Energy Efficiency Test
How to start saving!
Rising power prices are in the news and prompting homeowners to take a fresh look at energy consumption. The good news is there’s plenty you can do to lower your energy bills and a range of resources to help you save without compromising on comfort.
Every household situation is different. So the best place to start is by understanding how much energy you use each day and which energy saving actions will have the biggest impact in your home.
Things to consider include:
- your choice of energy retailer
- the size and features of your home
- the energy efficiency of your appliances
- your lifestyle
- the way you manage and use the equipment around your home.
This guide has been designed to give you the big picture as well as some of the nitty gritty facts on energy consumption so you can make better choices starting today.
Step one will give you an idea of how much you can save, as well as a quick look at what’s behind energy price increases and some pointers on the key factors affecting your bills.
Step two is about making sense of your energy bill and identifying energy hot spots around the home so you know where to start.
Step three is all about what you can do, including how to compare electricity and gas retailers in your area, the pros and cons of time-of-use pricing, off-peak hot water, and smart meters. There’s information on energy-efficient appliances and some no cost energy saving actions you can take now.
Step 1 – Be Informed
How much can you save?
By using energy wisely and adopting smart energy saving measures, you can save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut down on energy wastage at home while meeting your needs for convenience and comfort.
Whether it’s washing clothes in cold water, adjusting your thermostat or turning off power at the wall – it all adds up. An average family of four could be saving hundreds of dollars a year by making just a few changes.
Examples of possible savings over one year include:
- Washing clothes in cold rather than hot water could save you around $124
- Getting rid of the second fridge could save you around $155
- Using a clothesline instead of an electric dryer once a week could save you around $69
- Switching off gaming consoles after use could save you up to $169.
These amounts are a guide only. Exact savings will vary depending on the age of your appliances, the size of your home, the climatic zone you live in and the energy prices you pay.
If you need to upgrade a major appliance, buying an energy-efficient one is often a worthwhile investment over the life of your product. By replacing your electric storage hot water system with a solar hot water system, you could make significant savings on your energy bill. The amount you save depends on your individual circumstances.
What impact can I have?
Households produce 21 per cent of Australia’s carbon pollution. That means the average Australian household creates around 14 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, including private transport use.
So every household that takes action large or small is not only helping their hip pocket, but also contributing to Australia’s efforts to tackle climate change and build a clean energy future.
What’s powering the price rises?
Electricity prices have risen significantly over the past four years and are expected to increase further—largely due to increases in electricity network infrastructure costs.
The ‘network’ is the transmission and distribution system of poles and wires that carries electricity to your home. The repair and replacement of ageing poles and wires, increased peak demand (periods placing the highest demand on energy use—such as hot summer days), population growth and rising standards for power reliability are all contributing to the network cost increases.
The way we produce and distribute energy is also changing:
- New developments in the energy market, like the introduction of new technology to make our supply systems smarter and to help us better manage our energy consumption and the growing use of renewable energy like wind and solar, all involve up-front investment and costs.
- The introduction of a carbon price to drive investment in renewable and less polluting energy options at least cost to consumers is also expected to involve a small increase to average household energy costs—around $3.30 a week for electricity and around $1.50 for gas over the first few years.
- Over the long term these developments will give us a more reliable, modern and efficient power industry and help to build a clean energy future for Australia.
While a range of factors will continue to affect electricity prices, you can save money by reducing your energy consumption. Now is a great time to become an energy-efficient household through simple actions and practical know-how.
Key factors impacting your energy bills
A range of factors determine the amount of energy used in individual households. Some reflect changing lifestyle preferences, while others relate to the climate and the type of housing where you live.
For example, over the 15 year period from 1993 to 2009, the average size of a new house in Australia increased from 189 square metres to 245 square metres—one of the largest in the world. At the same time, the number of people per household has decreased, further increasing energy use per person. Together, these changes have increased energy use per person because it takes more energy to heat and cool a large house and that increased cost is paid by fewer people.
Home entertainment is another area of energy use that has grown rapidly with an amazing range of televisions, DVD’s and gaming consoles now in use in many Australian homes.
The main factors impacting your energy use include:
The local climate where you live—including the range of temperatures throughout the year and the requirements this places on heating, cooling and other appliances.
The total size of your home, the number of rooms and whether you live in an apartment, townhouse or freestanding home.
The design of your home—including its orientation and whether passive heating and cooling opportunities are used. For example, living areas and windows facing north and summer shading on the western side of the house to reduce need for heating and cooling.
Features and appliances—the size, number and energy efficiency of your major appliances including entertainment items, computers and additional fixtures such as a pool, spa and outdoor entertainment areas with additional lighting. The more appliances you have and the more you use them, no matter how efficient they are, the more energy you will be using.
Habits and lifestyle—the behaviour of the people in your house including how much heating, cooling, cooking, showering, washing and clothes drying is done.
While you may have to live with some features in your present home (such as size and orientation), you can still take advantage of local conditions and make your home function as efficiently as possible. For example, during the hotter months it makes good sense to take advantage of passive including opening windows to let in cooling breezes and the use of ceiling fans to circulate air and reduce the need for energy hungry air conditioners.
One of the most important times to consider energy efficiency is when you are planning changes to your home, or building a new one. Building an energy efficient home should cost no more than a conventional home. The decisions you make at the design stage could help to ensure that you don’t build in costly energy bills for years to come.
Step 2 -Understanding your energy bill
The best way to manage your energy use is to measure it. Your energy bill contains the information you need to monitor how much electricity you are using.
What’s your energy bill telling you?
The features on electricity bills vary depending on who your retailer is—but all bills have key details in common.
- Average daily usage
- Greenhouse gas emissions
- Charges for this bill
- Fixed charges
- Variable charges (consumption charges) – relates to the usage
- Renewable energy tariffs
- Tim of use tariffs
- Off-peak hot water
- Inclining block tariffs (IBTs)
- Regulated and market contracts
Identifying energy hot spots around the home
To reduce your electricity you need to know where you are using energy.
The major sources of energy use around the typical Australian home are spread across heating water, heating and cooling and refrigeration and other electrical appliances. Sandby power, lighting and cooking generally make up most of the rest of your household energy bill. Growing sources of energy use around the home include air conditioning, entertainment systems, computing, pools and spas, and outdoor lighting.
To make the biggest impact on your energy use and costs:
- Target the biggest sources of energy use around your home first—such as hot water and heating and cooling.
- Identify ways you can carry out household functions more efficiently. This includes correct installation and placement of equipment, and keeping it well maintained.
- Look for the high impact, no and low cost changes you can make easily.
When replacing or upgrading household items, consider the most energy efficient option you can afford.
STEP 3 – Making the switch—compare electricity market offers in your area
One way to reduce your electricity costs is to shop around to see if you are getting the best deal for your particular energy needs. In all states, except Tasmania and the Northern Territory, you have a choice of retailers to go with. In Western Australia, you can only choose providers if your energy use is over a certain amount.
There’s a range of calculators or estimators to help with finding the best option for your household.
5 ways to reduce your energy bill now that won’t cost a thing
- Hot water—potentially the single biggest source of energy use in your home. Wash clothes in cold water and only wash full loads. Run the dishwasher only when it’s full and scrape plates first then cold water rinse if they need it. Fit a low-flow showerhead (it will pay for itself in no time) and take shorter showers.
- Climate control—heating and cooling are usually the next biggest energy guzzlers. In winter, set your heating thermostats to 18–20 degrees Celsius. In summer, set your cooling thermostats to 25–27 degrees Celsius. Every extra degree increases your heating and cooling energy use by between 5 and 10 per cent. Close internal doors and only heat or cool the rooms you are using.
- Window watch—up to 40 per cent of the heat in your home could be leaking out your windows. In winter, open curtains to let the sun in and close curtains before it gets dark to keep the heat in – especially while your heater is on. In summer, close curtains during the hottest part of the day. At night you can open curtains and windows to let warm air out and cool breezes in.
- Use appliances wisely—they could be responsible for as much as one third of your energy bill. Turn off additional fridges and freezers when not needed and think about getting rid of these. Use lids on pots while cooking, fill the kettle and pots with only as much water as you need. Reduce pool filter running time to the safe minimum set out in the manual. Dry clothes on the line not in a dryer—it’s free!
- Turn it off at the wall—standby power can account for more than 10 per cent to your power bill. Any items with a little light on or clock are using power, and your mobile phone charger is drawing power even when your phone is not plugged in. Turn off appliances at the wall when you’re not using them—it’s a very easy way to save energy. Consider smart power boards and take control of your technology.