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Reduce your carbon footprint, help save the environment and save money to boot.

Five ways to reduce your household's energy use

Chantelle Scodeller

By Andy Kollmorgen

The increasing popularity of global energy-saving initiatives like

Earth Hour shows us that, not only is there an overwhelming need for

us all to conserve energy and start to preserve natural resources,

there's also a great deal of interest around the world in finding out

the best ways to save power on an individual level.

We've looked into the issue to help Australian households reduce their

energy consumption, so you can save money and have a positive impact

on the global environment.

1. Appliances

Unplug your appliances when they're not in use

Your TV, computer, microwave and even some washing machines have a

'standby' mode, which means they're still using energy even when

they're not in use.

Buy appliances with a good energy rating

The more stars, the better – but think about size first. Often it's

easier for a larger model to be more efficient (and therefore have

more stars) than a smaller one. However, since it is bigger, its

overall energy consumption is usually higher.

Pick the right washing machine

Although they usually cost more to buy, most front-loader washing

machines save you money over time and are kinder to the environment

because they use less power, water and detergent than top loaders.

Choose an energy-efficient fridge

Your fridge and freezer is working non-stop and the energy it consumes

adds up quickly. All new fridges sold in Australia must meet Minimum

Energy Performance Standards (MEPS). Look for a model that uses a

hydrocarbon, such as butane or pentane, as the refrigerant and/or

blowing agent for the insulation foam. All fridges on the market are

CFC-free, so don't base you purchase decision on "CFC free" labels.

See our Fridge buying guide.

2. Heating and cooling

Insulate your roof or ceiling

This will help keep your home a pleasant temperature in summer and

winter. It saves you money on energy bills and pays for itself over a

relatively short time.


You can draught-proof your home by making sure doors and windows are

properly sealed – you can buy draught excluders or window seals very


Seal your chimney with a damper

This will help to keep heat from escaping in winter – assuming the

fireplace isn't in use – and help stop hot air from coming in during

the warmer months.

Avoid installing downlights

Besides using a lot of energy, they penetrate the ceiling and

insulation, causing heat loss. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs)

are a good option for lighting.

Close all external windows and doors

This is especially important when your heater or air conditioner is running.

Shade your windows

During hot summer days this will help to keep the heat out, and on

cold nights curtains or blinds help to keep the heat in.

Turn on the air conditioner early

If you have an air conditioner, try to use it only on really hot or

humid days, and if you expect a hot day, pre-empt the heat rather than

waiting until your home is already hot. (Similarly, start heating

early when expecting a cold day.)

Look for programmable timer and thermostat controls. Set your air

conditioner at the highest temperature setting at which you still feel

cool enough; 25ºC is usually adequate. Each 1°C increase of the

thermostat setting will save about 10% on your energy usage. See our

Air conditioners buying guide.

Install ceiling fans

Ceiling fans are much cheaper than air conditioning and have less

impact environmentally.

3. Transport

Even if you have a fuel-efficient car, whenever possible it's a good

idea to leave it at home and walk, cycle, catch public transport or

car pool.

4. Water

Water-efficiency labels

The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme allows you

to compare the water efficiency of different products – the more stars

the better. Ratings are compulsory for all new domestic washing

machines, dishwashers, showers, toilets, urinals and most taps.


Collected rainwater is ideal for watering your garden. Contact your

water authority and local council for advice on how to install and

maintain a rainwater tank.


Recycled greywater from showers, laundry tubs and washing machines can

be stored for use on the garden (or even in toilets and washing

machines), or it can be diverted to the garden with a plumbed-in

diverter. Conditions may apply in the area where you live – contact

your local council for advice.

Buy a water-efficient showerhead

These are great water-saving devices for daily use. However, if you

have an instantaneous hot-water system, the flow rate of a low-flow

shower head may not be enough to start it. Check with your installer.

If you have a gravity-fed water system (the water flows from your tank

to your taps without being pumped), make sure you buy a shower head

that's designed to cope with low pressure.

5. Green power

The average household emits around 14 tonnes of greenhouse gases every

year, half of which is from electricity generation. This contributes

to climate change and global warming.

One simple and relatively cheap way that we can all start to make a

difference is by switching our electricity to "green" power. This

means using power generated from clean renewable sources such as the

sun, wind, water and waste power, rather than coal.

Green power is available to all households and generally costs

slightly more than standard electricity. What you'll pay depends on

the percentage of GreenPower and the retailer you choose. Use one

that's accredited by the GreenPower program, an initiative of the ACT,

New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western

Australia Governments.


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