How to reduce your energy use and carbon output during coronavirus

With more people working from home and with the regional lockdowns coming and going as and when needed, Australia’s households are using much more energy than usual. 

You might be worrying about the size of your bills already. Even though you can claim 80 cents an hour as a tax deduction that includes costs of your energy use if you’re working from home, you might have a busy family all jostling for the aircon, the washing machine, the heating… It’s time for some damage limitation – for your bank account and for the environment.

Thankfully, you don’t need to sit in the sweltering dark after 9.00pm or start a raw food diet in order to curb your energy spends. You just need to box clever.

Work out where most energy is used in your home

This is the best starting point because it gives you something to work with. The biggest proportion of Australian households’ energy consumption goes on heating and cooling, followed by heating water and then the usual appliances – ovens, kettles, washing machines, freezers and so on. 

It’s a family effort

Everyone can do their bit to bring down the household consumption, especially if you’ve identified the targets that you can work most effectively. While you can only do so much with cooling and heating, you can make a difference with appliances like washing machines and by watching out for the standby power drain.

Making your home office more energy–efficient 

Whether you’re working from home or whether you’re home–schooling, you can easily minimise your consumption.

Employ your computer’s energy–saving mode, which reduces its power consumption when you’re not actively using it. Switching to a laptop rather than a desktop also reduces the amount of power by up to 70 per cent and you should unplug printers and scanners when they’re not being used.

If you have a bright–but–cool room, you should place your desk by the window, especially if you can open it to let some cooler air in and use a desk lamp rather than an overhead light as it’s usually cheaper. 

About the heating and cooling

Your energy spending probably rises dramatically in winter and summer and being at home more will only magnify this effect. 

You can use other methods besides your aircon to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, which should help somewhat. Make sure you keep doors shut as much as possible to maintain the temperature you want, as lots of heat can either get in or escape (physicists, just look away) through open doors. If there are some rooms that you don’t use too often, turn off the aircon and concentrate on the spaces that you use the most.

Bring in a ceiling fan

By using your ceiling fan, you can lower the perceived temperature in a room by another couple of degrees just by moving the air around. Set the aircon at 25C or so and let the fan move the air around to create a cooling effect. This takes some of the pressure of your aircon and your electricity bill.

Pick out your most energy–expensive appliances and think of ways to moderate them

If you tend to tumble–dry your clothes, then stop right now! Being at home more means you can line–dry your clothes and bring them in before they get either bleached or rained on. It’s also possible to reduce the amount of ironing you do – there’s no school uniforms or office smarts, right?

If you have teens, you might be familiar with the “using a boil wash for one item of clothing” phenomenon. You need to head for the other end of the extreme and only use your washing machine when there’s a full load. The same applies to your dishwasher. If there’s a single item of clothing or a few cups that you need with some degree of urgency, then go retro and handwash.

Get the most put of your time–of–use tariffs

If your electricity is cheaper at certain times of the day, then use your expensive appliances at these times. Your washing machine and dishwasher might have timers built in so you can set them to run in the evenings, for example.

Power off appliances

Using the standby function is a serious power–siphon. For some appliances and gadgets, it’s not worth the time and hassle to power them off completely as you need to re-programme them, but for other things, like phone chargers, stereos and even microwaves, you can conserve electricity by just turning them off at the wall.

Heating your water makes up a large chunk of your bills

Set the thermostat for your domestic water to 50C to save some power. Lots of Australian households have theirs at 60C, so you can make quite a big difference here.

Install LED lights

Use as much natural light as possible during the day and become that mum or dad by nagging everyone to turn off any lights that aren’t needed. A big change you can make is to install LED strip lights or bulbs, as these use less than 10 per cent as much power as incandescents.

Switch to cheaper electricity and gas providers

You might find that a few minutes on a comparison site will save you quite a few dollars each month. Most states in Australia have several gas and electricity suppliers and there’s nothing to stop you switching to another provider if it’ll work out cheaper for you.

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