Five ways to reduce your household's energy use

Help the environment by choosing more energy efficient products and changing your behaviour.
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01.Reduce your household energy use

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1. Energy efficient appliances

  • Unplug your appliances when they’re not in use – your TV, computer, microwave and even some washing machines have a ‘standby’ mode which means they’re still using energy even when they’re not in use.
  • Upgrade your appliances when needed and look for a good energy rating - the more stars (up to six), the better. Often it’s easier for a larger model to be more efficient (and therefore have more stars) than a smaller one. However, since it is bigger, its overall energy consumption is often higher than that of the smaller model. So it’s important you think about the right size for your needs first, and then compare the star ratings of models within that size.
  • Washing machine: Compared with top loaders, front loader washing machines use less energy when washing in warm or hot water. They also use less water and detergent. Most cost more than a top loader to buy, but save you money over time with lower running costs – and are kinder to the environment.
  • Fridge: Your fridge/freezer is working non-stop and the energy it consumes adds up. All new fridges sold in Australia must meet Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS). Look for a model that uses a hydrocarbon, such as butane or pentane, as the refrigerant and/or blowing agent for the insulation foam. All fridges on the market are CFC-free, so don't base you purchase decision on "CFC free" labels. Check our.

2. Energy efficient heating and cooling

  • Insulating your roof or ceiling will help keep your home a pleasant temperature in summer and winter. It saves you money on energy bills, and pays for itself over a relatively short time. For more information see our Home insulation buying guide.
  • Draught-proof: Make sure doors and windows are properly sealed — you can buy draught excluders or window seals very cheaply.
  • Seal your chimney with a damper.
  • Avoid installing downlights — besides using a lot of energy, they penetrate the ceiling and insulation, causing heat loss. Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) are a good option for lighting.
  • Close all external windows and doors when your heater or air conditioner is running.
  • Shade your windows during hot summer days (to keep the heat out) and during cold nights (to keep the heat in).
  • When you expect a hot day, turn on the air conditioner early, rather than wait until your home is hot. Similarly, start heating early when expecting a cold day.
  • Ceiling fans  are much cheaper than air conditioning and have less impact environmentally, though they don’t cool the air, only move it about to produce a breeze.
  • If you have an air conditioner, try to use it only on really hot or humid days. Look for programmable timer and thermostat controls. Set your air conditioner at the highest temperature setting at which you still feel cool enough, 25ºC is usually adequate. Each 1°C increase of the thermostat setting will save about 10% on your energy usage. See our Air conditioners buying guide.

3. Transport

For each 10,000 km you drive, each L/100 km less fuel consumption saves you $130 (based on $1.30/L).

The government’s Green Vehicle Guide allows you to compare the environmental impact and fuel consumption of all new passenger and light commercial vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes. Each version of each model gets a star rating, with five stars being the best. Five star rated cars are:

  • Mitsubishi i MiEV  
  • Tesla Roadster
  • Toyota Prius Hybrid  
  • Lexus CT200h  
  • smart fortwo  
  • Honda Insight  
  • Suzuki Alto  
  • Mini One
  • Alfa Romeo Mito  
  • Holden Barina Spark  
  • Volkswagen Polo  
  • Suzuki Swift  
  • Honda Jazz  
  • Nissan Micra
  • Toyota Yaris  
  • Hyundai i20  
  • Toyota Camry Hybrid  
  • Volkswagen Golf  
  • Hyundai Getz  
  •  Lexus RX450h

Interestingly enough, when we first began using this site in 2007 only four cars scored five stars. These days the industry has come ahead in leaps and bounds with 20 five-star options available. It's a number CHOICE would like to see continue to rise, preferably at a rapidly increasing rate.  

Whenever possible walk, go by bicycle, use public transport or car pool.

4. Save water

  • The water efficiency label allows you to compare the water efficiency of different products. Each label shows a star rating out of six for the product – the more stars the better. It’s compulsory for all new domestic washing machines, dishwashers, showers, toilets, urinals and most taps.
  • Rainwater is ideal for watering your garden. Contact your water authority and local council for tips and requirements on how to install and maintain a rainwater tank.
  • Using greywater - the waste water from showers, laundry tubs and washing machines for example - could help save hundreds of litres of water a day. Greywater can be stored to be used on the garden (or even in toilets or washing machines), or it can be diverted to the garden with a plumbed-in diverter. Conditions may apply in the area where you live: contact your local council for advice on options available.
  • Buy a water-efficient showerhead. However, if you have an instantaneous hot-water system, the flowrate of a low-flow shower head may not be enough to start it. Check with your installer. And if you have a gravity-fed water system (the water flows from your tank to your taps without being pumped), make sure you buy a shower head that's designed to cope with low pressure.

5. Switch to GreenPower

The average household emits around 14 tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, half of which is from electricity generation. This contributes to climate change and global warming.

One simple and relatively cheap way that we can all start to address this problem is by switching our electricity to “green” power. This means buying power from clean renewable sources such as the sun, wind, water and waste power, rather than coal.

  • It’s available to all households and generally costs more than standard electricity.
  • What you’ll pay depends on the percentage of GreenPower and the retailer you choose.
  • Use one that’s accredited by the GreenPower program. GreenPower is an initiative of the ACT, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia Governments.
  • The best choice of company and product depends on where you live and how much energy you use.
  • Shop around by comparing your present supplier to other retailers in your state or territory.
  • Make sure you select a reputable supplier.

See our report on GreenPower.



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