Compared to a 6-star home, a 7-star home uses 18-28% less energy to heat and cool, and will save you $900 dollars per year.
Energy efficiency is a key piece of the climate action puzzle in helping us reduce the amount of electricity we use.
The Climate Council is advocating for all levels of government to improve policies and make investments for new and existing homes to be more energy efficient.
Individuals can do a number of things to increase their own home’s energy efficiency. And if you’re starting from scratch, you could even make your home energy positive – meaning your humble abode produces more energy than it consumes!
Before you get your toolbox, remember to seek professional help for anything out of your skill level for safety reasons! It isn’t just dangerous – around the country, it is illegal to conduct electrical and gas system repairs, modifications, and upgrades without an appropriate qualification.
Tips for everyone – homeowner or renter
It can be hard for renters to justify investing in energy efficiency upgrades for their house, but there are a number of cheap or free ways to save on emissions and reduce bills:
To help keep your space a comfortable temperature, regularly assess quick actions you can do yourself, such as:
- Opening and closing blinds against the heat and cold as windows are a major source of heat gain and loss in a house.
- Looking out for the cool change on hot days and opening all windows to create cross-ventilation.
- Closing the doors to rooms not in use, or using dividers / hanging blankets to zone an open-plan area, will substantially reduce the space you need to heat or cool.
Appliances account for about 30% of your home energy use:
- Choose your heat sources wisely. Cheap portable blow heaters are by far the worst offenders when it comes to energy use. What you save at the cash register, you will be paying back on your next energy bill. More efficient electric alternatives exist and pay for themselves many times over.
- Replace old appliances with energy-efficient models as they age – the more stars, the better!
- Remember to turn off your entertainment systems when you’re not using them – switching off your gaming console can save you $193 per year.
- Donate or sell appliances you seldom use. You’ll have $170 more in your pocket every year if you say goodbye to that second fridge (plus any extra cash you can get for it!).
Replace your old halogen globes with LED lights. LEDs use up to 80% less energy and last ten times longer (and don’t forget to make the most of natural light! NSW, VIC SA, and the ACT all offer incentives to switch to LED lights.
When possible, set your washing machine to cold water washes to use 80% less energy compared to hot water.
Draught-proof your home: check your windows and doors for gaps and use door snakes to prevent airflow. If you can’t quite feel the airflow but want to check, wait for a windy day and light a candle – the flicker of the flame will indicate airflow.
Use shade cloth or bamboo blinds to keep the heat out in summer. Rugs and curtains can be used to keep heat in during winter. Applying bubble-wrap to your windows will also help ease the winter chills! These not-so-secret weapons can save you up to 25% on your energy bills.
Set your cooling between 25°C and 27°C in summer, and heating to between 18°C and 20°C in winter. For every degree you increase heating or cooling, your energy use rises 5% to 10%. Running a heat pump at 26°C will use 50% more power than at 21°C.
I’m living in my own home
The Federal Government provides a financial incentive for the installation of renewable energy systems through the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme. Further, depending on where you live, you could also snap up free or discounted energy efficiency upgrades, solar panels and batteries, and energy assessor schemes. These audits will help you work out the best bang-for-buck on upgrading your home. Your local Council may also have resources available.
Check out your state government’s energy webpage below if you’re feeling overwhelmed!
- NSW – Offers on solar / battery and energy efficient appliances
- VIC – Offers on solar / battery, energy efficient appliances and thermal-performance upgrades, as well as an energy assessment for homeowners via the Victorian Residential Efficiency Scorecard at a cost of $250-$500.
- SA – Offers on energy efficient appliances, thermal-performance upgrades, and energy-saving tips
- QLD – Energy-saving tips
- WA – Energy efficiency assessment and an energy buyback scheme
- ACT – Offers on solar / battery, energy efficient appliances and thermal-performance upgrades, personalised energy efficiency advice, and free energy assessments for renters.
- NT – Energy-saving tips
- TAS – Home energy self-assessment kit and energy-saving tips
- Say ‘goodbye’ to gas! Next time you upgrade your cooktop, heating/cooling system or hot water, opt for electric to get dangerous, polluting gas out of your home. Electric alternatives, like induction cooktops and reverse-cycle air conditioners are much more energy efficient, safer, and better for the climate than gas. Check out Renew’s resources to learn more about getting your home off gas.
- Invest in insulation! Depending on your budget, you might decide to insulate your ceilings and roof (which account for 40% of heat loss), walls (24%), and/or floors (another 10%). This generally costs between $1,400 to $4,000, depending on the size of your home and choice of insulation. But you’ll come out on top in the long-run, with insulation set to save you 20% off your energy bill.
- Consider investing in double-glazed windows. While these can be costly up-front, they can prevent up to 30% of heat loss compared to standard windows.
- When renovating, repairing or extending your home, always design with energy efficiency in mind.
- Check out the suggestions for home builders which might also be relevant to you!
I’m building a new home
Aim for your house to go well above the minimum energy efficiency standards. The minimum standards for homes built today is 6-stars under the NatHERS rating system. Even an upgrade to a 7-star home uses 18-28% less energy to heat and cool, and will save you $900 dollars per year. A higher star home will feature more energy efficiency upgrades like double-glazed windows, comprehensive insulation and efficient appliances, all of which is cheaper to install at point-of-build than to retrofit later.
Ensure your architect or designer is experienced in energy efficient homes. Highly efficient homes leverage the landscape, site features, orientation, materials, thermal mass, as well as natural sources of light and heating and cooling. Together, these features work to minimise or eliminate the need for additional heating and cooling, reducing your energy consumption by 40%! The Passive House model, developed in Germany, is a popular approach.
Check out the free home design templates from Design For Place here. These blueprints cover a range of energy-efficient (at least 7-star NatHERS rating) homes, incorporating the right approach to passive design, materials, insulation, orientation, windows, and shading according to Australia’s eight climate zones.
It’s a great idea to build your home EV-capable or, even better, EV-ready (learn the difference here). Of course, the aim of the game is to charge your car with renewable energy. Check out WWF as a starting point to learn more about this.
Add solar PV and storage to your energy-efficient home to cut down on bills! All-electric new homes powered by solar save owners between $9000 – $18,000 over ten years compared to homes with dual fuel (gas and electric) and without solar. As noted, solar panels, solar hot water systems, air-source heat pumps, and other small-scale renewable energy systems are discounted by the Commonwealth Government’s Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SERS) and some states and territories have additional subsidies and interest-free loans.
No matter your situation, there are both big and small things you can do to improve the energy efficiency of your home. Check out these resources for more tips and ideas:
- Sustainable House Day 2021
- Australian Energy Foundation
- Yarra Energy Foundation
- COOLmob (NT)
- Better renting
- Sustainability Victoria