Now we all know that leaving a heater on all day with the doors open is a waste of energy, though the concept of saving energy at home doesn’t end there.
It is a topic that has no single quick fix if you want to save money on energy – you need to do something about it. You need to look at ways to conserve things like water, electricity, gas and more.
The end goal, of course, is to help you save money, though it doesn’t hurt to know that your hard work not only benefits your wallet, it benefits the overall environment as well.
So as winter hits and I write this bundled up in scarves and cardigans, I can only imagine how many households are going to end up surprised at how much money they will end up spending over the course of winter, let alone a full 365 days.
Here is how to save energy, save money and through your behaviours and choice of products – make an energy efficient home.
Where are the major energy costs coming from?
A major shift in recent years for society has been to actually take the time to analyse what exactly is chewing up the majority of our energy at home. Through the study of households and how our appliances, behaviours and habits cost us – we can now understand the best ways to save money on energy.
I can remember when I was a small child, I was repeatedly told to turn the lights off or shut down the computer when I was finished doing something. Not occasionally, but all the time. These days, I leave my iPad charging all night and come home after a day out to a house ablaze with lights.
So what exactly is costing us the most money energy wise?
This fascinated me. Choice Magazine released an infographic recently that detailed the annual running costs of household items.
While it may not surprise everyone, I was amazed to see that a washing machine costs around $78 a year to run, while a clothes dryer costs nearly three times that at $203 per year.
Some other household items and their annual costs are:
- Ceiling fans – $11 per year
- Larger air-conditioning units – $534 per year
- Electric oven – $32 per year
- Electric hot water – $593 per year
- Electric kettle – $20 per year (due to its intense/rapid heating mechanism)
This got me thinking, I may need to call and apologise to my housemates for my incessant tea drinking.
Interesting energy tip:
It’s also fascinating to note that electric hot water is one of the most expensive items any household faces (or gas hot water).
This is directly correlated to the length of showers a household takes, as the hot water out of kitchen taps will barely put a dent in that $593 per year. So the trick if you haven’t already guessed it? Shower for less time, hot water is eating up your energy usage.
Stand-by energy costs
It is also estimated that stand-by costs (you know, the fact your TV waits on standby as does your PC or Mac while you aren’t using it) could cost you an extra $100 per year on your electricity bills. Find some ways to save money on electricity bills here.
Will energy-efficient appliances help me save money?
As you can see, energy usage is integral to the types of appliances we use, as well as the way we use them.
According to Government research, appliances can constitute 30% of our energy usage, making them a pretty significant factor in the bills we face each quarter.
Typically, the older the appliance, the less efficient it is. Which is at odds with the fact that, between 1974 and 1995, household energy usage increased by 46%. Now society has to look at how to reduce energy usage, while increasingly purchasing appliances that are energy efficient.
What you need to consider when buying energy efficient products
Ask yourself the following before buying an energy efficient appliance or product.
- Whether you need it. If you can get by without it, perhaps it’s best not to purchase it as the cost goes well beyond the initial outlay.
- Whether it suits your needs. One of the largest unconsidered costs of electricity is size. If you’ve got a small house, you should be looking at purchasing heating appliances that suit it perfectly. Anything too big, you’re spending unnecessary money. If you’re a one-person household, I beg to suggest you don’t need a two-door fridge.
- How you will dispose of it. Lifecycle has become an increasingly important aspect of energy usage and improvements to energy usage. How long are you intending on keeping the item, and how will you deal with it when you choose to get rid of it.
Energy star ratings are important
Energy Star Ratings are a great guide to the efficiency of an item, and research suggests that they do save you money.
In fact, research suggests they can save you a significant amount of money. Statistics on Energy Matters state that each star on a dishwasher will reduce your running costs by 30% each year, while an efficient washing machine will save you 25% of running costs over the appliance’s lifetime.
Some related energy facts you might already know:
- Hand washing your plates is more energy efficient than old dishwashers, but not necessarily more efficient than new ones.
- Plasma screens are significantly less efficient than LED, but that doesn’t mean that a 72-inch screen is still an energy-efficient investment.
- Front loading washing machines generally use significantly less energy and water than top loaders, and a swimming pool can constitute up to 30% of your household energy usage, so think seriously before agreeing to the kids’ plaintive requests.
These are all things to consider when purchasing new household appliances. Sometimes, there is a little additional cost in purchasing energy efficient equipment.
Often the extra outlay will pay for itself over the lifetime of the appliance, if not in the first year.
How our energy usage and behaviours dictate the cost
It’s the same with everything – how we work, what we eat, how we approach money. Behaviour and our approach to a topic is half the battle. It’s not just about lights (the flagship issue of household energy conservation for so long).
It’s about using energy saving modes on our new appliances, about ignoring the fact that stand-by ever existed and buying appliances that suit our specific requirements for the size of house/lifestyle we currently have.
Here are some suggestions from the NSW Government that might help you change your bad habits or bad behaviours when it comes to energy:
- Running a large TV for 6 hours a day equals the cost of running a fridge. When did background noise get so expensive? Turn it off.
- Use power boards with easy access switches, so turning them off isn’t such a chore each day.
- Clean your filters and door seals on all opening/closing appliances. Energy will leak through any fridge that isn’t closed properly, and dishwashers and washing machines function best when their filters are clean.
- If it’s going to be cold, turn the heater on before the house plunges into an icebox. It’s far easier, and uses less energy, to maintain a temperature than to raise it. The same is true of cooling your household.
- Wash in cold water. People might say it all the time, but they’re onto something. Washing in cold water uses one-quarter of the electricity usage of a warm wash.
- Hanging your clothes to dry, instead of using a dryer, will save you around $400 annually (note added:this is according to NSW Government research, ‘Choice’ say it’s around $200 a year saved – for the sake of discussion, let’s average this figure to $300 a year in savings to take into account all research) so make a point of always trying to hand dry your clothes on the line.
Do I need to invest more money in purchases to save energy?
As said earlier, the life cycle of your home appliances is now an increasingly important element is saving money on energy around the home.
Sometimes, that does require a larger capital outlay to purchase a new product or perhaps a more expensive version that will save you more money in the long run (think a more efficient kettle, a more efficient clothes dryer).
The ongoing usage costs, however, should make you feel a little more comfortable knowing that the more efficient (and in turn more expensive) products are going to be for your wallet long term.
Beyond these basic appliances and techniques mentioned above, there are other ‘investments’ you can make to become more energy efficient. For instance, you can insulate your home to save on heating or look to do basic home improvements that will keep you cooler or warmer depending on the season.
Solar might seem like an expensive option, but research is showing that with careful purchasing and research into the unit you use, you will significantly reduce your energy expenditure and have a sustainable and reliable source of power for your home for years to come.
You need to see these types of things as less of an expense and more of an investment.
And remember, you can also switch over to an energy provider that offers ‘green power’, this will help negate your carbon emissions (but cost you more money) – so it really depends on what is most important to you – the world around you or the money in your wallet.
Tell us how you save energy at home
Leave your tips on saving energy below, how does your household save money on energy?