A survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that nearly 90% of Australians are concerned and taking steps to reduce how much electricity they use. Reducing energy usage not only helps the environment, it can save you money every month. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best ways to save electricity.
“How much can I save?”
Next to each energy-saving tactic, we’ve tried to tell you exactly how much each tactic can help you save. This makes it easy for you to prioritize which energy saving tactics will be the most important!
What uses the most electricity?
As shown in this graphic from the Government of South Australia, the two largest energy consumers in the average Australian home are heating/cooling the home and water heating, though there is also room for conservation in the other areas, too.
Section 1: Reducing Heating & Cooling Costs
Since heating and cooling (both air and water) consumes over 60% of the average home’s energy usage, we’ll take a look first at ways to reduce heating and cooling costs.
Turn your water heater down
Adjusting your hot water heater to a lower temperature can trim quite a few dollars off your energy bill. Based on data from the US Department of Energy, we calculate that reducing the temperature setting on your water heater can lead to annual savings of up to $75 for a typical Australian home.
Estimated Savings: up to $75 per year
Wash clothes in cold water
If you’re setting your washing machine to use hot water, you’re using energy on hot water every time you wash a load of laundry? Switch your washing machine to use cold water and you can save as much as a dollar every time you wash laundry!
Estimated Savings: up to $1 per load
Put the sun to work
When it comes to saving energy costs, the sun can be your greatest ally or your greatest foe. To get the sun on your side, modify your home so the sun will warm your home in the winter but be blocked during the summer. Popular strategies include:
- Planting deciduous trees to shade windows during the summer
- Installing awnings that will block summer sun but allow winter sun to enter windows
- Installing shutters that can be opened or shut to allow sun when desired
This illustration from the Australian Government’s YourHome guide shows how you can use the sun’s angle to your advantage:
Estimated Savings: varies, but can be significant
Switch to room heating/cooling
During certain times of the year, your home may only need to be heated or cooled during part of the day. For example, if it’s only hot enough to need an air conditioner for a few hours in the afternoon, purchase an energy efficient room air conditioner to run just for the room you’re in during the afternoon.
Estimated Savings: up to 80% of heating/cooling costs
Get more blankets & dress warmly
With more blankets for your bed, warm slippers, and a robe, you’ll find you can keep your home cooler during the winter and feel just as warm.
Estimated Savings: 25-100% of heating costs in warm climates such as Sydney
Improve your home’s insulation
According to yourenergysavings.gov.au, efficient insulation can save up to 40% off your heating and cooling costs. In 2011, 31% of Australian households lived in homes without insulation, so there are many people that have an opportunity to save money by installing or upgrading their insulation.
Estimated Savings: up to 40% of heating and cooling costs
Start shower races
If your family members enjoy taking long showers, you may find that trying to conserve hot water is like trying to pull hens’ teeth. Try gamifying water conservation – create a chart that allows your family members to keep score for who took the fastest shower. Give awards for low scores, and give an award if the entire family stayed below the goal time limit every day of the week.
Estimated Savings: about $0.25 per shower
Check your roof insulation
According to data from yourenergysavings.gov.au, efficient ceiling/roof insulation can provide up 45% savings on energy costs for heating and cooling.
Estimated Savings: up 45% of heating/cooling costs
Seal or upgrade your windows
As shown in this thermal image, windows are often a major factor in heating/cooling loss from a home. Since windows are often not tightly sealed and insulated, heat can leak out during the winter and cool air leaks out during the summer. Energy loss through windows can be minimized through energy efficient windows, window coatings, storm windows, or other options.
Estimated Savings: about 25-35% of heating/cooling costs
Switch shower heads
Switching to a low-flow showerhead can save 1,000’s of litres of hot water per year. Tests have found that a well-designed low-flow showerhead can provide an even better experience than a typical full flow shower head. According to the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards, installing a water efficient showerhead can save $1,500 in heating costs over 10 years.
Estimated Savings: about $150 per year
Section 2: Other Ways To Save Energy
While heating and cooling accounts for the majority of energy usage in the typical Australian home, other uses account for the remaining 37%. In this section, we’ll list some tactics you can use to reduce this section of your energy usage.
Switch light bulbs
Switching from standard light bulbs to more efficient light bulbs–such as Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)–can save up to 80% off your lighting energy usage.
Estimated Savings: up to 80% of lighting energy usage (6% of total energy usage)
Change how you cook food
Heating up your oven is an inefficient way to cook food, especially during the summer (when heat generated by the oven increases cooling costs). Use the microwave whenever possible, or use a toaster oven or stovetop.
Estimated Savings: up to 80% savings when using a microwave instead of an oven
Let nature dry your clothes
A clothes dryer may be convenient, but it’s also an energy hog. Hanging your clothes on the laundry line (or a portable clothes drying rack) is a great way to save money every week. Skipping the clothes dryer can save up to a dollar every time!
Estimated Savings: up to $1 for each load of laundry
Change your computer settings
Setting your computer to shut off the monitor and go into standby mode when you’re not using it is an easy way to reduce energy usage.
Estimated Savings: about $1.50 per computer, per month
Read a book
Australians spend an average of 3 hours per day watching TV–if watched on a 42 screen TV, that adds up to an annual bill of about $50. So next time you pick up a book, think of the energy you’re saving!
Estimated Savings: up to $50 per year
Wash a full load
When washing laundry, try to wash a full load each time. It’s much more efficient to wash fewer full loads than it is to wash more partial loads.
Estimated Savings: A few cents per load
Get an electric kettle
Need to boil water for tea or hot cocoa? Using an electric kettle is more energy efficient than using a stovetop.
Estimated Savings: A few cents per cup of tea
Unplug the zombies
It’s increasingly true that many appliances (from TVs to coffee makers) don’t shut off – they just go into standby mode. Unplugging these appliances to force then to shut completely off can reduce power usage by 3% in the average home. Using a power strip makes this even easier, as you can switch of an entire group of appliances with a single button.
Estimated Savings: about 3% of total energy bill
Make it a green Christmas
Here in Australia, we usually get to enjoy a warm and sunny Christmas season. We can also make it a “green” Christmas by conserving how much energy is used on Christmas lights. The top two ways to do this are:
- Use LED or other energy efficient Christmas lights
- Use an automatic timer to shut the lights off at night (not many people will be watching your lights at 3AM)
Estimated Savings: Enough to move you from the naughty list to the nice list
Replace old appliances
“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” is often a good motto. When it comes to appliances, though, it’s often wise to replace older fixtures with newer, more energy efficient models.
Estimated Savings: 20-75% reduction in appliance energy usage
Play the lights out game
Ever feel like all you do is go around behind your kids shutting off lights? Make it a game to encourage your family to remember to shut off lights when they aren’t needed.
Estimated Savings: 1-2% of total energy bill
Change your fridge settings
The colder you set your refrigerator and freezer, the more energy they’ll use keeping your food cool. Keep your refrigerator set at 2-3C and your freezer set at -15C to -17C. Another way you can save money is by ensuring that your refrigerator and freezer are sealing tightly when they are closed.
Estimated Savings: significant savings possible if refrigerator is leaking
Use an automatic timer
Automatic timers are an inexpensive way to limit how much electricity is used by outdoor lights, fans, bug zappers, or other fixtures that don’t need to run all the time.
Estimated Savings: varies
While installing solar panels to power your whole home is a great option, you can also choose simpler solar solutions. For example, research a solar hot water heater to see if it’s a good solution for your family.
Estimated Savings: up to 100% of electricity bill
Rate your power usage
Find out how you’re doing on energy conservation by using the NABERS Home Rating Calculator to rate your home and energy usage.
Estimated Savings: use the tool to find out!
Photo credits: Simon Cocks, Dendroica Cerulea