How to save energy at home

Winter energy bills are the worst. If you've ever opened one up to a heart attack-inducing number, then check out these tips for keeping your energy consumption low.

Winter energy bills are the worst. If you've ever opened one up to a heart attack-inducing number, then check out these tips for keeping your energy consumption low.

(XN Power Pole image by Guido Gerding, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Turn things off!

This is such an obvious tip, but, realistically, how often do you leave things running when you don't need to? This isn't even close to being limited to lights in unused areas of the house. Here are some examples:

The TV

It's nice to have the TV on for a bit of noise if you're just messing about on your computer, but you can get a similar effect just by playing some music or having videos stream in the background. We like to pop on TED talks or podcasts, which are often infinitely more interesting than anything that free-to-air TV or Foxtel has to offer.

Standby devices

Do you really need to have your set-top box, your computer and your microwave in standby mode when you go to bed? Standby mode still uses power, and you'd be surprised how much you can save by powering them off entirely. There is a list of standby devices and how much power they use here.

Charging station

If you charge all of your devices on a single power board, simply turn it off at the wall when you're not using it.

Hot water

Hot water makes up an average of about 25 per cent of household energy usage.

If you run your clothes through a cold wash, you can save on heated water. You do even better if you dry your washing in the sun, since you're not running a clothes dryer, which tends to suck up a lot of heat.

Also try washing dishes by hand when you can, and letting them air dry in the rack. Not only does this save you quantities of hot water, it also saves the power you would use running a dishwasher.

And there's always the easiest one of all: take shorter showers.

Lights

Are you still using incandescent bulbs? Tsk, tsk. Compact fluorescent lights use between one third to one quarter of the energy of incandescent lights, and LED lights use even less. They cost a little more at the outset, but they also last a lot longer, so it's worth that initial investment.

Energy-saving power boards

Remember that standby problem we mentioned earlier? There's a solution that makes the whole thing a little easier for you: energy-saving power boards. They usually consist of one "master" socket and several "slave" sockets.

Using a home-entertainment system as an example, the primary device, or hub, of the system would be the television set. You would plug this in to the master socket. Any satellite devices — your Blu-ray player, speakers, video-game consoles — would be plugged in to the slave sockets. When you turn off the master device, the power board senses this and cuts power to the slave sockets as well, powering down the whole system in one easy swoop.

You can find these in your local Bunnings store, as well as electronics stores (or online) from brands like Belkin, Jackson and Crest.

We also like this one from Origin, where the master socket is actually a USB port for use with your computer rig.

Another option is the timed power socket. It lets you set a timer for how long you want the power to be on, and it will switch off automatically when you're done. Here are a few examples from Belkin, Arlec and HPM.

Temperature control

Temperature control makes up an average of about 38 per cent of household energy usage.

Doors and windows can be great for keeping your temperature-control bills down. Opening windows and doors during summer can keep your home cooler, while keeping them closed in winter will help retain heat. This will mean that you don't have to run heaters, fans and air conditioning units as often or as intensively.

If your house has central heating and cooling, you can save energy by setting the temperature at or close to your comfort limits. In winter, this is around 20 degrees Celsius. In summer, this is around 25 degrees. You'll need to experiment with it to see what works best for you, but keeping it at those levels means that the unit won't have to work as hard as it would if you turned it all the way up.

And if you have gas or a slow-combustion fireplace, you are one lucky person.

Energy stars

If you're buying a new appliance, make sure to check the energy star rating. The more stars it has, the more efficiently it will use energy. We all know this by now, surely?

Power monitors

Victoria is rolling out smart metering across all homes, but you don't have to be reliant on government intervention to monitor your energy usage. A number of products on the market can help you keep an eye on how much power you're using, from socket accessories that monitor a single socket to displays that clip on to your mains for a full overview.

Depending on the kind of monitor you get, you can also view in real time exactly how much your electricity is costing you, minute by minute — and some even let you log in and check your usage remotely. This can be pretty inspiring when you're trying to cut down.

Solar power

Installing solar panels can mean a hefty whack of money up-front, but the impact it makes on your electricity bill is worth it — over time. Choice has a fantastic guide on installing solar panels here, as well as a guide to how much money it will save you.

Do you have any power-saving tips to share? Let us know about them in the comments below!

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About the author

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

 

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