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Clever energy-reducing ideas for your home

Have you been looking for ideas to save energy at home and make your home more energy efficient?

Amid soaring fuel prices and volatile electricity rates, it’s hard to ignore the economic and market uncertainties in the leading oil-producing countries. Not only does reducing energy help to reduce energy costs but it’s also seen as a solution to the problem of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Most electricity comes from the national grid and is generally produced by coal-powered plants – which produce the largest amount of greenhouse gases. These plants contribute significantly to global warming.

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Australia’s energy sector was the largest and fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Even with all the solar and other renewable energy we use, Australians are one of the highest per-capita greenhouse gas polluters in the world, and it is energy used in Australian households that is responsible for the biggest amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

Approximately one fifth of Australia’s total emissions come from homes, the equivalent of 15 tonnes per household per year. This includes everyday transportation and household waste which goes to landfill. 

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What exactly does it mean to be energy efficient?

Energy efficiency is the goal to reduce the amount of energy required to provide products and services. “Energy efficient” is now a way of life for homeowners who embrace or want to start their journey of sustainable living.

Most of the energy we use in Australia comes from electricity, wood and natural gas. Electricity represents 50% of energy used in Australian households. This is a large component of the household budget, and for the sake of cost alone, people are focusing more on energy efficiency.

Unfortunately, electricity also contributes to 85% of greenhouse gas emissions, because electricity is still mainly produced by using fossil fuels – so the more energy efficient we become, the less emissions we’ll generate.

We are lucky to be living in a time with amazing technology and innovation. Smart technology, appliances, transportation efficiencies and useful apps are part of our every day lives, making it easier for us to live more efficiently.

Australians can reduce their electricity related emissions by implementing smart home solutions, energy efficiency strategies and using renewable energy sources – and they are all closely related.

Choosing the most appropriate form of renewable energy for your home, such as solar panels and solar hot water will not only reduce your energy bills, but simultaneously help save the environment.

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Learn how to conserve energy and costs with these expert tips for energy efficient living

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1.       Start a compost pile

You don’t need a ton of space in your backyard to start a compost pile. Compost is the result of organic waste that’s kept in a pile or container that decomposes over time. Your fruit and vegetable waste not only becomes valuable fertilizer for your lawn or garden, but it reduces the amount of trash you produce on a daily basis.

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2.       Replace Incandescent Bulbs

In 2014, manufacturers stopped producing 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent lightbulbs (100-watt and 75-watt bulbs were already phased out). Halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs offer longer lasting light and are more energy-efficient than your old incandescent bulbs. Since the average home uses 40 bulbs, switching over to greener bulbs is a great way to save on your electrical bill.

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3.       Install Solar Panels

Although solar panels aren’t exactly cheap, they’re becoming a popular way to heat hot water and generate electricity for homes. Solar panels have many benefits! They help you save money on energy bills in the long run, promote lower fossil fuel usage and may help you qualify for annual tax incentives. Typically, they are installed on your roof and cut your electricity costs by generating energy independently of your utility company.

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4.       Purchase energy efficient appliances

All white goods now come with an energy star label. The energy star is an international standard for energy efficient products. The more stars, the more energy efficient the product is. By saving energy, you save money and help protect the environment.

Sometimes, choosing the energy efficient option when buying products costs you nothing extra, in other cases it should be looked on as a long-term investment. For example, buying an energy efficient fridge can be more expensive, but the money you save on energy bills soon makes up for it.

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5.       Replace your desktop computer

Most tech experts estimate that you should replace your computer every four years. When the time comes for your desktop computer, consider replacing it with a laptop. Laptops use up to 80% less electricity and run on less energy. Laptop computers typically peak at a maximum energy draw of only 60 watts, whereas most desktops peak around 175 watts. Laptops don’t come with a cheap price tag, but they are greener.

6.       Engage a specialist to improve energy efficiency

Whether you are a business, an individual working from home, or a householder interested in maximising energy efficiency in your environment, there are often simple steps you can take to reduce energy consumption.  Consider reducing your current energy and water usage and the amount of waste generated from your everyday activities – no matter how large or small.

There are tools you can use to figure out where most of your electricity is going in your home. A home energy monitor an help you understand which appliances are using the most electricity on a day-to-day basis.

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7.       Install a programmable or smart thermostat

A programmable or smart thermostat can be set to automatically turn off or reduce heating and cooling during the times when you are asleep or away. When you install a programmable thermostat, you eliminate wasteful energy use from heating and cooling without upgrading your HVAC system or sacrificing any comfort.

On average, a programmable thermostat can save you $180 per year. Programmable thermostats come in different models that can be set to fit your weekly schedule. Additional features of programmable thermostats can include indicators for when to replace air filters or HVAC system problems, which also improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system.

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8.       Reduce your water heating expenses

Water heating is a major contributor to your total energy consumption. Other than purchasing an energy efficient water heater, there are three methods of reducing your water heating expenses: you can simply use less hot water, turn down the thermostat on your water heater, or insulate your water heater and the first six feet of hot and cold water pipes.

If you are considering replacing your water heater with an efficient model, you should keep in mind two factors: the type of water heater that meets your needs and the type of fuel it will use. For example, tankless water heaters are energy efficient, but they are also a poor choice for large families as they cannot handle multiple and simultaneous uses of hot water. Efficient water heaters can be anywhere between 8% and 300% more energy efficient than a conventional storage water heater. Also, be sure to account for its lengthy service life of 10 to 15 years in which water-heating savings can accumulate.

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9.       Weatherize your home

Weatherizing, or sealing air leaks around your home, is a great way to reduce your heating and cooling expenses. The most common sources of air leaks into your home are vents, windows, and doors. To prevent these leaks, you should ensure that there are no cracks or openings between the wall and vent, window, or doorframe.

To seal air leaks between stationary objects, such as the wall and window frame, you can apply caulk. For cracks between moving objects, such as operable windows and doors, you can apply weather stripping. Weather stripping and caulking are simple air sealing techniques that typically offer a return on investment in less than a year. Air leaks can also occur through openings in the wall, floor, and ceiling from plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring.

Air leaking out of your home is most often from the home interior into your attic through small openings. Whether it is through ducts, light fixtures, or the attic hatch, hot air will rise and escape through small openings. As the natural flow of heat is from warmer to cooler areas, these small openings can make your heating bill even higher if your attic is not sufficiently insulated. To reap the full amount of savings from weatherization, you should consider fully insulating your home.

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10.  Make the switch to a smart home
Home automation done right can provide better energy efficiency and lower utility costs. It can even enhance your comfort and reduce labour.

All kinds of devices are already part of the Internet of Things; efficiently working away in smart homes, including:

  • Security cameras

  • Locks

  • Lights

  • Whitegoods (refrigerators, washing machines) etc.

  • Video and audio equipment

  • Home irrigation systems

  • Residential weather stations

  • Thermostats

  • Air conditioners, fans and heaters

As mentioned, solar panel arrays and battery systems help to power them all.

It’s not always a case of having to replace appliances to create a smart home. Add-on technology is available depending on the application. Choosing a smart home brand that has widespread product compatibility is an important decision that will help homeowners connect to more devices, and at a lower cost.

The more energy saving tips you tackle, the greater your chances of saving energy at home — and potentially saving more on your monthly energy bill as a result. 

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Monica Limanto