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Coal fired power plants create
huge amounts of greenhouse gas
Energy prices are rising because supplies of oil, gas and coal are diminishing.
The poor, especially in China and India, are becoming wealthier and as their spending power increases they start to buy the everyday energy-hungry luxuries enjoyed by people in wealthy countries.
This has a huge effect on the supply of oil, gas and and coal and because the supply of enewable energy resources are still being developed you either have to face-up to higher energy costs, or find ways to save.
To save energy, think differently
- When buying appliances, consider their energy rating, not just their sleek lines and sexy styling.
- Every time you turn something on remind yourself that it’s costing you money. Every Watt of power you don’t use, is a Watt you don’t have to pay for.
- Before you turn on an appliance, ask yourself if you can do something differently - like putting on a jumper and slippers instead of turning on the heater.
- When you are furnishing your house, think not only about how your furnishings look, but also about how the furnishings can work to help save on your energy bill - for example using certain types of curtains, blinds and shutters can greatly reduce heat loss from a home and using a low-wattage lamp rather than overhead lights in your favorite reading spot can also help you save.
- When you are planning a new home or major renovation keep in mind that a few simple design rules can save you a lot of money (see this article: Environmental House Design for more information).
- Think about what you can do with the extra money you will have because of your savings.
Energy saving tips for everyday life
In summer, keep doors and windows closed during the hottest part of the day to keep the cooler night air in the house, and the outside heat out. Once the house warms, open doors and windows as much as possible to let breezes in for the cooling effect.
In winter, capture the sun's warmth by opening curtains and blinds first thing in the morning, then closing them when the sun goes down to stop the warmth from escaping.
A piece of light material can be dampened and hung in doorways or windows, as it dries it will take heat from the immediate area. This was the principal behind the old Coolgardie safe, which was used before there were refrigerators. This method can also be used for beds and babies cots. It is surprising how well it can work.
In summer use ceiling
fans or portable fans
Seal openings in doors and windows. Draughts can let cold or heat into the house, which will increase heating or cooling bills, so seal openings in doors and windows. Draught excluders and weather stripping are easily fitted.
In summer use ceiling fans or portable fans in place of air conditioners, as they are much cheaper to run.
Use a hot water bottle or two to warm the bed, and extra blankets instead of an electric blanket. Hot water bottles are a great way to avoid 'cold feet syndrome' when you first hop into bed.
Turn off lights and heating when the room is not being used. Sensors that will turn off lights automatically when people enter or leave the room can be installed to save on nagging!
The most energy efficient lighting is natural light. It is solar powered and does not use batteries.
Replace halogen downlights with LED downlights.
Don't leave your appliances on stand-by use power, turn them off at the wall switch. If you have several appliances close together (e.g. TV & sound-system), save time by plugging them all into a single power board. It is then a simple matter to turn them all off at once. You may think that this will save little, but if you add lots of 'littles' together, it makes a difference. It has been estimated that appliances left on standby can add as much as 10% to a power bill!
Consider the energy consumption of a TV before purchase-a small LCD TV will use 60 watts of power compared to a large plasma that can use around 450 watts. Remember, the larger the screen, the more power it will use. Once you have the TV, turn it off if it is not being used.
Boiling the kettle is 50% more efficient than heating water on a stove top. Only fill the kettle with enough water for what you want to use. Boiling water that will not be used is wasteful and adds to the power bill.
Use a broom to sweep hard floors instead of vacuuming. It is just as easy!
Use a motion sensor outdoor light instead of leaving them on overnight. These can also be solar powered to save even more energy.
Some libraries have energy measuring devices that can be loaned out, to measure just how much energy is being used by things around the home. These can also be bought, though some of them can be expensive. Measuring how much various appliances use can be a good way to show the family where big savings can be made.
In the bathroom
Hot water use accounts for around 25% of home energy use. Any savings made here is money that stays in your bank account. Install the right size system for your family. Too small and you’ll run out of hot water, but too large and operating costs will be excessive.
Turn down your water heater thermostat. Turning it down will also extend the life of the heater, as it slows corrosion and mineral build up.
Fit water saving heads to showers. Encourage the family to take shorter showers, thus using less hot water.
Fix dripping taps. A leaky hot water tap can waste a lot of heated water.
Switch off the hot water heater if you are going away for more than a week.
Rather than using an electric exhaust fan shower with the window partially open to avoid moisture build up in the air.
In the laundry
Solar powered clothes dryer
Install clotheslines outdoors and use them. No longer does a clothes line have to be a huge object taking up lots of yard space. There are lots of different designs that can be hung against the wall, different shaped ones, ones that fold up when not being used, or portable ones that can be moved into sunny areas, and brought inside or under cover to continue the clothes drying. This is directly using solar power to dry your clothes, and the power of the sun is free! Even if you partly dry your clothes this way, and have to finish using a clothes dryer, it will save a lot on electricity costs. Clothes dryers use a lot of power. Additionally, clothes, sheets and towels that are dried in the open air smell and feel better.
If you do use a clothes dryer, set it to the lowest setting whenever you can.
Washing clothes in cold water uses less power, as you aren’t paying to heat the water.
Wash full loads, each load takes the same amount of energy.
Compare energy rating of washing machines and driers when purchasing. Buy the most efficient. Front loading washing machines are usually the most efficient.
In the kitchen
A second fridges is expensive to run, so get rid of it and use an 'Esky' (cooler) or large container filled with ice for times (like parties) when you need extra cold drinks. This will save on both space and electricity.
Buy the smallest fridge you can get away with. The larger the fridge, the greater the running costs. When buying a new fridge, check the energy ratings on the fridge - there can be a large difference in running costs, even with similar sized fridges.
Avoid siting your fridge next to the oven or cooktop, or in the sun.
On an older fridge, replace the door seals. One way you can tell that they need replacing is the presence of mould on the seals. Also if the door won’t hold a sheet of paper when it is shut, this is another sign that new seals are needed. Good door seals stop the cold air escaping and the warm air entering. Warm air needs energy to cool it, leading us to our next power saving tip.
Encourage family members to open the fridge as little as possible. Every time the door opens, warmer air enters the fridge, which will use more power to cool this air. When buying a new fridge, check the energy ratings on the fridge - there can be a large difference in running costs. Buying a more expensive, but more efficient, fridge may save you a significant amount of money in running costs over its lifetime.
Thaw foods before cooking. Thawing in the fridge is not only better for minimising bacterial growth, it will help to keep your fridge cold with less energy input.
Use a microwave for cooking where possible, it can use 70% less power than cooking on a stovetop or oven.
Use as little water as possible to cook vegetables, the more water you have to heat, the more power you use. You can microwave vegetables with no water. This also has a bonus of retaining more nutrients, as they do not leach out into the cooking water.
Use an electric frying pan instead of the oven. It heats less area, so it is more efficient. A bonus is that it is also easier to clean! If you do use an oven for cooking, open the door as little as possible. Also bake a few things at a time....baking biscuits at the same time as a cake saves time and energy.
Fan forced ovens cook more efficiently than normal ovens. They are used at a lower temperature setting than a normal oven, and the fan circulates the hot air around the food to cook it.
Avoid using small amounts of hot water if cold will do. Each time you use some hot water, a lot more sits in the pipes going cold. This is water that you have to pay to heat, unless you have a solar hot water heater.
Use cold water for the kettle. Using hot water from the tap means that you waste the hot water that sits in the pipes. There are also higher levels of copper in water from the hot water heater.
Furnishing your house in an energy efficient manner
Use energy efficient light bulbs
Glass is a poor insulator, so it lets heat in quickly to the house in summer, and out of the house in winter. Close blinds and curtains to block the heat from the summer sun coming in through windows during the day, and open them at night to let heat out. Open curtains and blinds during sunny winter days to let heat in, and then close them at night in winter to stop heat escaping from the house. The heavier the curtains, the better they insulate.
Lighting is a large contributor to energy consumption. Statistics show that 20-50% of energy use goes to lighting. Use energy saving light bulbs, dimmable lights and sensor activated lights.
Use floor lamps and table lamps for extra lighting. Use a light close to where you need the light so you can use a lower wattage light bulb. LED or compact fluorescent bulbs use the least power.
Light coloured walls reflect more light and thus help reduce your lighting needs.
In winter, rugs on wooden floors next to couches feel warmer for feet. They're easy to clean too, simply pick-up and shake-out.
Energy saving tips for new houses & major renovations
Insulation - having insulation in your house will help reduce heating and cooling costs. Hot air rises, so insulating the ceiling will keep the heat in the house. This also works in summer, as the heat gets trapped in the roof area. An insulating layer will help to stop this heat being transferred into the rooms.
Go solar. Install a solar hot water heater, a large part of an energy bill goes towards running a hot water system. Think about installing solar panels for generating electricity, these are becoming cheaper and more efficient all the time. You can also install a panel to run individual items.
Plant deciduous trees or vines on the north and west side of the house. A deciduous tree loses its leaves in winter, so will let in the sun to warm your house, and in summer will shade the harsh sun, as well as creating a nice microclimate. You need to consider the size of the tree that you will plant, and its root system. There are excellent choices of tree that are well behaved near houses, and it is surprising what a difference they will make to the comfort of your house.
A well placed pergola and/or verandah can help reduce cooling costs. Built on the north or west side of the house, it will shade nicely in summer, and also makes a nice place to catch any breezes. A verandah also can be a good place to hang washing, reducing the need for clothes dryers.
Outside, awnings or outdoor blinds over windows and doors can reduce heat entering into the home in summer. The angle of the sun is lower in winter, so if the shading is suitably placed the sun's warmth should still be able to enter the house, while keeping it out in the summer.
If practical place your hot water heater close to the main areas that hot water is used, and insulate the hot water pipes as much as possible to minimise heat loss.
Thermal mass in the walls will insulate a home. Brick, cement block or strawbale houses are more efficient, because these dense materials store and release thermal energy. This moderates the interior temperature by averaging day and night extremes.
Site your home to assist passive heating and cooling, to improve comfort and lessen energy requirements for thermal comfort.
Large areas of concrete close to the home will radiate heat into the home in summer. This can be mitigated somewhat by well planned plantings.
Provide multiple switches to control the number of lights that come on at one time. One switch for a number of lights is inefficient.
Consider solar powered lighting for garden and security lights.
Plan for ceiling fans, and you may not need that air conditioner, especially if you also put into practice our other hints. The running costs of fans are a lot lower than the running costs of air conditioners. In hot weather, when a ceiling fan is running, it will help create a breeze that will aid in the cooling effect. In winter, when the house is being heated, hot air rises, so a fan set to very low can move this warmed air back down to the living area.
Solar power in your home. All about getting a solar power source added to your home.
Hot water systems. Learn about the costs, benefits and disadvantages of the three major hot water alternatives commonly available to Australians: electric, gas and solar.
Environmentally friendly home design. Learn how to build a home that minimises energy use.
BASIX & Statement of Environmental Effects. These two pre-construction reports are now mandatory in NSW. Most other states have similar requirements but may have different names for the reports.
Controlling the sun in your home. Natural light is your most cost effective lighting option (you only have to pay for windows once :). Read this article to learn how to take advantage of natural light.
Solar powered ventilation systems. These simple devices are a great add-on for existing homes that that have poor ventilation.
Insulation. Learn all about insulating your home.
Strawbale homes. Strawbale homes are amongst the most energy efficient homes you can build or buy.
Choosing an air conditioner. If ceiling fans are not enough have a look at this article to help find an energy efficient air conditioner.
Energy efficient lighting. Learn about energy efficient lighting and trade-offs you have to make with the quality of light.
LED Lighting. The reality is that LED lights will play a major role in the future of the residential lighting industry. This is because high-quality LED's will last many thousands of hours - long enough to conclude that you will get "a lifetime of use out of each fitting".
How to choose the best ceiling fan. Ceilings fans work, and they cost a lot less than air conditioners. Read this article tolearn how to choos the best one for your needs.
What happened to solar power rebates? This article, written by Modern Solar takes a brief look at the history of recent solar rebate programs and the impact of their sudden disappearance on customers and the solar PV industry.