ACT Government data reveals that while the nation’s capital has some of the lowest residential electricity and gas prices across the country, it also has high levels of energy use. However, when it comes to saving energy in and around the home, there are countless ways to increase efficiency, cut down on usage and reduce your bills.
From lights and appliances, to insulation and solar, here’s our simple guide to help you save energy, money, and look after the planet, all year around.
A simple way to get smart with your home’s energy usage is to start with lighting. For rooms and lamps, opt for energy-efficient bulbs such as Light Emitting Diode (LED) and Compact Fluorescent Lighting (CFL). Smart lighting is also starting to make waves across Australia, where lights are wirelessly connected to WiFi and controlled by an app. With smart lights “always on” it would be easy to assume they’re costly and not necessarily efficient, but Choice research has found that some smart lighting options are just as cost effective as LED.
Another way to improve your home’s energy usage is with your appliances. According to the ACT Government, appliances can account for around 30% of home energy use. The major appliances, chiefly your washing machine, dryer, fridge and freezer, are huge energy consumers. While you’re not likely to upgrade these items regularly, when you do, opt for those with a high energy efficiency rating. The more stars advertised on the product, the more energy-efficient it is. When it comes to your fridge and freezer, check that all seals are in good working order. Leaking air means fridges and freezers work overtime to keep your food cold, essentially increasing your energy usage and costing you money. Also, when using your washing machine, opt for a cold wash which uses less energy, and avoid using the dryer and use a clothes rack instead.
Heating, cooling and insulation
Heating and cooling systems are major energy users in the home and their efficiency should be reviewed regularly. According to ACT Government research, upgrading your gas heating system to a reverse cycle air conditioning system can reduce emissions by around 14 tonnes over the system's life while saving around $500 annually on heating bills. Likewise, upgrading your gas hot water system to an electric heat pump can help reduce emissions by about 10 tonnes over the pump's life while saving about $150 per year.
According to the ACT Government's ActSmart initiative, an uninsulated Canberra home can lose 40% of its heat through the ceiling, 20-30% through the walls and windows, and around 10% through the floor. Inadequate insulation can mean that in winter, warm air escapes, all while letting cold air in, and the reverse in summer. This leads to your heating and cooling systems working overtime to regulate your home’s temperature, resulting in unnecessarily high energy bills.
If you think you might have poor insulation in your walls, roof and attic, seek the advice of a professional to come out and conduct an assessment. When it comes to doors and windows, check if they are well-sealed or if you can feel a draught around the frames and under the door. Gaps and cracks around windows can be easily addressed with a sealant. If you have old windows, you might opt to speak to a professional about your options for replacement or even invest in double-glazed glass. If this is out of your budget, installing thick curtains and window blinds is an extremely cost-effective way of increasing your home’s insulation. Likewise with doors, installing a weather strip is simple and inexpensive, as is buying tubular draught blockers and putting them at the base of doors, great for trapping air and helping to keep your home’s temperature regulated. Head to your local hardware store for advice and options.
With winter coming soon, you might also want to review your flooring. Bare tiles and slate can get very cold and even the smallest gaps between wooden floorboards can leak cold air indoors. An easy and budget-friendly way to combat this is by using rugs, which can also add comfort and a stylish touch to your home.
Flick the switch
You can save a lot of energy and money by turning appliances off at the wall. Even though they’re not in use, they are still using energy. Apart from your fridge and freezer, why not aim to turn off all electrical appliances when you finish using them, or when you go to bed or leave the home. Items such as microwaves, coffee machines, TVs, sound systems, air-conditioners, washing machines and computers don’t need to be on 24/7. The same thinking applies to lights, lamps, heaters and wall thermostats. Take the time to inspect your home — not only the main living areas and bedrooms but your study, garage and shed too. Look behind cabinets, couches and large pieces of furniture. You’ll be surprised at how many electrical items are turned on at the wall.
Being energy smart is not only good for your wallet but the benefits to the environment are exponential. In 2018, the ACT Government announced a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100% (net zero emissions) by 2045. The ACT also has a target of a 100% renewable electricity supply from this year. One of the many ways Canberrans can help achieve this target is by installing roof-top solar panels. Solar is an extremely effective way to save energy without costing the earth. In fact, more than 10% of Canberra’s household rooftops have solar panels, making the city the solar capital of Australia. According to Choice research, the average price across Australian cities for a 5kW solar panel system is $5100, and costs are coming down. While this is a significant outlay of money, over the long-term this one-time purchase can save you hundreds, if not thousands on future power bills, and can also add value to your home.
For helpful tips, videos and fact sheets about how to get energy smart at home, head to www.actsmart.act.gov.au