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Tips and Tricks for Reducing Your Energy Usage: Save Energy and Lower Your Bill

Reduce your energy usage

Making smart choices when it comes to your energy usage is not only good for your wallet, it’s also good for the planet. No matter if you want quick fixes that can start to make a difference today, or long-term solutions for your home and lifestyle, it’s never a bad choice to decide to live your life more energy efficiently.

Energy vampires in your house

Energy vampires are everywhere in your home. The term “energy vampire” refers to electronic items that will continue to sap electricity from your house, even if you aren’t using the item, simply because it’s plugged in. Even appliances and devices that are turned off, but still plugged in, could be costing you more on your energy bill every month. Here are some of the biggest energy vampire culprits in your home:

 Plugged-in appliances: Leaving appliances (especially hair dryers, electric razors, or curling irons) plugged in between uses can still drain electricity from your house, even if the appliances aren’t turned on. By making it a habit to unplug and put away any kitchen or bathroom appliances when you’re not using them, you’ll be making your home more energy efficient and reduce your electricity bill.

 Appliances with a continuous display: Things that show a continuous display (think LED clocks on radios, microwaves, or stoves) can drain more energy than you think. You probably don’t need those three or four LED clocks in your kitchen, and while the clock might be wrong if you unplug your microwave when you aren’t using it, your energy bill with thank you.

 Charging your devices: Leaving your laptop, phone, or tablet plugged in and charging, despite having 100% battery, is not only wasting energy in your home, but could also be hurting the battery life and performance of your device. When your phone or laptop reaches 100% battery, unplug the whole charger from the wall outlet to prevent it from sapping energy it doesn’t need.

 Home office: Home offices drain a lot of energy, even when you’re not using it. Leaving your computer plugged in and in sleep mode means that while your computer might not actively be using energy, it’s still draining some from your house. Turn off and unplug your computer and printer to keep them from draining more energy overnight.

 Home entertainment systems: Those home entertainment systems; surround sound, 4K Ultra HD TV, and multiple gaming systems; tend to stay plugged in all day, even when not being used. All these devices can sap energy from your home just by being plugged in and not in use. If you keep all these devices plugged into one power strip, you can easily unplug everything at once when not in use, saving your home energy.

Energy vampires might only use a little bit of additional power individually, but when combined with multiple appliances in multiple rooms, this adds up quickly in energy usage, and in your energy bill.

Quick fixes to start saving energy immediately

There are plenty of small things you can start doing today to begin saving energy. While individually, these little changes in your life might not seem terribly drastic, they quickly add up to additional savings on your energy bill.

 Unplug devices when they’re not being used: Energy vampires can sap energy from your home without you even realizing it, costing you hundreds of dollars extra on your energy bills. Remember to unplug appliances when you’re not using them, including phones and tablets when the battery level reaches 100%. Put things like home entertainment systems on one power strip, so you can easily unplug them before going to bed, and turn your computer off completely when not in use, instead of leaving it in sleep mode.

 Adjust the thermostat: Keeping your thermostat too high during the winter, and too low during the summer, can quickly add to your energy bill. During the summer, keep your thermostat at 25 or 26 degrees if possible, while in the winter keep your thermostat to 18 to 20 degrees. Each additional degree of heating or cooling can add 10% of your running costs to your bill, and that adds up quickly.

 Change your laundry-washing habits: Switch to washing your laundry in cold water, for shorter wash cycles. Hot water usually isn’t necessary for day-to-day laundry, and it takes a lot of energy to heat up the water. In addition, switching it up and drying laundry on a clothesline lowers your energy usage while taking advantage of nature’s biggest generator: the sun.

 Make sure your fridge and freezer are working efficiently: Set your refrigerator to 4 to 5 degrees, and your freezer to -15 to -18 degrees Celsius. Keep your fridge and freezer in cool, well-ventilated areas away from direct sunlight or any heat sources, and keep at least 5cm of space around each to ensure good air circulation. If you have multiple fridges and freezers, ask yourself if they are really necessary, or if you can reduce how many you use. Once a month, defrost your freezer to prevent ice buildup.

 Change your coffee habits: Switching from a single-serving automatic espresso machine to a manual method of coffee-making like french press or pour over, can help you save energy in your home, especially if you’re using an electric kettle. And if you can’t give up the easy espresso, make sure to unplug the machine whenever you aren’t using it.

Plan ahead and save energy now and later

These energy efficient tips require a bit more planning but, by incorporating these solutions in your life, you’ll end up saving more energy and money in the long run.

 Switch to energy efficient light bulbs: Energy efficient light bulbs might be more expensive on the shelf, but they can be up to 75% more energy efficient than traditional halogen or incandescent bulbs. Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, or LED bulbs, are some of the more energy efficient options available when it comes to lighting your house.

 Make the switch to energy-saving and smart appliances: Look for appliances with “eco”options and an energy rating. Energy efficient washers and dryers, dishwashers, fridges, and freezers might cost a bit more upfront but can save you on your bills by using anywhere from 9% to 25% less energy while in use.

 Switch your shower head: Changing to a low-flow shower head could save you energy and water. Showerheads are measured in litres per minute, and 3-star energy efficient showerheads use less than 9 litres per minute while older showerheads could use over 20 litres per minute, not only wasting water but wasting energy through heating the water up. Thanks to designs in technology, low-flow doesn’t mean an unsatisfactory shower, and the feel of water pressure might actually be better with a new showerhead.

 Check for drafts: Add draft stoppers to your doors and windows, to keep your heating and cooling at optimal levels. Draft stoppers (also known as draft snakes, or draft blockers) are long, thin, pillows that lie in front of the bottom edge of doors and windows to block drafts from the outside. DIY-leaning people can easily sew, crochet, or knit a draft stopper, or you can purchase them in a number of fun designs and patterns.

 Add insulated curtains: Insulated, light-blocking, and sound-dampening curtains can be a great investment. Not only do they keep the heat inside your home in the winter, and the heat outside your home in the summer, they can block out the sun to prevent a greenhouse effect, and let you sleep better by preventing light and sound from disturbing you.

Long-term energy saving solutions

These energy saving solutions require more time and money upfront, but can help you transform your home into an energy-efficient powerhouse for the long term.

 Check your windows: Replacing your windows with energy efficient choices can save you up to $100 per year while keeping your home more comfortable.

  • Double or triple-glazed windows offer more insulation between the temperatures outside of your home and inside your home, keeping your house warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer
  • Low emissivity (low-E) glass is the most energy efficient glass choice for windows. It has a microscopic coating of metal oxide on one of the internal glass surfaces, which helps reflect sun away from your house
  • Gaps between the glass layers: These are the gaps between the layers of glass in double or triple glazed windows. The size of the gap affects performance, and while 16mm is generally seen as the optimal gap size, this might not always be the case. The gap might be filled with normal air, or a gas like argon which can increase insulation performance.

 Weatherize your home: A more permanent solution to fixing drafts, weatherizing homes involves caulking or weather stripping to prevent air leaks. For any drafts between two non-moving objects (such as between a wall and window frame), apply caulk, and for any leaks between moving objects, such as windows, apply weather stripping. These air leaks can happen between walls and floor, around doors and windows, or even electrical outlets and light fixtures.

 Insulate your home: If your home is improperly insulated, you could be losing energy through heating and cooling through your walls, ceiling, or crawlspace. Insulation is measured in R-Value which measures how well the insulation resists heat flow. Different regions in Australia have different recommended R-Values for homes.

 Plant trees: Adding some green to your garden can reduce how much heating and cooling your home uses. By planting trees around the south and western sides of your house, you can help block the sun out during the summer to reduce cooling costs, and block out cold wind during the winter to reduce your heating bill.

 Upgrade your HVAC system: Upgrading your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system can save you energy long-term. By replacing your heating and cooling systems with energy efficient appliances, and making sure the air ducts that make up your ventilation system are sealed and insulated properly, you could save up to 20% on your heating and cooling expenses.

 Solar PV: Install solar panels and a solar PV system on your roof and begin generating your own renewable energy. Thanks to a number of payment plans and solar rebates, as well as the decreasing price in technology, solar panels are now easier than ever to get installed onto your house.

Other ways to lower your energy bills

In addition to reducing your energy consumption to lower your energy bill, there are a few other things you can do to make sure you’re not paying too much for your gas and electricity.

 Change your tariff: Make sure you’re on the best tariff choice for your lifestyle and household. While a single-rate tariff is standard, your energy habits might mean you'll be spending less on electricity if you switch to a tariff with peak and off-peak rates.

  • Flat-rate or single-rate tariff: This tariff charges you the same amount per kWh, all day, every day.
  • Time-of-use tariff: This tariff charges higher rates when demand on the electricity grid is high (weekdays, after work for example), and lower rates when demand is usually low (weekdays, midmorning). If you tend to be home during the hours most people go to work, and out when most people are home, you might save money switching to a time-of-use tariff.
  • Controlled load 1 & 2: Controlled loads are tariffs added to your energy bill for a specific high-energy appliance such as a pool heater, or electric boiler. These generally have lower rates during specific overnight hours when the appliance is running, and then has higher rates during the day when the appliance might not need to be in use so much.

The tariffs available through your energy provider depend on the type of meter you have and your energy distributor. Choosing to have a smart meter installed on your property will allow for different time-based tariffs, and give you more information about your energy usage.

 Make the switch: If you haven’t shopped around for a new energy plan or provider you could be paying the “lazy tax” for your energy. Look around for an energy provider with lower rates or higher discounts, and you could end up saving hundreds. In Australia, it’s easy to switch. Once you sign up to your new provider, they should do all the heavy lifting and contact your old provider on your behalf.

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