energy-efficiencyHousehold electricity prices have risen by an average of 14% and gas by an average of 13% since 2012. Rising costs are due to numerous government, legislative and economic factors, most well beyond the control of the average citizen. However, with household electricity costs projected to rise a further 7% in 2014-15, there are some steps you can take to reduce the impact of these increased costs on your household budget.

Did you know that your appliances may account for a whopping 30%  of your home energy use? There are two main ways you can impact your home energy costs: buying the right appliances and using appliances efficiently. We’ve broken it down by appliance so that you know what to look for when purchasing a new appliance and how you can use it more efficiently.

There are some general terms you need to know, so let’s start there.

Energy Rating

Energy rating is a mandatory scheme for rating major appliances in Australia. All appliances that fall within the mandatory scheme must be sold with a label indicating their Energy Star Rating and Energy Consumption details. The star rating gives a comparative indicator (i.e. an averaged comparison of like appliances) on a given model’s energy efficiency. The comparative energy consumption is usually measured in kilowatt hours/year to give consumers an idea of how much energy the appliance will use over the course of an average year. The higher to star rating, the more efficient the appliance. The lower the kilowatt hours/year the lower your energy consumption, which should equate to lower energy bills.

The following appliances must be sold with Energy Rating labels: refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners and televisions.

Refrigerators, freezers and televisions are all rated from 1 – 10; other appliances are rated from 1 – 6.

WELS Water Rating

energy-savingYou may see two stickers on your appliance if you are purchasing a dishwasher or clothes washer; one will be the Energy Rating sticker and the other will be the WELS sticker, which indicates water consumption under the Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme. WELS rating stickers detail an item’s water efficiency for consumers. WELS ratings also apply to domestic plumbing fittings like taps, toilets and shower fixtures. More stars equal more water efficiency. Ratings are from 1 – 6.

When purchasing a new appliance, cost is almost always a factor but bear in mind that the Energy and WELS ratings may be a helpful indicator of an appliance’s ‘hidden’ cost, in other words, its running costs. Although you may save money up front on the price of an appliance, a lower star rating will indicate lower efficiency; consequently, the cheaper up front appliances may cost you more in the long run. Think carefully and consider choosing a slightly more expensive appliance with a higher efficiency rating.

We’ve put together some helpful hints on what to look for when buying a major appliance and how to use those appliances efficiently.

Televisions

Usually, the bigger the screen the more power it uses; consider your needs and select the most efficient size to suit your requirements. LEDs generally use less energy than plasma screens. Choose a TV that allows you to adjust brightness and contrast settings; reducing the brightness will reduce the amount of power needed to generate the picture.

Home energy saving tips: Turn off televisions at the power point; standby mode still draws power. Don’t have a TV on in background if you aren’t watching it; according to Living Greener, a television turned on for just six hours a day equates to half a tonne of greenhouse gas emissions (more than the family fridge!). Turn off non-essential equipment when not in use (e.g. DVD players, blu-ray, hi-fi, subwoofer, projector equipment, gaming systems).

Computer Monitors

computer-useLike televisions, size matters when it comes to computer monitors. The smaller the screen, the more energy efficient, so choose wisely.LCD computer monitors are now the norm but are also the most efficient; if you still have an old cathode-ray tube monitor, consider upgrading it.

Home energy saving tips: Power down when not in use; sleep/stand-by mode still draws energy unless set to turn off the computer monitor. Turn off all items at the power point when not in use. Make sure you turn items off at the power point when you are away from the house for extended periods of time, like holidays, so that you aren’t paying for electricity you aren’t using!

Refrigerator/Freezer

Choose the right size fridge/freezer. If it’s less than two-thirds full, it may be too big for your needs. Models with door alarms are great as they alert you if you’ve left the door ajar. Fridge/freezer combos usually use less energy, so consider this option when purchasing. Chest freezers are generally more efficient than upright freezers, so if you’re in the market for a separate freezer, try looking at a chest freezer instead. Stars matter – for every additional star on a fridge/freezer, you could be reducing your running costs by up to 20%!

fridge-freezer

Home energy saving tips: Don’t use an extra fridge or freezer unless absolutely necessary. If you have a beer/bar fridge but it’s only used intermittently, empty it and only use it when required. Keep your fridge set between 3 – 4 degrees Celsius; your freezer should be set between minus 15 and minus 18 degrees Celsius. Each degree you decrease the temperature, you use up to 5% more energy! Make sure there’s sufficient airflow in your fridge; keep items a few centimetres away from the back, sizes and top and never place items directly in front of the ventilation system. Try to position your fridge/freezer out of direct sunlight. Let hot items cool before putting them in the fridge/freezer (but don’t leave them out too long as it’s a health risk). Never stack unfrozen items in the freezer; give them space to freezer and then rearrange as necessary. Maintain door seals and repair/replace as appropriate.

Washing Machine

washing-machineMake sure any washing machine you choose has the option of a cold water cycle. The way your machine heats water is also a consideration; opt for models that offer both hot and cold water inputs (instead of one input with an internal heating element which use large amounts of power). Front loaders use up to 50% less water and usually use less power too. Check for models with ‘load sensing’ technology; these will check the size of the washing load and adjust water amounts, wash cycles and spin times accordingly. Look for models with delay start functions so that you can set the washing to come on during off peak times when power rates are often reduced.

Home energy saving tips: Wash your clothes in cold water; it can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions from washing clothes by 80 – 90%! If available, use the quick wash or economy cycle (there are even washing liquids that are specially formulated for quick/economy wash cycles). Separate your clothes by like fabric weights, colours and dirt level; you may only need to wash delicates for a shorter period of time so there’s no point tossing them in with heavy, sweaty workout gear. Always wash a full load instead of several smaller loads.

Clothes Dryer

clothes-dryingHome energy saving tips: Use a clothes rack and the sun as often as possible; clothes dryers are huge energy consumers but the sun is free! Run the clothes dryer on a medium rather than high temperature. Don’t mix heavy clothing with lighter clothing as they have different drying times and combining them will lengthen your overall drying time. Don’t overload the dryer and don’t over-dry them. Try to partially dry your clothes outside and then pop into the dryer to finish; less time in the dryer means less energy consumed which means lower bills. Clean your lint filter after every load to ensure maximum air flow and operating efficiency.

Dishwasher

Like clothes washers, choose a dishwasher with an economy setting and one that offers dual hot and cold water connections (to capitalise on energy efficient hot water systems such as solar, gas and off-peak etc.). Try to select a dishwasher with at least a 3.5 star energy rating. Also, try to select one with an easily accessed filter for regular home maintenance.

Handy energy saving tips: Don’t wash half loads; only run your dishwasher when it’s full. Choose your cycle wisely; lower temperature cycles with shorter times are more efficient (e.g. the pots and pans cycle usually runs at a very high temperature for a longer period of time, so don’t select that as a ‘default’). If allowed by your appliance (check the operating manual), open the dishwasher door and allow your dishes to air dry instead of going through the drying cycle. Follow all recommendations for dishwasher maintenance and clean filters regularly.

Air-Conditioner/Heating

air-conditioner-remoteMake sure the size of your system is suitable to the size of your room(s); units that are too small for an area will run constantly without cycling off, which may be expensive, and units that are too large will waste energy.  Aim for an air-conditioning system rated at 4 stars or higher. Choose a reputable brand; reputable, popular brands will be easier to repair and maintain and usually come with a good warranty. Portable air conditioners are not as efficient as fixed systems (split or ducted), so consider installing fixed air conditioning systems instead.

Home energy saving tips: Set the temperature between 18 – 20 degrees in winter and 25 – 27 degrees in summer; these are the optimum temperature settings for comfort and operating efficiency. If you have a reverse cycle system, make sure all doors and windows are closed so that you aren’t heating/cooling rooms unnecessarily or letting heat/cool escape. In warmer weather, anticipate the weather and turn on your air conditioning early as it operates more efficiently at moderate temperatures before your house heats up. Where possible, install your air-conditioner compressor unit in a shady spot with good airflow. Maintain your air conditioner regularly and always follow the filter cleaning instructions.

The Final Word

Selecting the right appliances and developing energy efficient habits will go a long way to helping you reduce your energy consumption and keep those power bills in check. To further reduce your energy bills, consider regularly reviewing your energy provider. Shop around and compare your current provider to their competitors to make sure you are getting the best rate for your energy use. Choose, use and spend wisely!