How new HomeBuilder grant could help cut your power bills

man in orange reflective vest sweeping dirt on a building site

Sue Hewitt

Posted June 10, 2020

Build a more energy-efficient home at no extra cost thanks to new HomeBuilder grant. 

The federal government’s new $25,000 HomeBuilder grant will make it easier for Victorians to include energy-efficient features in new homes or renovations, which could save them thousands of dollars on their power bills in the long term. 

While the extra up-front cost of features such as rooftop solar systems, back-up batteries and double glazing can be prohibitive for those building a house or undergoing a major renovation, industry experts say the additional $25,000 provided by the new grant means such energy-saving additions can be included effectively cost-free to the home owner.

More than 8000 people have rushed to register interest in the HomeBuilder grant in the first few days since it was announced. Designed to help the residential building industry recover from the economic shock of the COVID-19 crisis, the grant provides owner-occupiers $25,000 towards the cost of building a new home, up to the value of $750,000. The same amount is also available for substantial renovations, valued at $150,000 to $750,000, on existing homes worth up to $1.5 million. The grant is available to those with an annual income of up to $125,000 for individuals, or $200,000 for couples, and on contracts signed before 31 December, 2020.  

While the grant could fund a luxe marble bench-top for your kitchen, it may be better spent on reducing your energy bills and greenhouse emissions, according to building experts.

They say the grant can fund sustainable home features as part of your overall project, including such things as a solar power and battery system, draught-sealing, insulation and heat-pumps for heating, cooling and hot water, and more to ensure your home is energy efficient.

Tania Phillips, general manager of business development for RACV Home, says although people want to do the right thing for the environment, some are put off by the up-front costs of energy-saving products such as solar power and batteries. 

three black solar panels on a roof

Solar-power systems can be included in HomeBuilder grant projects.


“Some people may not realise that solar systems can be included in HomeBuilder grant projects and they could miss out on the opportunity of incorporating reliable, eco-friendly and cost-effective solutions into their new homes or renovations," she says.

(Plus: How to choose a reliable solar installer.)

“The $25,000 grants let home owners get a state-of-the-art solar power and battery system for zero cost up front while reaping long-term energy savings.”

RACV Solar chief executive Andy McCarthy says the $25,000 grant could fund a rooftop solar system and a Tesla Powerwall battery which would deliver substantial savings on future power bills.

“A solar system and battery storage are a great way to use the $25,000 grant to secure your energy supply 24/7, ensuring you have power when the grid drops out,” he says.

He says that when the sun is shining many solar customers feed excess power into the grid and, in return, get about 12 cents a kWh. But at night they will pay more than 30 cents a kWh drawing power from the grid.

“A Tesla Powerwall battery stores your energy so you’re not feeding into the grid during the day and then drawing power from the grid at night and paying three times the amount you were paid for your excess daytime power,” he says.

Master Builders Association chief executive Rebecca Casson says the grant gives qualifying Victorians the opportunity to make substantial sustainability and efficiency improvements to their homes on a level that not only helps to protect jobs for builders but achieves a social and environmental benefit for the greater community.

“The specific improvements a home owner can make depends on their individual circumstances, including their current energy-efficiency status and what they have in mind for the ways they plan to use their home going forward,” she says.

The value of the grant means that expensive improvements such as replacing old windows with double-glazed units that will help keep in the heat and keep out the cold, and insulation throughout the home, may be within financial reach for more Victorians, she says.

Award-winning architect and presenter of Grand Designs Australia, Peter Maddison, says those intending to stay in their homes for the long term can reap substantial long-term savings by investing in energy-saving features such as solar power and batteries. Additional features such as solar hot-water systems and double-glazed windows could also be funded by the HomeBuilder grant to help deliver savings on power bills.

Additional underfloor insulation for timber homes will help reduce heat loss, he says, while those building new homes on a concrete slab should consider installing polystyrene dividers between the soil and the slab to minimise moisture transfer and cut heating costs. 

When it comes to new-home builds, RMIT sustainable building expert Dr Trivess Moore says a 7.5-star energy-rated home requires 40 per cent less power compared with a 6-star house, the current minimum standard set by the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme.


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