construction driven by increased regulatory requirements, and higher interest rates, will further impede the goal of increasing the supply of housing and place more pressure on public housing requirements,” Housing Industry Association (HIA) chief economist Tim Reardon said. 

“If governments want to increase the supply of homes, they need to, at the very least, stop making new homes more expensive.  

“Lowering the cost of delivering new homes to market is essential to achieving the Australian Government’s target of 1.2 million new homes over the next five years, and improving housing affordability across the country.”  

What are the new home changes 

Home builders across both states will now need to comply with new energy efficiency standards that will reduce the energy needed to run a home, including heating and cooling. 

Home builders are looking at improving ceiling, wall and underfloor insulation to meet the higher energy efficiency standards, as well as other measures. Picture: Getty


New homes will need to meet a minimum 7-star Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) rating, among other requirements.  

A 7-star home is expected to use up to 25% less energy for heating and cooling than a 6-star home, which was the previous standard, according to government agency Sustainability Victoria.  

To make this happen, home builders are looking at home orientation, window glazing, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, improved ceiling, wall and underfloor insulation, and more.  

Home builders such as Metricon Homes say the new regulations are an opportunity to examine their home designs with fresh eyes. 

Metricon Homes design director Adrian Popple said they had updated their home designs to be more energy-efficient and comfortable, while meeting the new NCC standards. 

“We understand that these changes may result in slightly higher upfront costs for buyers,” he said.  

To alleviate the burden of increased costs on customers, Mr Popple said the company was ensuring homes remained affordable and resilient against future energy costs. 

It was also partnering with suppliers like Southern Star for a seamless transition to higher performing aluminium frames and window double glazing.  

While the new rules came into effect for Victoria and Queensland in May this year, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania began implementing most of the amendments last year. 

South Australia will adopt the new NCC sustainability changes in October, while Western Australia intends to implement the changes next year. 

D BNE Story Ferry CBD Runrise

New homes in Queensland will need to meet higher heating and cooling standards. Picture: Getty


What are Victoria’s new minimum rental standards 

The other changes in Victoria are the new proposed minimum rental standards for ceiling insulation, draughtproofing, hot water efficiency and cooling that begin on 30 October 2025. 

Landlords will need to meet minimum ceiling insulation standards, have draught sealing, replace hot water and heating systems with energy efficient electric appliances when their current appliance reaches end of life, and other requirements.  

Dr Trivess Moore from the school of property, construction and project management at RMIT University said the new standards would greatly improve the quality and comfort of rental housing, as well as making it cheaper to live in. 

“It’s the most far-reaching response by any Australian government to the huge and well-documented problems of affordability and poor conditions in our rental housing,” he said.

However, Dr Moore said many landlords were already financially stretched and may pass on improvement costs to tenants or exit the market, although research indicated the likely impact of these responses was low. 

Melbourne And Yarra River Cityscape

Rental homes in Victoria will need to meet new heating and cooling standards from October 30 2025. Picture: Getty


He added that labour shortages across the construction industry meant more workers would be needed to deliver the upgrades.  

Additionally, tenants may hesitate to assert their rights because affordable rental housing was already so hard to find. 

Why are Australian homes so cold?  

Australian homes tend to be uninsulated, draughty and fitted with inefficient heaters, according to Dr Nicola Willand from RMIT University’s school of property, construction and project management. 

“This means that warmth dissipates quickly once heating is switched off, air movement between heated areas and the colder walls and windows make people feel uncomfortable, and it makes heating very ineffective and expensive,” Dr Willand said.  

“Australians build some of the largest homes in the world, and bigger areas translate into higher energy demand. 

“Unless homes are well insulated and draught proofed, the warmth will slowly dissipate and result in cold kitchens and living areas in the morning.” 

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