If you’re not ready to move off-grid and get really good at making fires (hi, nomads!), energy saving tips need to be a little more practical.
So we went out looking for the everyday heroes coming up with new ways to save energy, and put together a list of their best tips – ranging from free and easy to big investment. Because every now and then someone has a stroke of
genius and it changes their power bill for the better, without changing their world.
Free (and it works)
If saving energy doesn’t feel like saving energy, are you really saving energy?
Yes. 100%. No doubt about it.
These are the ideas that made being a little more energy conscious a little more fun. (Apart from the push ups. Push ups are not fun.)
- Put your heating and cooling on a timer to come on at the temperature you like a little before you get home. It saves you putting it into overdrive the minute you come in, (and risking leaving it that way all night).
- Pick your two best shower songs* and sing them with everything you’ve got. Then, shower’s over. If you’ve still got soap on you, it’s your own fault. You knew that last reprise was coming.
- Cook all the things, all at once. If you’re using your oven for one thing, you might as well use it for three. It’ll save all that empty preheating time you’d use if you made them separately. Plus you’ll have
lunches and dinners done for the week – maybe leaving you time to try out tip #4?
- Try a new activity to keep yourself warm. One reader said they and their partner took up ballroom dancing and danced every night to (in their own, wholesome words) ‘warm our house and our souls’. Who needs a heater when
you have the salsa?
- Only heat or cool the rooms you’re using, rather than using the energy you’d need for the whole house. If you live in a studio apartment, we hope you’re feeling smug.
- Date night. Whoever’s at home, gather them around the candlelight one night a week for dinner. One reader suggests that to avoid cooking, you can even opt for cheese as your entire meal – something our content writer wholeheartedly
- Lower your heating, or increase your cooling by one degree. See if it makes a difference. And if you can, lock that temperature in. (To stop the sneakier hands you might have around the house. Put a jumper on, Leonard.)
- Don’t charge your kids board, make them pay the bills. Could there be anything more satisfying than hearing your own child ask if you really need the heater on? Doubt it. Making your kids pay the power bills is a good way to
get them thinking about their usage before they get their own place, too.
- Run appliances at night to save money. This won’t save energy, but if you’ve got off-peak rates, they won’t cost as much to run.
- Wash with cold water. If things aren’t super dirty, cold water does a fine job of cleaning and you save on the energy needed to heat it (which accounts for almost all the energy a washing machine uses, according to CSIRO).
- Defrost food the natural way. Instead of using a microwave, let frozen things sit on a windowsill to thaw. This is easy if you’re the kind of person who’s thinking about dinner while they’re having breakfast.
For everyone else, maybe chuck a note on the fridge to remind yourself.
- Block the hot tap. One reader says they put a cup on the handle so it’s just a fraction more inconvenient to use than the cold one. Honestly the simplicity of this one blew us away.
- Dupe your pets into acting as hot water bottles. Use food and pats as a lure, or (if yours is a more independent feline) cover yourself in catnip.
- Get your energy organically – with push ups and sit ups. The person who suggested this says ‘it’s green, and it keeps me lean’, which makes us think that they might actually do it. Bravo, Hercules.
- Add to the adventure – read to your kids by torchlight. Imagine how much more fun it must be for them to get lost in Harry Potter world by the magical half-light of a camping torch.
- Use physics to cool down your house. One reader manufactured the perfect air condition in their home to get a consistent end-to-end airflow. Try opening and closing doors and windows to see if you can get a current of cool air breezing
through your place.
- Read the weather report. If you’ve got solar panels and the sun’s shining tomorrow, see how many appliances you can use to make best use of the electricity you’re generating for free.
- Turn off things at the switch. Is it annoying? Yes. Will it make a difference? Also yes.
- Power (saving) in numbers. One reader said they compare bills with their neighbours and whoever has the highest usage each quarter buys everyone else dinner. Sometimes victory is sweet, sometimes it tastes like pizza.
- Vacuum your refrigerator coils. This tip wins the prize for being the least exciting, but it’ll help your fridge release heat more efficiently.
- Insulate your hot water pipes. Your hot water loses heat while it’s on its way to you, particularly if it’s cold outside. So if you can, give the pipes a winter jacket.
- Fill your freezer – even if it’s just with ice blocks. It takes up room where hot air would normally get in (that your freezer would have to cool down again). And on those really hot days, you can take one out, cling
to it and dream of snow.
- Keep blankets close in winter. If there’s one at your feet, the heater will become a much less compelling option.
- If your room gets dark a little sooner than you’d like, see if there’s somewhere you can put a mirror that can catch the sun and reflect it back in.
- Let your dishwasher fill up before running it. If this usually takes a few days, make sure everything gets a quick rinse before going in (having teenagers increases the difficulty level on this last part).
- If you’re big on caffeine, get a big thermos to match. Making one batch of tea or coffee helps you avoid boiling the kettle over and over throughout the day.
- Block your chimney. After all, it’s there to warm you up, not let a draught in. So as soon as winter’s over, put a cover over your fireplace, or get a chimney balloon or draught stopper.
- If you need to use a dryer, clean out the filter before every use.
- Close the curtains. Did you know up to 40% of your home’s heat can escape through them?
- Hit the road. Not just because you’re at the end of this section, but because getting out of the house for a few days of camping means you’ll spare it a couple of days of energy use.
Low cost, high impact
If you’re ready to start putting a bit of cash behind it here are the small investments people have made that have changed things for the better on their bill.
- Make it glow in the dark. One person painted rocks in their backyard with glow-in-the-dark paint. Now they absorb sunlight during the day and give their garden a soft light through the evening. Ambient.
- Replace your fridge seal if the current one is looking a little shabby. You’re already running the fridge all day, so make sure none of that energy is going to waste.
- Draught-proof windows and doors. Think about the draughts you might not notice, too. Just because they’re not where you are, doesn’t mean they’re not letting cool air into your house (we’re looking at
you, non-descript back room).
- Switch out your showerhead. If it uses less water, it means there’s less to heat up.
- Invest in a cheap drying rack and use your heater as a dryer (or in warmer weather, just chuck everything outside). It’s the classic two-birds, one stone (and might leave you wondering if you need an energy-sucking tumble
dryer at all).
- Replace your bulbs. Switching to economic light bulbs makes saving electricity something you barely notice.
- Get automated. Installing tech that lets you turn appliances on and off remotely (or sensors that do it for you) makes it easier to only use what you need. One reader suggested extending this to your wifi modem and using it
against your kids – something we can’t help but respect.
- Makeshift double-glazing. If you’re not in a position to get new double-glazed windows fitted, one person recommends sticking Perspex sheets over your windows using magnetic strips. “Cheap, but effective” were
their exact words.
- Thought about a halogen oven? Depending on the type of oven you have and how much you cook at a time, it might be a more energy-efficient choice for you.
You’ve got to spend money to make money, they say. Even better if someone’s already tested the idea for you. Here’s what people have invested in at their place and loved enough to share with us.
- An energy auditor. Yep – there are people out there who are literally trained to sniff out the energy inefficiencies in your house.
- Optimise for natural light. One reader got their boss to replace their workshop roof with clear roof sheets which meant the sun did the bulk of their lighting for them.
- Go five-star. Luxuriate in the satisfaction of knowing all your appliances are as energy conscious as you are. It’s one to think about if you’re thinking about upgrading (and if you can find a good home for your
old appliances, all the better).
- Be your own engineer. We got a response from someone who runs their rainwater through a small hydro turbine to power all their lights. We’ll wait while you get your engineer mate on the phone.
- Double-glaze your windows. If your house had a way of using a blanket instead of putting the heater on, this would be it.
Then there are the ones who look a little further outside the box. Sometimes so far outside of it that they’re on their own planet with a population of one. (And that’s okay.) Here are a few of our favourite energy
saving tips that flew a little left of field.
- Use night vision goggles instead of lights.
- Sit in the dark to enhance your superhero night vision.
- Use a Fresnel lens to boil water for coffee on sunny days. ‘What’s that?’ we hear you ask. It’s a curved lens that concentrates the sun’s rays to produce an ultra-high temperature beam of sunlight.
Go on, Poindexter. Try it.
Most of these tips came from everyday energy users, but we’ve also added a few of our faves from the CSIRO Home Energy Saving Handbook (2013).
* To the wise guys out there, the idea of listening to ‘Purple Rain’ (twice) is not a new one, and your 17-minute showers – in the immortal words of Shania Twain – don’t impress us much. (In a song that comes in at
just under 4 minutes. Just saying.)