10 Ways to Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency (and Help the Planet While You’re at it!)

Contributing Writer: Tanya Mayer

Posted on Thursday 27th September 2018

Australian homes account for a surprising percentage of the country’s overall carbon emissions. Yes, forget long-haul flights or your gas-guzzling 4x4, your home has a significant cumulative effect on the environment! If you’re keen to reverse the negative effect, consider implementing the following advice to reduce your carbon footprint. They range from the substantial (and sometimes expensive) to more minor adjustments. Remember, though, what seems like small and subtle decisions can really add up and so it’s worth making them!

And it’s also worth noting that it’s not just about helping Mother Earth – over the long-term, opting for energy efficient solutions will shave a respectable amount off your monthly bills. Not only that, studies have shown that energy efficient homes are generally worth more. An improvement of one star on the energy rating scale leads to an average increase of 3%, a figure which can represent thousands of dollars.

Insulate Your Home

Insulation delivers the most bang-for-your-buck when it comes to energy efficiency in your home. For example, installing roof insulation can save 45% on your energy bills. Wall insulation can extend this by a further 20%. In other words, it’s a no-brainer decision and should be at the top of your list. Don’t skimp when it comes to product quality and workmanship; look for an R-value of 5.1 for your roof and ceiling, while wall insulation should be at 2.8.

Use Double Glazing

Windows represent an inevitable source of energy, as heat can easily travel through a single pane of glass. Double glazing, however, provides an air gap between two panels, which prevents heat flow. The beauty of double glazing is that it works both ways. It redirects heat back inside your home during those cold winters, while it keeps it outside during baking summers.

Technology has taken double glazing to the next level through what’s known as ‘thermal glazing,’ which uses a transparent layer to reflect heat more effectively. Compared so single glazing, thermal double glazing can provide a 68% uptick to your home’s insulation efficacy.

Change Your Habits

You’ll love this tip, as it requires no investment whatsoever. It’ll take a bit of effort though, as bad habits are notoriously difficult to shake. For example, make sure all lights are off when you’re not in a room. Don’t boil a full kettle when you’re only planning to have a single cup of coffee.

Change Energy Supplier

Not all energy suppliers are created equal. Some charge extortionate fees, which means that a simple switch to another supplier can save you hundreds of dollars over the year. In terms of the environment, some suppliers advertise themselves as ‘green.’ This means they either supply all energy from renewable sources or at least do so partially. This is a relatively easy switch to make, as you can continue using your energy as normal knowing that your supplier is environmentally friendly.

Opt for Energy-efficient appliances

Most countries require appliances to provide a green energy rating, which makes it quick and easy to determine which unit is best for the environment. Not only that, you can also opt for energy-efficient toilets, LED fittings, and showers.

Yes, these usually require a higher up-front investment but you’ll save on your ongoing monthly bills. Most units pay for themselves in a matter of months. If you’re going to be using these appliances for the next couple of years, you’ll pay for them many times over.

Use Recycled Materials

This point works in a two-pronged way. First, try and invest in materials that can easily be re-used. This would either be in any future home you decide to build, or for someone else that may need them. You can do this by ensuring you purchase standard-sized doors, roof tiles, or windows, for example.

If you’re building a home from scratch, have a plan in place to maximise use of materials and have a solid recycling plan in place. Work with your builder to ensure that as little as possible is wasted and sent to a landfill. You may also choose to buy recycled materials yourself, which again reduces your carbon footprint.

Colour According to Climate  

The colour of your home’s paintwork should be based on more than just aesthetic considerations. Let the local conditions should guide you. If you call warmer climes your home, then opt for lighter shades that reflect light and heat. If turning up the radiators to full power is common for you, go for a darker colour.

This advice applies to the entire exterior of your home, including doors and your garage. And don’t worry, just because you’re opting for an energy-efficient solution doesn’t mean you have to give up on style; it’s possible to give your house a modern or classic look, depending on your tastes, whilst still doing your bit for the environment.

Install Solar Panels

The installation of solar panels is amongst the most expensive on this list, yet it remains one of our favourites. This alternative use of energy can significantly reduce your bills and, depending on your location, building, and the number of panels, it is even possible to take the energy company completely out of the equation. Of course, solar panels don’t come cheap; expect to pay thousands of dollars (likely in the five-figure range) for this environmentally-friendly upgrade.

Passive Design

Taking your home’s place as part of the surrounding environment into consideration is called ‘passive design.’ It’s when you take advantage to create a circumstance where your home optimally uses its orientation to create a more comfortable environment.

Considering heating and cooling make up almost half of Australia’s energy usage, passive design can make a big difference. An example of passive design is orienting the home to take advantage of the sun, or optimising shade for the summer. Germany even has a home that rotates accordingly, resulting in energy-positive housing!

Fix Air Leaks

One of the most common problems homeowners face is one that they probably don’t even know exists. Leaky homes can translate to significantly higher air conditioning and heating costs. The likely culprits of leaky homes are exhaust pipes leading from the bathroom or unsealed downlights. The good thing is that these problems are relatively easy to fix, with costs hovering around the $1000 mark.




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