What you can learn from design innovation

Until we reach the point where we can live in especially-built ‘green’ houses, there are things you can do to make your own home cheaper to run, as well as a bit less harsh on the environment.

  • Maximise natural light use. Generally, we consume significantly more electricity than we really have to and that is partially because of our excessive need for artificial lighting. Maximise the use of natural light by putting in large windows (including sky lights!). Team them with rubber-backed curtains and this will help you cut back on the electricity you use and the money you spend for both heating and cooling, as well as lighting. Natural lighting and fresh air is also healthier for you.

  • Use solar panels. Installing solar panels may be the best thing you ever do for your home. You will be amazed at how much energy you can produce this way and how cheaply you can run your house. Remember, solar panels still work on cloudy and cool days. While it’s all about using what we are already getting for free, and Australia is blessed with a lot of sunshine, you need to consider whether it’s a sensible longer-term investment for you.

  • Take advantage of wind power. You can easily produce free energy in your own home using wind-generated power. Once the cost of installation is taken into account, the cost of using a wind turbine is minimal. Take into account things like insurance and maintenance to get a true picture of the costs. You only need a small one in order to cover all of your electrical needs in a way that is cheap, efficient and clean. However, you also need to have plenty of wind in your area that is not turbulent.

  • Switch to LED light bulbs – This is such a small change that is quick and easy to put into practice, but it can make an enormous difference to the amount you spend. Not only do LED – or Light Emitting Diode – bulbs consume less energy, but they burn for longer as well. The energy consumption estimates provided by Sustainability Victoria show that significant savings can be enjoyed by replacing old-style incandescent bulbs with more energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) and LED bulbs.

  • Insulate your home – Heating and cooling makes up a significant amount of the energy bills of many households, so it makes sense to try and cut back in this area. The one thing all sustainable homes have in common is exceptional insulation. A well-insulated home means you might not need air conditioning and heating at all. The Australian Government agrees that home insulation can be cost-effective and help you save up to 40% in heating and cooling bills.

  • Surround yourself with plants – This puts the ‘green’ in a green lifestyle. Planting a garden - whether it’s a vegetable or a flower garden - increases the amount of oxygen produced and reduces the carbon footprint of your house. You can even have plants inside your home, which will help keep it nice and cool, cutting back on the need for air conditioning. Just make sure you place them in front of a window, so they can get the light and the warmth they require. In addition, if you want to save even more money, make that garden a vegetable one. By planting your own food, you can ensure that you are eating clean and organic, and you also minimise expenses.

As you can see, having a sustainable lifestyle and home is not only good for the environment; it can also save you significant amounts of money.

Creating a sustainable home for you and your family is not difficult; it just requires some planning and outside-the-box thinking. With a little effort and the right tools, anyone can cut back on electricity, fuel and water consumption and costs, achieving an inexpensive and clean lifestyle that limits the impact on the environment.