Live Well in Your Home

Our tips will help you improve your overall home’s energy efficiency, making it more economical to run and helping to reduce your electricity, gas and water bills.

Tips for the Whole House

Centre for Liveability Real Estate

Greenhouse-Gas-EmissionsThe following tips will help you improve your home’s energy efficiency, making it more economical to run and assisting to reduce your electricity, gas and water bills. Talk with your family or housemates about many of the tips contained in this guide and come up with an action plan for what you can do to reduce your energy bills and make the house more comfortable.

Understanding your home

Before making changes to your home, begin by understanding where the savings can be made and what features of the home make it comfortable (or uncomfortable!). Start with checking the climate zone the property is in by using the Centre for Liveability Real Estate climate zone map. Do you need to focus on heating, cooling or both? This will help you make informed decisions throughout the year.

Invest in a solar PV system

A solar PV system could help lower electricity bills
but you will need your landlord’s permission. Solar PV systems are becoming an increasingly affordable option so it may be a worthwhile investment for your landlord. If there is a solar PV system on the property, then speak with your landlord or property manager about the benefits you might receive. In strata developments rooftops (and all areas) external to the lot are generally common property, and owner’s corporation approval is needed for any installations on common property.

Switch to GreenPower

If you want to make that extra effort for the environment then one of the easiest ways is to simply choose the GreenPower option from your electricity retailer. Accredited GreenPower is electricity generated from clean, renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, wave and small-scale hydro plants, as well as landfill gas and biomass (waste). This can be more expensive, however, so you need to do some research and work out if you can afford it.

Accredited GreenPower products are individually assessed to verify that they comply with high environmental standards. Buying GreenPower means you are helping to support the development of the renewable energy industry and reducing the demand for electricity from the burning of fossil fuels.  For the biggest impact ask for 100% accredited GreenPower.

Lighting

Switch off lights when not in use and change to energy efficient light bulbs; these two actions will help reduce your power bills.

Turn off lights when not in use

If you’re not using a room or an outdoor entertaining area turn the lights off. Leaving outdoor lights on for long periods can double the lighting component of your electricity bill. Smart use of sensors and timers, particularly outdoors, can ensure that lights are only on when needed.

A note for renters: you will need your landlord’s permission for this change. See our Rent Smart Guide for information. 

Use the right bulb for the job

Make sure your lights are fit for their purpose.

Let in natural light

Natural lighting is free; make the most of it. Open blinds and curtains to let in natural light rather than turning on lights. Remember to close them at the end of the day to retain the heat in the house.

Replace incandescent light bulbs

Replace incandescent light bulbs with light emitting diode (LED) bulbs. LEDs are cheap to run – they can reduce running costs by 90% respectively – and they last much, much longer than incandescent bulbs. LED bulbs are becoming more readily available can last for up to 50,000 hours. That’s over 22 years at 6 hours use per day! A good quality 15 watt LED bulb has the same output as a 100 watt incandescent globe.

Don’t use halogen downlights

If your house is full of energy-hungry halogen downlights, replace them with good quality LED bulbs. Halogen downlights are the most inefficient type of lighting, with up to 90% of the energy used in the globe lost to heat. Or use low power LED spotlights or a lamp where you need focused light.

Ventilated halogen downlight fittings are effectively holes in the ceiling, so they can allow large amounts of warm air to flow out of the house directly into the roof cavity because the insulation is moved away from the fitting. Have covers (often called downlight mitts) installed over the back of each downlight fitting to eliminate this warm air loss. This also allows the roof insulation to be brought closer to the fitting. You will need your landlord’s permission before you make these changes.

Indoor halogen downlights produce a large amount of heat, and they can noticeably increase the temperature within a room — to the extent where you might have to run fans or an air-conditioner to offset the heat from the halogens!

Instead you could use LED spotlighting to reduce overall lighting consumption; buy floor and table lamps and fit them with CFLs or LED bulbs and leave the halogens off.

See our tips for choosing the right LED lighting for your house

A note for renters: you will need your landlord’s permission for this change. See our Rent Smart Guide for information.

Appliances

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Reach for the stars

When buying new appliances, whether for the kitchen, the laundry or the living room, look for the Energy Rating Label. The label gives the appliances a star rating between 1 and 10 stars. The greater the number of stars the higher the efficiency.

The Energy Rating Label scheme compares the energy consumption of electrical products and appliances to help you with your purchasing choices. The star ratings of all labelled products and appliances are also available on the Energy Rating website.

When comparing different appliances or equipment it’s important to look at comparative energy consumption, which is shown in kilowatt hours, rather than just the number of stars.

The Energy Rating App

Download the Energy Rating Calculator App to find the running costs of your household appliances anytime or anywhere, on an iPhone®, iPad®, iPod touch®, Android™ and Windows Phone.

Heating and cooling

Heating and cooling are the largest energy consuming activities in a home, but it doesn’t take much to reduce their impact.

Put on appropriate clothes

Before turning on the heater, put on a jumper, warm pants and shoes or slippers. By dressing appropriately for the weather you reduce the need for turning on the heater or air-conditioner. Your body loses most heat through exposed skin, your head, hands and feet.

Use a heated throw rug

Heated throw rugs are like an electric blanket for when you’re sitting. They use very little electricity when plugged into the wall and provide a lovely warmth right next to you. Remember to turn the heating right down when snuggling under these.

Use rugs on the floor

A cold timber, concrete or tiled floor can make you feel cold from the feet up. In winter, use rugs on these surfaces so they feel warm underfoot. Remove them in summer so the floor does feel cool.

Use heating and air conditioning wisely

Reducing the temperature on the thermostat of your heater or increasing it on your air-conditioner by just 1°C can reduce energy use by 10%. In winter, set the heater thermostat to a maximum of 18–20°C; in summer set your air-conditioner to a minimum of 26°C. If your thermostat is in a draughty area, stop those draughts. Ensure air-conditioners and heater filters are cleaned regularly; if clogged the fan uses more energy and air flow is reduced, reducing efficiency.

Use fans

Consider getting pedestal fans so you don’t have to use the air-conditioner in summer. If you have ceiling fans, use them in summer to keep air moving against the skin. In winter reverse-use them to help circulate warm air that may sit at the top of the ceiling, but only have them on a slow setting – any movement of air (even warm) will feel cold on the skin.

The summer setting should have the fan “pushing” air down while the winter setting should have the fan “pulling” the air up.

Heat and cool only what you need

Zone heating is one of the most effective ways to contain your heating bills. Only heat or cool rooms you are using, and keep the heat or cool in by keeping doors and windows, including internal and external blinds, closed. Leaving windows even slightly open can significantly increase costs, especially if there are air leaks on opposite sides of the house or on the ground floor/first storey; this creates a suction effect that multiplies air leakage.

Clean the fly screens

Ensure you keep your fly screens clean to allow more of the cool summer breeze in. You can use vinegar to clean the screens naturally.

Cool the house naturally

On hot, still summer days close all windows, doors and curtains to help keep the house cool. Depending on type of building material used in the home, it can store the heat during the day. At night or when that cool change arrives, take advantage of it by opening windows and doors to let the cooling breeze through the house. Hot, light air rises while cool, denser air falls so opening a window on the top level of your home can help suck out the hot air on the upper levels to make your home more comfortable.

Heat the house naturally

Allowing the sun to warm the house is free! On the east, north and west facing windows open the curtains to allow the sun to heat your house. Remember to close them at the end of the day to keep the heat in.

If there is another room in your house that has good orientation and is appropriate as a living room, consider changing your living area.

Improve the efficiency of your heating systems

Electric wall heaters, column heaters, panel heaters and little fan heaters are all inefficient means of warming a large room (better for a small space though). A reverse cycle air-conditioner* is much more efficient.

In strata developments installation of air-conditioners often affects common property e.g. one part is outside the lot with pipe connections also penetrating common property walls so you would need approval from the owners corporation to install one.

Have the heating systems maintained

For rental properties, ask your the landlord or property investment manager to have the heating system regularly maintained as this ensures it works efficiently. If you have a ducted system the maintenance contractors should check the connections of the ducts to the furnace, splitter boxes* and vents. If they have come off then you are pouring heating into your ceiling space or under your floor.

*If appropriate for your rental property

A note for renters: you will need your landlord’s permission for this change. See our Rent Smart Guide for information.

Hang heavy, lined curtains

It is important to cover the windows during extremely hot or cold weather as windows allow heat and cold to enter and leave the room. Heavy, lined curtains or blankets keep heat in during winter and heat out on hot summer days. For best results make sure they are close fitting, hang down to the floor, and have an overlap of 100mm each side of the window to prevent the cold air next to the glass from escaping into the warm room. For rental properties, check your strata scheme by-laws as some dictate what curtains must look like from the building’s exterior. The landlord may install curtaining for you.

A note for renters: you will need your landlord’s permission and may need the approval of the owners corporation for this change. See our Rent Smart Guide for information.

Centre for Liveability Real Estate

Centre for Liveability Real Estate

In addition to their expertise in residential real estate, The Centre for Liveability Real Estate also works collaboratively with the sustainable design, construction, manufacturing and assessment and industries in the development of information on this site.

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