Think green at home
Live more sustainably. Image © istockphoto.
A dripping tap can waste more than 2,000 litres of water in a year. Image © istockphoto.
Energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Image © istockphoto.
- Water conservation and recycling
- Energy (electricity and gas) conservation
- Alternative and renewable energy sources
- Recycling of waste
- Useful online resources
Water conservation and recycling
- Install a low-flow shower head, which allows less water to flow through it than a regular nozzle. The average showerhead uses around 20 litres of water a minute and a low-flow showerhead uses around 9 litres of water per minute. Not only will you save money on your water bill, but the energy cost of heating the water will also be reduced by around 50%. Low-flow showerheads are relatively inexpensive, costing around $20.00, and are easy to install.
- Reduce the time that you spend showering. Use a shower timer to monitor the time you and other family members spend under the shower. There are numerous shower timer models available that range in price from $4.00 through to $300.00.
- Fix dripping taps. A dripping tap can waste more than 2,000 litres of water a month and around 24,000 litres of water in a year. In many instances, a leak can be stopped by replacing the tap’s washer.
- Make a habit of regularly checking your water metre and bill to track your water usage. Check your water meter when all fixtures are turned off and if your water meter dial is spinning when you're not using anything, contact a plumber who can detect the source of the water leak.
- When washing clothes, ensure that you wash a full load and in cold water.
- When purchasing a washing machine, choose a model that has a AAA rating for water efficiency. Consider buying a frontloading washing machine rather than a top loader. Frontloading washing machines use around 40% less water then top loader washing machines.
- When stacking dishes in the dishwasher, ensure that you wash a full load and if you are in the habit of rinsing dishes with hot water before you place them in the dishwasher, remove this step from the dishwashing process. Most dishwashers have the capacity to thoroughly clean unrinsed items and you will save hot running water.
- Use the shortest program in your dishwasher that will satisfactorily clean your dishes
- Avoid using hot water if cold water will suffice. Each time you run the hot tap, one litre or more of cold water goes down the sink before hot water is delivered.
Energy (electricity and gas) conservation
- Unplug unused appliances – in particular TVs, stereos, microwave ovens computers, printers and clothes dryers – as even appliances in standby mode consume energy. If the prospect of unplugging all of your appliances is daunting, consider investing in a smart power strip. Smart power strips monitor power consumption and shut down the power of appliances in standby mode, eliminating the idle current drawn from them. Smart power strips cost around $30.
- If you're using the clothes dryer, fill it as it's more efficient to dry a full load of clothes.
- Install energy efficient lighting. Replace your standard incandescent light bulbs and halogen down lamps with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and compact fluorescent down lamps. CFLS are more expensive than standard light bulbs and halogen down lights but you will get your money back in the 75% reduction in energy consumption and the longer lasting CFLs. The average lifespan of a CFL is between 8 and 15 times longer than an incandescent lamp. CFLs typically have a lifespan of between 6,000 and 15,000 hours, whereas incandescent lamps have a lifespan of between 750 hours and 1,000 hours.
- Turn off lights in rooms that you are not using.
- Do not heat rooms that you’re not using.
- Turn off any hot water storage system if you are going away on holidays. Heating water that will not be used for the duration of the holiday is a waste of energy.
- When buying appliances, make sure that they are ENERGY STAR compliant. ENERGY STAR is an international standard for energy-efficient electronic equipment. ENERGY STAR reduces the amount of energy that a product consumes by either automatically switching it into 'sleep' mode when it's not being used and/or reducing the amount of power used when it is in 'standby' mode. ENERGY STAR compliant appliances consume around 75% less energy in standby mode than standard products do.
- Insulate your ceilings to at least R3 and if possible insulate walls to R1.5. The R value is a measure of thermal resistance that is used in the building and construction industry. This will help keep your home cooler in Summer and warmer in Winter and decrease the reliance on air conditioning and heating.
- Use evaporated cooling rather than refrigerated air-conditioning. Evaporative cooling is an air cooling unit that turns warm air into moist, cool air by saturating the air with water vapour. Evaporated cooling consumes less than 15% of the electricity compared with a refrigeration-based cooling system.
- Use ceiling fans instead of air conditioners. Fans have lower running costs.
- Seal gaps around your house that are allowing draughts to enter into your home. Draughts can increase your heating costs by up to 25%. Doors require draught-proofing at their bases and between the door and its frame. Windows should have draught-proofing between the openable sash and the frame. Automatic door closers should be installed for swing and sliding doors and to doors leading outside, doors to ventilated areas and doors between heated and unheated zones of your home.
Alternative, renewable energy sources
- Switch to GreenPower. GreenPower is renewable energy that is sourced from the sun, wind, water and waste that is purchased by your energy company on your behalf.
- Convert to a solar power system, also known as a solar photovoltaic system. Essentially, solar power draws light from the sun and converts it to electricity to power the home. Solar power systems convert the energy from sunlight into Direct Current (DC) electricity. An inverter then converts this direct current to Alternating Current (AC), to make it compatible with grid electricity. The energy produced from the solar power system can reduce an energy bill by up to 20% for a 1KW (1,000 watt) system.
- Purchase a solar water heater. Solar hot water is heated using natural energy from the sun. The solar energy heats up large panels known as thermal collectors, which transfer the energy in fluid form to a water tank for storage and subsequent use.
Recycling of waste
Domestic waste recycling bin. Image © istockphoto.
- Recycle food and garden waste in a compost bin. The compost will enrich your soil and provide essential nutrients for plants, flowers, vegetables and fruit trees. Compost also makes an effective surface mulch that helps retain the moisture in the soil.
- Be vigilant about recycling as much of your domestic waste as possible.
- Where possible, reuse containers and other items, rather than discarding them.
- When buying a new car, purchase a fuel-efficient model.
- Keep your car engine tuned. This will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from your car by up to15%.
- Convert to LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) Autogas. LPG emits far less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than unleaded petrol. Most unleaded petrol-fuelled vehicles can be converted to LPG Autogas/petrol operation at a reasonable cost. Typical conversion costs range from around $2,000.00 to $4,000.00 depending on the type of vehicle system that is fitted. This cost is recouped in a relatively short time as it is far cheaper to run a car using LPG Autogas than unleaded petrol. LPG Autogas is typically over 50c less per litre than unleaded petrol.
Useful online resources
Car being filled with LPG, a greener and cheaper alternative to unleaded petrol. Image © istockphoto.
- Sustainability Victoria’s Resource Smart website Contains useful tips on “detoxing” your home, among other domestic green tips
- Energy rating guide Contains an online, searchable database of household appliances and their energy-efficiency rating.
- Energy Star A web site about ENERGY STAR, the international standard for energy efficient electronic equipment.
- The Green Directory Contains a directory that includes sustainable building products and services, water saving products, energy efficient products, organic food and beverages, sustainable and organic clothing.
- Green Vehicle Guide Contains an online, searchable database of cars and their level of fuel efficiency.
- Sustainability Victoria’s Council waste and recycling services website Lists all the waste and recycling services of all of Victoria’s councils
- Department of Climate Change The Department of Climate Change website
- Green Power – accredited renewable energy A web site about GreenPower, the national accreditation program that sets high environmental and reporting standards for renewable electricity products offered by energy suppliers to households and businesses across Australia.