Hey aspiring energy saver – if you’re not ready to move off-grid and get really good at making fires (hi, nomads!), you know that energy saving tips need to be a little more practical.
It’s a good thing for us that every now and then, someone has a stroke of genius that changes their power bill for the better (without changing their world). So we asked a bunch of Aussies how they’re saving energy and put all their tips in one place for you here.
Free (and it works)
Here are our faves on how to save energy without breaking the bank. They make being a little more energy conscious easy, or even a little more fun. (Apart from the push ups. Push ups are not fun.)
- Put your heating and cooling on a timer
Set them 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).
- Set a two-song shower timer
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 if you can. 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 that warms you up
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
It beats using the energy it takes to heat the whole house. If you live in a studio apartment, we hope you’re feeling smug at being able to do both.
- Exclusively candlelit 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 we’d also endorse.
- Lower your heating, or increase your cooling by one degree
There’s a good chance you won’t notice the difference. And if you can, lock that temperature in to stop any sneaky hands you might have around the house. (Put a jumper on, Leonard.)
- Instead of charging 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 energy use 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 less community-minded feline) cover yourself in catnip.
- Make your own warmth
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.
- Read to your kids by torchlight
Imagine how much more fun it must be to get lost in make believe adventure by the half-light of a camping torch.
- Optimise your home for airflow
One reader manufactured the perfect conditions 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 put off using until you’re generating electricity 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 energy bills with their neighbours and whoever has the highest energy 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 can lose a bit of 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 (empty milk bottles make good ones). They take up the room so no extra hot air can get in (that your freezer then has to cool down). This comes with the added bonus of giving you something to cling to and dream of snow on extra hot days.
- Keep blankets close in winter
If there’s always one within reach, the heater will become a much less compelling option.
- Reflect sunlight into your room
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.
- Wait until the dishwasher’s full
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. Good luck.
- Keep your coffee in a thermos
Making one batch of tea or coffee and keeping it in your thermos 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 draught stopper or chimney balloon (which is kind of like putting a cork in your chimney).
- Clean the dryer filter
Dryers suck up a lot of energy, so it’s good to keep them efficient where you can. Make it part of your routine to clean the filter out before each tumble.
- Close the curtains
Did you know up to 40% of your home’s heat can escape through your windows? Curtains and blinds create a layer of insulation that keeps the heat inside in winter, and outside in summer.
- 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, these are some small investments people have made that made a difference to their power spend.
- Paint things to 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
Do this if you reckon the current one is looking a little shabby. The fridge runs all day, so it’s good to make sure none of that energy is going to waste.
- Draught-proof windows and doors
Do this in the parts of your house you don’t normally use, too. Just because they fly under the radar 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 you get one that uses less water, it means there’s less to heat up.
- Invest in a cheap clothes drying rack
If you’ve got the heater on, you might as well use it as a dryer too. It might take a little longer for things to dry, but it uses exactly no energy (and might make you reconsider the need for an energy-sucking tumble dryer at all).
- Replace your bulbs
Energy efficiency is king. So switch to economic light bulbs to make saving energy 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 – but we didn’t tell you that.
- 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. In general, the energy consumption of a halogen oven is much lower than that of its toasty contemporaries.
If a dollar saved is a dollar earned, but you’ve got to spend money to make money, then spending money on money-saving is just about the smartest thing you could ever do.
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.
- Book an energy audit
Yep – there are people out there who are literally trained to sniff out the energy inefficiencies in your house. Get an energy auditor over to point out where you could be saving.
- Optimise for natural light
One reader got their boss to replace their workshop roof with clear roof sheets which meant the sun now does 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. If you need to replace one, look for an appliance with a good energy star rating.
- 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.
- Get your windows double glazed
If your house had a way of using a blanket instead of putting the heater on, this would be it.
These are the people who took a look a little further outside the box. Sometimes so far outside that they’re on their own planet with a population of one. (And that’s okay.) Here are a few of our favourites that flew a little left of field.
- Use night vision goggles
Instead of lights. Seriously. Someone does this. (We think.)
- Sit in the dark
And wait for it to enhance your superhero night vision. This person probably scoffs at #45.
- Use a Fresnel lens to boil water
‘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 that you can then use to heat water. 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.)