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» Take lighting to task
Australians could use 50 per cent less energy for lighting by choosing and using lights correctly. Downlights send out a single beam of light, so while they might look good, they aren’t practical for lighting a room – hence the need for so many. Halogen downlights are just as bad as the old incandescents, generating a kilogram of greenhouse gases for every 15 hours of use. Replace all globes with more efficient options; either fluorescents (such as CFLs) or lightemitting diode (LED) lamps. While they might cost more upfront, energy savings for the long life of the bulb will keep your wallet fatter overall. Most importantly, think about what lights you actually need on. Task lighting is great for saving energy; which means only lighting the areas that need to be lit. If your current wiring doesn’t allow this already, do it by utilising floor or desk lamps in each room.
» Air dry the dishes
A dishwasher uses less water than handwashing, but only if it’s full and properly stacked. The most energy intensive part of the dishwasher cycle is the heat drying, so aim to stop the cycle before it starts drying and open the door to air dry the dishes.
» Practise off-peak
Knowing your tariff rates won’t reduce energy consumption, but it can help to reduce the bills. Electricity prices vary depending on the time of day, so learn the off-peak times when power is at its cheapest. “It’s as simple as juggling around the hours of the day that you use your appliances,” explains Filipa Ferreira, co-director of environmental energy auditors, Logic & Form. Every Australian household automatically gets a peak or an off-peak rate, but homes that install a smart meter device are able to take advantage of even cheaper rates, usually during afternoons and evenings. To take advantage of off-peak times, Ferreira’s top tip is to put the clothes washing machine or dishwasher on a power point timer set for when the rates become cheaper, or use the timer inbuilt into most newer washing machines.
Uninsulated homes can lose up to 35 per cent of heat from the ceiling, 25 per cent through the walls and 20 per cent through the floors. Ceiling insulation alone can save 1,212 kg of greenhouse gases, and shave $383 off your yearly power costs. For more information on getting your home insulated properly and easily by an expert, visit www.yourhome.gov.au.
» Stop standby
Standby energy (when appliances are left on at the power point but not used) consumes up to 10 per cent of your power bill. “A good tip to remember is that anything with a little light should be switched off at the power point,” says Ferreira. “That tiny little light on the TV, the radio, the oven, the microwave, your phone charger and more is using between $80 to $100 a year.” If the power points are hard to reach, try a remote-controlled energy-saving power board.
» Forget fridge no. 2
If your home is host to a second fridge, your bills are up to $158 higher per year than they need to be! Ditch the second fridge and save the equivalent of 783 kg of carbon dioxide annually. If you’re entertaining and need to keep drinks cool, use ice in the laundry sink. Or, if you really want to keep it, turn on the second fridge the day before the party and turn it off as soon as you’re finished. As for your main fridge and freezer – keeping it well-stocked makes sure that it doesn’t work as hard, and uses less energy than a mostly empty fridge.
» Get fan-tastic
The humble pedestal fan can be used for both cooling and heating. In summer, find the window that gets the least sun, open it slightly, and set up the pedestal fan so it blows in to suck cold air into the house. When winter rolls around again, put the fan in front of the heater to blow warm air from the living room through the corridor and into the bedrooms. Also consider installing ceiling fans – reversible options are great for either cooling or heating the room depending on the direction they spin.
» Condition your air-con
If, in the brutal heat of our Aussie summer, you do end up succumbing to the allure of the air conditioner, keep the thermostat at 23°C or higher. Running only a few degrees warmer can save around $65 per year, and will still keep you cooler than that 40°C day outside! Also, ensure it’s running only in the rooms you’re using most, and keep the filters clean to maximise airflow.
» Watch washing waste
Washing your clothes in cold water rather than hot reduces your energy use for the wash by up to 15 times. Then, once they’re washed you can make even bigger savings in both your financial costs and emissions by skipping the dryer and drying them out in the sun – which has the added benefits of naturally killing off bacteria and germs and extending the life of your clothes.
» Take shorter showers
You’ve heard this one many-a-time, but if you still haven’t switched your habits to taking shorter showers, it’s time. Cutting your 10-minute showers to three minutes can shave precious dollars off your energy bill – as well as your water bill.
» Living solution
“Having shrubbery outside and spraying it with water gives you a cooling effect similar to an evaporative cooler,” says Andrew Goodfellow from Aussie Home Energy. “Put a trellis up outside a window that can be opened, and then spray that plant with water – that way the draft is blowing against the plant and in through the open window to bring in that cool moisture.”
» Calculate it
An energy audit can help identify where improvements could be made in your home. “We did an audit for a five bedroom house whose electricity bill was between $1,000–$1,300 per month,” says Ferreira. “They managed to reduce it down to $800 per month.” Some councils and companies offer free audits by experts – Aussie Home Energy have a ‘Free Advice Friday’ which you can access by calling (02) 8064 3992. If you prefer to use your own grey matter check out the Green Savings Calculator at www.greenhomecalculator.com.au.
Head to the G Forum (www.gmagazine.com.au/forum) to share your own energy saving tips.