<a href="https://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blogs/julie#">Green challenges</a>

Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Electricity: are you really going to use all of that?

Electricity meter

Credit: iStockphoto

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One of our previous challenges was about cutting back on our standby power by switching off our electronics and appliances at the wall. Those little energy-suckers are just part of a larger problem though: inefficient use of electricity.

There's so much worry about how we're going to replace coal-fired electricity, but you've really got to wonder if we even need to use as much as we currently do. It'd be easier to replace coal with renewables if we were more sensible in our demand for power.

Just in your own home, there's probably a lot of stuff that could be more efficient. There's the one we all know about: incandescent light bulbs. They waste up to 90% of the electricity they draw on creating heat, not light! Standby power needs to be more closely regulated, we don't want to be paying money for electricity we're not getting any benefit from. Water heaters can be pretty inefficient, and lose heat to the air around them. Air conditioning and gas heaters are lovely, but if your home is leaking that cooled or warmed air outside, you've wasted your money.

As always, there are solutions. Choose CFL bulbs and don't leave them on all the time; look carefully at the star ratings on your appliances; keep your water heater close to your bathroom, maybe get a timer so they're not heating water all night (or switch to solar!); and insulate your home. If we all make sensible decisions about energy use, we could be so much better off.

Businesses aren't off the hook here either: how many of them leave their lights and computers on all night? If their buildings were better designed, with lots of fresh air and natural light, there wouldn't be such high electricity bills for lighting and air-conditioning. Sensible dress-codes wouldn't go astray either - if you allow people to ditch the suits and dress appropriately for summer weather, think how much less you'd have to spend on keeping the building cool.

Really, you'd think it'd be common sense: no-one wants to pay for electricity we're not using. But we're used to electricity being cheap and harmless, so until now we haven't bothered to be careful with it. These days, we know what coal-fired electricity does to damage the planet, so we need to think cleverly about the best uses of it.