10 free things you can do now
Perhaps when you hear the words 'saving energy' or 'energy efficiency' you picture being forced into inconvenient changes with high-end price tags attached, but there are many things you can do to reduce your home energy use that are free and will save you money.
Some changes aren't easy because they involve changing our usual way of doing things. Anyone who's ever tried to change their diet and exercise regime will know it can be hard to change ingrained habits—but it can be done.
The good news is, while it may take a while to bed down new ways of doing things around the home, once you do, they become second nature. See how many of the top ten your household can adopt.
Dress for the season
One of the easiest ways to save money in winter is to turn down the heater and put on some warmer clothes. This doesn't mean dressing for the Antarctic—it means putting on a jumper before you crank up the temperature.
Reaching for a jumper instead of the thermostat is important when you realise that each additional 1°C adds between 5 and 10% to your energy use. So the savings from pulling on another warm layer can add up to big cash savings this winter.
While you're at it, dress your bed for the season too by putting on an additional blanket.
Shut the door on wasted energy
Trying to heat the whole house can waste a lot of money. Shut the door to areas you aren't using (like bathrooms and the laundry) and only heat the rooms you're using.
Turn it off
Turn off your heaters before going to bed and when you're leaving the house—it's cheaper and it's safer too.
Let the sun shine in
Solar panels may not be suitable for every home and budget but you could still be using the free power from the sun. Open your curtains when the sun is shining on them and close the curtains when the sun moves away. Using the sun's energy will help boost the temperature for free.
Don't use the shower to warm up
Hot water accounts for a large chunk of your power bill—about one quarter of the average bill—so try to avoid the temptation of using the shower to get warm.
Staying in the shower uses up to 20 times as much energy as getting out and standing under two heat lamps instead. Even a few extra minutes in the shower will add to your power bill.
During winter's coldest months, many of us hibernate indoors watching TV, playing our gaming consoles or cooking a hearty meal. Staying in has an energy price tag—adding to our home energy bills.
There are heaps of ways to have fun 'unplugged'—you could break out the board games and don't forget to turn off your entertainment gadgets when you're not using them.
To reduce the overall energy you use while watching TV, use a blanket before turning up the heat.
Be active and become a 'swapper'
It can make good sense to walk instead of using your car for short journeys. Cars cost a lot of money to run, especially when you're paying for petrol, maintenance and the upfront cost of buying a car (or a second car).
People-powered transport is good for your wallet, good for your health and good for the environment too!
Use a solar clothes dryer
Clothes dryers are very convenient—but remember you're paying for this convenience. Rather than automatically putting your clothes into the dryer, use free energy from the sun and the wind to dry your clothes whenever you can.
You can put clothes racks out in the sun and fresh air on verandahs or dry clothes indoors on a rack when the heater is already on.
Turn off gadgets and appliances
Did you know that home entertainment systems and electronic gadgets are quietly adding to your power bills? Up to 10% of the electricity used in your home is used on gadgets that are plugged in on standby. TVs, DVD and video players, game consoles, mobile phone chargers, microwave ovens, music docks and stereos are some of the biggest culprits. You may not realise that your phone charger is still using energy even when your phone isn't plugged in.
Check that you're using appliances efficiently and turn off unused appliances at the wall. Unplugging these gadgets can save you quite a bit of money on your energy bill all year round.
Waste not, Want not
Worldwide, 30% of food goes to waste. In New South Wales that means the average family throws out more than $1,000 in wasted food every year.
As well as costing you money, this food ends up in our garbage bins and in our tips where it produces methane—a harmful greenhouse gas that's 21 times stronger than the emissions from your car.
Much of the food waste in our kitchens comes from poor planning or from buying too much food so use shopping lists and check your pantry and fridge regularly to ensure you use up what's there.