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How you can be smarter with your energy

Created: Fri, 10 Jan 2020

Did you know that about 80% of us Australians have accounts with one of the big three: Energy Australia, AGL or Origin, even though there are many better deals out there. Much better for your pocket and the environment.

How you can be smarter with your energy

While we're not ones to rest on our laurels, we've listed our top 5 ways (aside from shopping around for a better deal) that we can all be smarter with our energy use.

No, not our emotional energy (although we know you'll be able to find some great online advice to help with those nasty energy vampires), we're talking about the energy (which is predominantly powered by fossil fuels) you consume in your home, office and most likely, as part of your commute.

1. Heating and cooling

Insulate your roof or ceiling
If you're lucky enough to own your home, 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 cheaply. There are simple temporary fixes like door snakes if you are rented and aren't in a position to make permanent modifications.

Seal your chimney with a damper
It seems like such an archaic concept in this day and age, but yes, people still have Chimney's. Sealing your Chimney 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 downlighting
In this case it's best to stick with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) as downlights penetrate the ceiling and insulation, causing heat loss.

Close all external windows and doors
When you're heating or cooling your home, closing all external windows and doors is very important.

Shade your windows
On a hot summers day, some times it's wise to start the day by keeping the blinds or curtains drawn to reduce the build up of heat. And the opposite in Winter - you'll keep the heat inside, where you want it most.

Turn on the air conditioner early
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.)

Set your air conditioner at the highest temperature setting at which you still feel cool enough; 25ºC is usually adequate and efficient - Each 1°C increase of the thermostat setting will save about 10% on your energy usage.

Install ceiling fans
Ceiling fans are much cheaper than air conditioning and have less impact environmentally. So, unless it's really hot, just use a fan.

2. Transport

Even with 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.

If your car is the typical gas guzzler and not electric but you aspire just like us to own an electric vehicle, rest assured we will soon see an influx of EV's in Australia which will be much more feasible for the average home.

3. Appliances

Choose the right washing machine
Sure, 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
Think about it - your fridge and freezer is working non-stop and the energy it consumes adds up quickly. Thankfully 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.

Note: All fridges on the market are CFC-free, so don't base you purchase decision on ‘CFC free' labels.

Unplug your appliances and devices when 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. You'd be surprised at how much energy appliances and devices draw when not in use!

Buy appliances with a good energy rating
Don't just think ‘the more stars, the better' because when it comes to your appliances - size does matter. 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. It's all about finding the right balance for your home without being excessive.

4. Water

Collected rainwater is ideal for watering your garden. You can 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.

While it might seem unattainable and possibly irrelevant to renters, there are small hacks to reuse your grey water without making fixture changes. Next time you shower, capture the water in a bucket on the floor of your shower and use that to water your plants. Win-win!

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 (don't worry about size in this case). Ratings are compulsory for all new domestic washing machines, dishwashers, showers, toilets, urinals and most taps.

Buy a water-efficient showerhead
What might seem like a small change can in fact have tremendous water saving benefits with 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

We kept this one till last because we believe this is the most powerful tip yet:

The average Australian household emits around 14 tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, half of which is from electricity generation. Yes, this contributes to climate change and global warming.You can see the percentage of energy distribution here. Forewarning: You may not like what you see.

One simple, relatively cheap and smart way that we can all start to make a difference is by switching your electricity to green power. This means the power we use is generated from clean renewable sources such as the sun, wind, water and waste power, rather than coal - a fossil fuel.

Green power is available to all households and generally costs slightly more than standard electricity. What you'll pay depends on the percentage of Green Power and the retailer you choose.

But, how much would you pay to reduce your carbon footprint and possibly slow down the impact of climate change?

Author: Ross from EnergyIQ

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