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Seniors' guide to energy saving

Energy saving tips

bed blanket and slippers

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The following tips cover key energy ‘hot spots’ around the home including heating and cooling, hot water, appliances, and lighting to help you identify and make changes.

If you’re keen to do more after following the suggestions below, look for additional energy-efficiency information from your state or territory government and around the web. There are great resources for renters and if you’re an apartment owner (or manager) you may be interested in the Smart Blocks program to improve energy-efficiency in common areas of your building.

Heating and cooling

When you consider that around 40 per cent of home energy use goes to heating and cooling, it's not hard to see how making small changes to your heating and cooling habits can have a major impact on your energy bills. The following no and low cost ideas are a great place to start:

  • Control your climate. In winter, set your heating thermostat between 18 to 20 degrees Celsius. In summer, set your cooling thermostat between 25 to 27 degrees Celsius. For every degree you increase your heating and cooling you increase your energy use by around 5 to 10 per cent.
  • Dress for the season. Once you've found the temperature that you're comfortable with, dress appropriately for the season. Perhaps grabbing a warmer jumper and using a throw rug when curling up on the sofa in winter, or peeling off a layer and dressing in breathable fabrics such as cotton in summer, is all you need to avoid turning the thermostat up or down a degree or two.
  • Close off rooms not in use. Trying to heat or cool a whole house can waste energy and money. Shut the doors to areas you only use occasionally (like the bathroom and laundry) and only heat or cool the rooms you’re using. An extra blanket or wool underlay is a more cost-effective way to stay warm overnight than keeping the heater running all night.
  • Seal gaps and cracksDraught-proofing your home and stopping heated and cooled air leaking out through gaps and cracks offers an inexpensive way to cut your energy bill by up to 25 per cent. Try a draught 'snake' to stop air escaping under doors and apply easy-to-install weather seals from your local hardware store for windows, floorboards, skirting boards, skylights and cornices. You can also stop heat rising into your ceiling by fitting covers over downlights and vents. If renting, check with your landlord or real estate agent before fitting any weather seals or covers.
  • Be window wiseImprove window efficiency and prevent heat loss with snug-fitting curtains and blinds that trap a layer of still air next to the window. You can also open curtains in winter to let the sun in during the day and close them before it gets dark. Similarly, it's a good idea to close curtains during the hottest part of the day in summer.
  • Install temporary glazing. You can insulate windows cheaply with a transparent glazing film. The film helps reduce heat gain and loss. Take a look online for providers and check with your landlord or real estate agent before going ahead if you’re renting.
  • Harness the breeze. In summer, open up your home in the cooler times of the morning or evening to let the breeze in. Make the most of natural airflow by opening low-positioned windows to bring in the breeze and opening high windows to let the hot air out.
  • Choose the fan over the air conditioner. Ceiling and pedestal fans cost around two cents per hour of operation and reduce the temperature by 2 or 3 degrees Celsius. Fans also help to circulate air and can be used to improve the effectiveness of air cooling systems.
  • Use the fan to help circulate hot air. You can improve your heating efficiency in winter by using the reverse rotation function on ceiling fans that have this option. Ensure it's on the correct rotation—downwards—to push the air in the right direction for winter. The switch on your fan or remote control should clearly indicate this.

Hot water

Heating hot water accounts for about 25 per cent of household energy use. Try these ideas to ensure you're only paying for the energy you need.

  • Get the temperature right. The recommended setting for thermostats is above 60 degrees Celsius on storage hot water systems; or no more than 50 degrees Celsius on instantaneous systems.
  • Give your hot water a holiday. If you're away for more than a few days, and decide to turn off your storage hot water system to save money and energy, you should follow important safety tips when you turn it back on. When you return, allow plenty of time for the water to heat back up to above 60 degrees Celsius and remain at that temperature for a minimum of 35 minutes to kill any bacteria that may have grown. It could take several hours for the water to heat above 60 degrees Celsius before you can safely use it.
  • Don’t use the shower to warm up. Staying in the shower uses up to 20 times as much energy as getting out and standing under two heat lamps.
  • Install a water-efficient showerhead. By replacing old inefficient showerheads and installing a water-efficient showerhead, you could save up to $430 a year on energy and water bills. Consider asking your landlord or real estate agent to install water-efficient models, as these use around one-third of the water. There are a number of rebates available to help you.
  • Choose an energy-efficient hot water system. Landlords or homeowners considering the replacement of a hot water system may be eligible for rebates and assistance. If your system is getting to the end of its life, it’s a good idea to think ahead and do some research to identify an energy-efficient system suitable for your specific circumstances. This will save you making a hurried decision should your current hot water system suddenly break down.

Appliances

Appliances account for up to 30 per cent of your home energy use, so the type of appliances you choose and the way you use them makes a big difference to your energy consumption and bills. Try our top tips, then follow the links for more detailed advice:

  • Purchase energy-efficient appliances. If you're in the market for a new appliance, consider purchasing an energy-efficient model. The Good Shepherd Microfinance No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) can assist you in purchasing new energy and water-efficient appliances. Running costs can add up to more than the purchase price over the life of the product. You can use the Energy Rating Label to help determine how energy-efficient a particular appliance is—the more stars the more energy and money you can save.
  • Compare appliances. By visiting the Energy Rating website, or downloading the Energy Rating App to your smart-phone, you can compare the running costs of star-rated household appliances and add up the real cost of purchasing a particular model before or even while you shop. An efficient (high star-rated) model can cost a little more, but choosing a cheaper less efficient product could end up costing you much more in the long run through expensive energy bills.
  • Estimate the running costs of appliances. This is particularly useful for products that don't carry the Energy Rating Label. Use these simple steps to see how much your appliance will cost you each year, and over the life of the product.
  • Get access to free information and rebates. A number of household programs exist to provide you better advice on purchasing energy-efficient appliances as well as using appliances more efficiently. Landlords, renters and homeowners may be eligible for a rebate when replacing an appliance. Items that may be covered include showerheads, toilets, hot water systems and fridges, so it's worth doing your research to ensure all parties can benefit from the potential savings on purchase price and energy costs.
  • Use appliances efficiently. How you use appliances can affect your energy bill. The position of the appliance, how you operate it and maintain it all affect how much energy is used. For example, placing your refrigerator next to your oven will make it work harder to keep your food cold. By making simple changes you can reduce costs. Machine washing your clothes using cold water rather than hot water can reduce your energy use by between 50 and 85 per cent depending on whether you have a front loader or top loader. Try our detailed tips
  • Save on standby power. Many appliances and gadgets, such as phone chargers, computers, microwave ovens and stereos continue to draw power when not in use. Standby power can account for 10 per cent of household electricity use. Switching appliances and gadgets off at the wall when you're finished with them will cut both your energy use and energy bills. If it's got a little light or clock, it's using power. Learn more about standby power modes in our home entertainment and technology guide.

Lighting

Lighting in homes consumes between 8 and 15 per cent of the average household electricity budget. By switching to energy-efficient lighting and using lights efficiently you could halve your lighting costs.

  • Minimise artificial lighting. Think about how much artificial lighting you need—a desk or standard lamp will provide focused reading light and be cheaper to run than lighting the whole room. If it's light outside, you can open the curtains or blinds to let natural light in rather than switching on an artificial light. Switching lights off when you leave the room also saves energy. Opt for motion sensors on outdoor lights.
  • Switch to energy-efficient lighting. Replacing old-style incandescent globes with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs) is an effective way to save on energy costs. CFLs use around 20 per cent of the energy of an incandescent light globe and can last between 4 and 10 times longer. Good quality LEDs can last even longer.
  • Use light furnishings and reflective surfaces. You can reduce the need for artificial lighting by decorating with light-coloured furnishings and by placing mirrors across from windows.

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