Reduce your power bills with solar energy
Energy consumption tends to spike in the cooler months, as we heat up our homes and spend more time indoors. With skyrocketing power prices, this added electricity use can be expensive – not to mention the impact it could have on the environment. Everything you do to maximise your home's energy efficiency (and there are lots of options) will help drive down your power bills, while keeping you warm.
There are many easy ways to save energy and money, with little effort and no cost whatsoever. Start a few new good habits!
Lights out: Being inside for longer and with shorter daylight hours, we tend to switch lights on more often. Get in the habit of turning lights off as you leave a room.
Turn it down: Set the thermostat on heaters to between 18°C and 21°C. This temperature should keep everyone happy.
Shut it: When doors are open, the heater will run nonstop and the thermostat is unlikely to kick in. Warmth will also quickly dissipate when the heating is turned off.
Blinding logic: Blinds and curtains can be excellent temperature and light regulators. Open them before turning on lights and keep open while the winter sun is shining in. Consider updating curtains to a thicker material with better insulating properties.
Bring into line: The use of tumble dryers tends to increase during winter. Instead, hang your washing on an airing rack and place it in a well-ventilated room near a sunny window.
Shower smart: While it's tempting to linger under a hot shower to warm up, it's more economical to keep showers short.
Stop stand-by: Home entertainment and office equipment left on stand-by mode can be responsible for a significant chunk of household power consumption. Switch these appliances off at the wall, if possible.
Dress up: One way to keep the temperature consistent in every room is to throw on an extra layer of clothing and wear fleecy socks or boots.
The most popular heating and cooling option is the reverse-cycle air conditioner, and it can often be the most cost-effective. Adrian Brown, general manager of sales and planning at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Air-Conditioners, tells how to get the most from your split-system.
“We've found home owners can change the main aircon settings but often don't make use of the in-built timer functions,” he says. “The timer lets you set your system to start warming your home before you get up or to have it hot when you arrive home, so you're only running it when required.” Maintenance is another overlooked part of system efficiency. “If your filters are even a little clogged, the system has to work harder – using more power – to heat or cool,” adds Adrian. “Check your manual, as most filters are easy to access and clean. It's also wise to have your unit serviced professionally at least every two years. The technician will check refrigerant levels and look for any efficiency-decreasing wear and tear.”
A slightly larger investment of time and money can have a dramatic effect on power bills and on your home's comfort levels.
Blowing hot air: Flick the switch on your ceiling fan that says winter/summer – this reverses the blade rotation direction. As hot air rises from the heater, the fan pushes it back down to you. If your fan doesn't have a seasonal switch, run it on low to feel the same benefit.
Seeing stars: When shopping for appliances, look at their energy efficiency (shown as a star rating). This is especially important with heating and cooling products, and clothes dryers.
Layer it up: Call in a qualified tradesperson to review your home's insulation throughout, from underfloor to roof cavity and not forgetting the walls. Some products can be retrofitted.
Light on: Switching to LED lighting can cut energy costs dramatically. Some globes can be simply swapped over while other fittings will need attention from a qualified electrician to make them LED-friendly. Check with a sparkie.
Smart seals: Door and window seals can leak heat, even when closed. From the classic door sausage to more high-tech seals and draught excluders, there are plenty of easy, cost-effective options that can be retrofitted.
Call time-out: Adding timers – basic mechanical or high-tech smart timers – to appliances can allow you to control energy use by setting automatic on and off times. You can even have your smart lights and devices become ‘location aware', so they turn on as you arrive home and off as you leave.