10 ways to make your home more energy efficient

6 March 2024

 

  • Discover how making your home more energy efficient can lead to significant cost savings on energy bills over time and increased financial stability.
  • Enhancing energy efficiency through home upgrades also means you can help save the planet by reducing energy consumption and lowering your carbon footprint.
  • Explore available government incentives and rebates for energy-efficient home improvements, making the process more affordable and accessible.

 

It may have been easy for Kermit the frog to be green, but for the rest of us, it can be challenging.  With renewable energy technology improving every day, along with some savvy home-energy hacking tips, it’s getting easier to reduce your carbon footprint around the house while also putting more money back into your wallet.

Decarbonising our homes – minimising the carbon dioxide emissions produced – is key. We can do this by making our homes as self-sufficient as possible: minimising consumption and generating and using sustainable energy. Electrification is another piece of the decarbonisation puzzle. While electricity isn’t a renewable energy source in itself, it can be generated using renewable energy, like solar, making it a cleaner option than electricity generated from non-renewable sources such as coal, oil or natural gas.

Opportunities to make your home greener and save money are ever-expanding on both macro (installing solar panels) and micro levels (blocking the draught under the door). And with a host of national incentives and local rebates, there are even more savings waiting for you. Let’s get started.

Upgrade your windows

Windows and other glazing usually account for more heat gain or loss than any other element in your home. Replacing windows isn’t a low-cost solution but incentives and loans, such as CommBank’s Green Loan, can make it more achievable. Fitting blinds or curtains is easier on the bank account and closing them in the morning on a hot day helps your home stay cool while closing them at night during winter keeps it toasty. And use natural ventilation: open windows opposite each other and take advantage of cooling cross breezes.

Use energy-efficient LED lights

By replacing incandescent bulbs with more energy-efficient LED ones, you can reduce electricity consumption and lower utility costs. According to Energy Makeovers, they last longer and use up to 85 per cent less power. So, if lighting costs you $500 a year, moving to LED could reduce costs to $75. Have downlights? “Try surface-mounted lights instead of recessed, which let air and heat come through,” says Hamish White, owner of sustainable building company Sanctum Homes.

Insulation, insulation, insulation

Heating and cooling are behind 40 per cent of energy use in the average Australian home. A well-insulated home prevents or slows heat flow. “Retrofitting ceiling, roof and under-floor insulation can be straightforward,” says White, “but it can be trickier and more expensive for walls.” Still, it may be worth it: the Australian Government’s Your Home portal suggests that roof and ceiling insulation can cut heating and cooling costs by up to 45 per cent.

“People often forget the reverse function of ceiling fans,” says Hamish White. “Use it to redistribute heat accumulating at the ceiling in winter.”

Get your timing right

Start by checking your bill. “If your tariff is based on ‘time of use’, electricity is cheaper during off-peak times,” says Alex Matthews, CommBank’s environmental and social executive general manager. You could save money by changing the time you use appliances. Consider using timers on dishwashers and washing machines to run them during the day. “As a bonus, when the sun is shining and more solar power is in the grid, you’ll generate less emissions.”

Switch from gas to electricity

If your cooktop is due for an upgrade, consider an induction model. Much loved by chefs, they heat with precision, meaning they only heat the surface of your pan and not the space around it so heat is not lost or wasted. If you’re upgrading from electric, the swap should be simple but it’s best to talk to an electrician. Look at government websites and organisations to learn more about making the switch from gas to electricity.

Seal those leaks

If heat is escaping under your front door, the dollars aren’t far behind. Keeping your home airtight is one of the simplest ways to maintain a steady indoor temperature and lower heating and cooling costs. The quick wins involve little more than a trip to Bunnings. Door seals or draught excluders are a no-brainer. White suggests using silicone to seal skirting boards, floorboards and architraves around doors. “Also, look for old, unused cooling ducts and block them up, preferably with plaster. They’re basically big holes letting heat out or cold air in.”

Utilise energy ratings

Not all appliances are created equal so use the government-regulated Energy Rating Label to compare energy efficiency when you’re shopping for that new washing machine. Quite simply, the more stars on the label, the more efficient it is compared to its peers and the higher the star rating, the less energy you’ll use (and the more money you’ll save). Stars go from one to six – but, with technology improving all the time, some appliances now go up to 10. The Energy Rating website advises working out what features and size you need in your appliance first then using the star rating and the Energy Rating Calculator to make a final decision.

Upgrade your appliances

Look to upgrade your appliances and water fixtures. Much like the government-regulated Energy Rating Label, the Water Efficiency and Labelling Standards scheme compares the most water-efficient appliances and fixtures, including showers, faucets, toilets, dishwashers, washing machines and flow controllers. Install low-flow taps and shower heads – they guzzle less water by mixing air into the water flow. Choice reports that going from a nine-litre to a 7.5-litre flow rate can mean saving more than 5000 litres of water per year.

“Good solar installers can help you work through details, like what size panels are best for you, where to place them and how to access government rebates,” says Matthews. 

Harness the power of the sun

Consider installing solar panels to harness renewable energy, reduce dependency on traditional power sources and potentially earn credits through net metering. “Rooftop solar technology has become cheaper and more powerful,” says Matthews. “A typical payback period for a system would be three to five years, while the benefits of generating your own electricity can last much longer than that. With finance available to spread the upfront cost over a period of up to 10 years, the savings in energy bills can be greater than the additional repayments. That would mean cost-of-living savings straight after solar installation.”

More than 30 per cent of Australian households now have solar power. Those with batteries, electric cars and heat-pump hot-water systems are able to use solar energy to power more of their home.

Set-up costs differ according to the location and size of your solar system but according to Solar Choice, a commonly sized 6kW system will cost between $4000 and $5000 in most states. You can find price comparisons on the Solar Choice website. To take advantage of the growing government incentives and programs, check your state government website as well as yourhome.gov.au and energy.gov.au.

If you use a lot of your energy in peak times in the evening or want to use more of the energy from your solar panels then batteries can be a great choice. And they’ve come down in price considerably in recent years.

Move to a heat-pump hot-water system

Once you’ve got your shiny new solar panels installed, it’s the perfect time to upgrade your hot water unit to match. Moving to a heat-pump hot-water system can reduce your energy bill. Similar to an air conditioner, the unit takes heat from the ambient air outside and uses it to warm water. Installing one of these energy-efficient systems can be a big step towards electrifying your home. 

Things you should know

This article was originally published in Brighter magazine

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