Many Australians are looking for ways to make their home more energy-efficient, thereby saving money and helping the planet.
It has been a cold winter so far, but before you reach for the heater, there are steps you can take around the home to keep warm. Some are easy and inexpensive, others might require more work and money, but most are possible whether you live in an apartment or a house.
The Green Building Council of Australia, which has been rating the sustainability of buildings for the past twenty years, defines a ‘positive’ home as one that is energy efficient, powered by renewables and all-electric. A positive home is healthy, better for the environment and will save you money in the long run.
1. Keep the cold out
Australian homes are notoriously poorly sealed, but you can take action. Sustainability Victoria estimates that up to 25% of winter heat loss in existing homes is caused by draughts, so it makes sense that one of the cheapest and easiest ways to keep the cold out is by sealing spaces where heat leaks out and the cold gets in.
Start simple by closing off rooms that aren’t in use and by using draught stoppers under doors.
Next, take the time to inspect the windows and doors around your home, checking for unsealed areas by looking, listening, and feeling around typically draughty areas for cool air, wind or rattling sounds. One easy, effective way is to hold a candle near any suspected gaps – you’ll soon see where they are.
Sustainability Victoria’s website has tips on how to best:
– Block chimney draughts
– Seal evaporative cooling outlets
– Seal exhaust fans
– Seal gaps around doors and windows
– Seal gaps around walls and floors
When buying energy appliances, make sure they are the right size for your space, compare running costs between models, and check the energy rating stars – remember the more stars, the more savings! Older appliances can be made more efficient by keeping them maintained and in good running order.
2. Optimise on the sun
Australia is lucky to have plenty of sunshine year-round and so far around 30% of Australian homes are taking advantage of it to save money on energy bills and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.
The energy.gov.au site estimates that a home solar PV system starts at around $3,500 for a basic installation and research has found that once it’s set up you’ll save at least $800 on energy bills per annum. You might even be eligible for financial assistance to help with costs, so be sure to look into that.
If you have access to a yard or balcony, dry clothes with wind and the sun. Not only will you save financially, but if you’ve been used to using a dryer or hanging clothes indoors, you’ll improve your home’s air quality too by taking your drying outdoors.
3. Go all-electric
If it’s an option, disconnecting from gas can mean you’ll save money while no longer using a fossil fuel that releases harmful emissions into your home and the environment.
A recent article reported that a Melbourne family will save $1,859 a year by ditching gas and replacing gas appliances – including heaters, stove tops and ovens – with electric alternatives at a cost of $5,000.
If you’re building a new home, Renew has found owners will save $9,000–$16,000 over 10 years if their new home is all-electric with a 5-kilowatt solar system, rather than using gas and electricity with no solar.
There’s also mounting evidence that burning gas indoors causes respiratory issues in the young and vulnerable. The Climate Council reports children living in a home with gas stoves have a 42% increased risk of experiencing asthma symptoms, and a 24% greater chance of being diagnosed with asthma at some point in life. Switching gas for electric will help you save money, and it will make your home healthier too.
Learn more about Green Star homes from the Green Building Council (new.gbca.org.au) or Sustainability Victoria (sustainability.vic.gov.au).