|How to save the earth and your money|
|Both families have four family members (two adults, two children) and no gas connection (they're 'all-electric' households). But that's where the similarities end. On these webpages, for all the main uses of household energy, we show you:
How the two families behave and use their appliances differently.
Tables with the consequences of their different behaviour and appliance use for each activity: tonnes of CO2 produced per year and how much it costs (see , for details). The tables for Transport (and consequently for Total household -- including transport) only show figures for CO2, as costs for running cars and catching public transport vary too widely to be calculated.
Tips on how you can save energy and money. For the tips with the biggest potential influence, we've calculated how much CO2 and money the families could save.The tips show that saving energy doesn't necessarily mean making sacrifices. You can reduce your environmental impact by simply changing the way you use energy -- change a few habits, use your appliances differently, or choose more efficient appliances.
Replacing appliances just for the sake of energy efficiency is usually not an energy-wise decision, because of the energy needed to produce the new product and to dispose of the old one. But when you have to replace an appliance anyway, the new model's energy efficiency should be an important factor in your choice (see for more on this).
How (much) you can save
The amount of energy each area in your household uses depends on:
Which fuels you use (electricity, natural gas, wood, LPG, etc).
Where you live (for example, in the tropics a lot of energy is needed for cooling, while further south heating is the dominant cost).
Which appliances you use (for example, fans instead of air conditioning, a clothes line instead of an electric dryer, or energy-efficient appliances instead of ones with a low star rating).Basically, each household is different. However, on average the main contributors to energy use are transport, heating/cooling and hot water. These are followed by cooking, refrigeration and -- usually making smaller contributions -- other large appliances (washing machine, dryer, dishwasher), lighting and small appliances (such as TV, VCR, computer, etc).
Changing your habits in the areas that contribute a lot to your energy use will have a bigger effect, but usually also involves more effort and upfront expense (for example, installing insulation or a solar hot water system). But there are dozens of tips and tricks to save energy. Many of them only make small contributions individually, but add up to significant savings.
Some states and local councils support activities to save energy. For example, in Victoria, Queensland, some NSW councils and Whyalla in SA you can get a rebate when you install a solar hot water system, and some councils may give you an interest-free loan when you insulate your house. Check with your council what you can do and how it will help you.
The right fuel
Choose the best heating fuel available to you.
The type of fuel you use for heating your house will have a big influence on your greenhouse gas account and your bank balance.
Natural gas -- flued (A)
Electric radiator or fan heater
Electric air conditioning
Wood -- slow combustion (B)
Wood -- open fire (B)
Coal -- slow combustion
(A) LPG produces the same amount of carbon dioxide as natural gas, but is considerably more expensive.
(B) The carbon dioxide figures refer to firewood that's replaced by new trees, and would be considerably higher if it wasn't.
(C) Not applicable -- no piped natural gas is available in Tasmania.
If you have a natural gas connection, use it.
Natural gas is often the best combination of low cost and low greenhouse gas emissions. If the Savealot family used gas for heating, as a booster for their solar hot water system and for cooking, they could knock around 1 tonne a year off their CO2 account in Brisbane and Sydney, and almost 3 tonnes in Melbourne (more energy is used for heating; 1 kWh of electricity produces 1.4 kg of CO2).
Heating and cooling
Both families live in the same-size house. The Wastemuches haven't put in any insulation (in Brisbane and Sydney) or have only insulated their ceiling (in Melbourne). They haven't done anything about draughty doors and windows. In contrast, the Savealots' home is well sealed and has insulated walls and ceilings.
Both the families use a reverse-cycle air conditioner for heating and cooling. However, the Wastemuches' only has three stars while the Savealots' has five. In Sydney and Melbourne both families use an additional radiator for heating, and in summer they all use extra fans for cooling.
Insulate your ceilings and external walls. This will help to keep your house warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
This would reduce the Wastemuches' CO2 production in Sydney and Melbourne by around 2.5 tonnes per year -- saving them $290 and $215 respectively. Even in Brisbane, they could save 1.3 tonnes or $150 a year.
Draught-proof your home: fix draught-stoppers on doors (particularly on outside ones), seal your windows with insulation strips and close off unused pet doors and open fireplaces.
This could cut $20 (Sydney) to $75 (Melbourne) a year off the Wastemuches' energy bill.
Note: The better insulated and draught-proofed your house is, the more important it is you ensure good ventilation by opening some windows for a few minutes several times a day. Otherwise the air won't be exchanged often enough -- pollutants (for example, from unflued gas heaters) can accumulate and mould can grow because too much water vapour (from the bathroom, kitchen and your perspiration) stays inside.
Heat and cool your rooms to moderate temperatures.
Heating their rooms to only 20oC instead of 23oC would mean that the members of the Wastemuch family might have to wear a jumper -- but they could save about 0.4 tonnes of CO2 in Sydney ($50), or 0.9 tonnes in Melbourne ($75). Similarly, cooling your home to only 25oC rather than 23oC will save you money without making much difference to your comfort.
Windows aren't much of a barrier to heat, so shade them in summer to keep the sun out. In winter, don't cover north-facing windows during the day, to take advantage of the sunlight, but close the blinds or curtains at night to reduce heat loss.
Choose the and the right-size and appliances.
Close off any rooms you don't need to heat or cool.
Consider using a fan instead of an air conditioner for cooling -- it uses less energy.
The Wastemuches have an off-peak electric hot water system. Each family member showers once a day, spending nine minutes under their standard shower head. Their dishwasher only has a two-star energy rating, and they use its 'normal' program daily. Their washing machine, a large top loader, isn't very energy-efficient either, and they usually wash in warm water.
The Savealot family has a solar water system with an off-peak electric booster. They too shower once a day, but limit it to around three minutes and use a water-efficient shower head. Their dishwasher has a high energy rating, and they use its economy program daily. They have a large front-loading washing machine and usually wash in cold water.
Install a solar hot water system -- ideally with a natural gas booster rather than an electric one.
A solar water heater with electric boosting would reduce the Wastemuches' CO2 production by 5.4 tonnes a year in Sydney and Brisbane, and by 6.7 tonnes in Melbourne -- saving them around $200.
Take a quick shower rather than a long one or a bath, and install a low-flow shower head.
Doing that, the Waste-muches could save around $145 and produce 3.7 tonnes less CO2 (5 tonnes in Melbourne).
Insulate any ex-posed hot-water pipes.
Set the thermostat of your hot-water storage to 60oC instead of 70oC -- particularly in summer.
Note: Don't set it below 55oC, otherwise dangerous bacteria like legionella may survive and grow in your hot-water system.
The Wastemuch family in each city has a 500 L, two-door fridge/freezer with only a three-star energy rating. The Savealots in each city find their smaller 400 L, two-door fridge/freezer sufficient, and made sure they bought one with a high energy rating.
Choose the size of fridge and freezer you really need, and get the most energy-efficient one that meets your requirements.
Place your fridge and freezer in a cool, shaded spot away from the oven and direct sunlight.
Make sure there's enough space around them for air circulation and keep the coils at the back dust-free.
Leaving foods uncovered will mean a frost-free fridge will have to work harder, and ice will build up in non-frost-free fridges.
Defrost non-frost-free fridges and freezers regularly. Built-up ice means they have to work harder.
Check the door seal regularly. Close the fridge door over a sheet of paper; if you can easily pull it out, the seal needs replacing.
Don't open the door of your fridge or freezer longer or more often than necessary.
As both the Wastemuches and the Savealots live in all-electric houses, there's no alternative to using an electric stove and/or a microwave oven. We assumed the same usage and therefore the same energy consumption for both families.
Microwaves are very energy-efficient: they only heat the food, not the oven.
Use specialised appliances for regular tasks: an electric kettle is more economical than a hotplate to boil water, a toaster is better than a grill to toast bread.
Make sure the pot fits the hotplate. If it's too small, you're wasting energy. Also, use lids that fit on your pots so the heat can't escape.
Major electrical appliances
The Wastemuches dry their clothes in a dryer with only a two-star energy rating. The Savealots, on the other hand, use the sun, the wind and a clothes line whenever possible. They use their energy-efficient dryer only occasionally.
MAJOR ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES
Dry your washing on the clothes line rather than in an electric dryer whenever possible.
Doing this, the Wastemuches would have over $100 more in their pockets, and around one less tonne of CO2 on their conscience.
The next time you replace an appliance, choose one with a high energy rating.
If the Wastemuches had bought appliances with high star ratings, and still used them in the same way as they do in our scenarios, they would have saved up to $230 and 1.8 tonnes of CO2 (2.7 tonnes in Melbourne) each year. Use a front-loading washing machine.
Note: Our tests show that front-loading washing machines are more energy-efficient for hot and warm washes and more water-efficient than top-loaders. They usually also wash better and more gently, but take longer than top loaders.
Wash in cold water.
The Wastemuches could save $65 per year doing this.
Note: Our tests of washing machines and detergents show that dirt removal is only marginally better when using warm water.
Always fully load your washing machine and dishwasher. Half-load programs use less energy than the normal program -- but still more than 50% of a full load.
The Wastemuches and the Savealots both light their house well in the evening, and use the same number of lights for the same time each day. However, while the Wastemuches use ordinary globes, the Savealots have switched to energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.
Use compact fluorescent bulbs.
The possible savings are shown in the table, above. Compact fluorescent bulbs are more expensive than a normal bulb that gives the same amount of light, but they should last up to eight times longer and use only about one fifth of the energy. So over their lifetime they should more than pay for themselves.
Switch off lights when you leave a room.
Consider installing a dimmer switch in rooms where you may not always need all the light a bulb can provide.
Don't leave security lighting (for example, in your garden) on all night. Install movement-sensitive lights that switch themselves on if someone is passing them.
Switch appliances off where possible, instead of leaving them on standby. In our test of 68 cm TVs (CHOICE, January 1997), for example, we calculated savings of up to $20 a year.
Don't leave appliances (such as your stereo or TV set) running when you don't need them.
Waste that ends up in landfill produces more greenhouse gases than waste that's composted (organic matter) or recyled (non-organic waste).
However, both composting and recycling may be beyond your control. If you live in a unit, you may not have the chance to compost your organic waste. And what materials you can recycle depends on what your local council offers you.
So we've assumed that both families compost and recycle the same amounts of waste.
While you won't necessarily save money by reducing the amount of waste you produce, you can still reduce your environmental impact by following our tips:
Try to minimise the amount of waste you produce when shopping -- for example, by buying in bulk, and by avoiding disposable products and unnecessary packaging.If you have a garden, start to compost your organic waste such as food scraps or grass clippings.If your council collects different materials for recycling, use this service as much as you can.
The Wastemuches own two cars: a large family car that travels about 15,000 km a year, and a small second car which they drive 5000 km a year. They don't use public transport at all.
The Savealot family feels that one medium-size car (15,000 km/year) serves them fine. They use public transport to get to work and school whenever possible.
Use public transport whenever possible. Consider walking or using a bicycle for short distances.Try to car pool. Share the ride to work with one or more colleagues, if possible, or join a club that'll match you with other people who have a similar route.Only use your car when you really have to. The costs of running a car are considerable.Don't buy a bigger car or engine size than you really need.Choose a fuel-efficient car and use it fuel-efficiently: for example, avoid high speeds, hard braking and fast acceleration.Keep your car's engine tuned and ensure the tyres have the recommended air pressure.Remove heavy items and roof racks from your car when you don't need them.
The two families overall
(not including transport)
How we calculated
All calculations in this article are based on the Australian Home Greenhouse Scorecard -- a computer program developed by Sustainable Solutions, for the Environment Protection Authority in Victoria (with financial assistance from the EPA of NSW, the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and the Department of the Environment, Sports and Territories).
While the figures give you a good idea of CO2 production, costs and savings, they're approximations only, based on the assumptions in our scenarios and in the software we used. Different assumptions will lead to different results.
In most states and territories, each kWh of electricity you use produces about 1 kg of CO2. Exceptions are Tasmania (1 kWh produces only 0.06 kg of CO2), where a high percentage of power is generated in hydroelectric schemes, Victoria (1 kWh produces 1.4 kg of CO2), which uses a lot of brown coal for power generation, and the Northern Territory (1 kWh produces 0.7 kg of CO2) where electricity is mainly generated by gas turbines.
Our calculations are based on energy costs of 12 cents per kWh peak rate, and 4 cents per kWh off-peak.
Figures have been rounded to the nearest 0.1 tonne of CO2 (except for Wood -- slow combustion, where the figures are very small) and the nearest $10.
In Sydney, a solar hot-water collector can provide around 67% of the energy needed for hot water (which is similar to its efficiency in Adelaide). It can provide even more in Brisbane (77%), Perth (77%) and Darwin (92%), but less in Melbourne (60%) and Hobart (52%).
The households are all-electric.
Heating option comparison
We assumed that the same-sized area, in a 160 sq m house with insulated ceilings, is heated in each city: in Brisbane for only a short time each day in winter, for a medium period of time in Sydney, Adelaide and Perth, and for a long period of time in Melbourne and Hobart.
One megajoule (MJ) of natural gas or LPG produces about 0.06 kg of CO2. Domestic natural gas tariffs vary a lot between cities, so we've calculated using a typical rate for each city. LPG is considerably more expensive.
Each kilogram of coal produces about 2.6 kg of CO2. We've calculated using a price of $350 per tonne.
Plants use CO2 from the air for their growth. If you burn wood, you release the carbon stored in it and produce about 1.5 kg of CO2 per kg of wood.
However, if the wood you burn is used sustainably (which means that all you burn is replaced by new trees), the new trees will use CO2 again for their growth -- theoretically just as much as you produced by burning the wood.
In that case (which we assumed in our calculations) all you have to take into account is the CO2 produced when transporting the wood from the forest to your home: around 0.03 kg of CO2 per kg of wood.
Wood prices vary from city to city -- you may even have access to a free supply. We assumed you have to buy your firewood and pay $140 per tonne.