Our thirst for energy to drive, heat, cool, cook, create and consume seems unquenchable. But there are two questions we should be asking ourselves to assist guide our actions into the future if we really wish to maintain the comforts and conveniences that we’ve grown accustomed. 1/Can we learn ways to reduce energy use and 2/Can we provide for it via renewable methods?
Humanity is well aware that the insatiable appetite we have for fossil fuels is finite by nature. So why is it that “reduce energy use” has only become a catch cry of recent years?
We were not shown ways to reduce energy use over years gone by…only encouraged to consume more! Industry could have already made a complete changeover to renewable energy derived from wind, solar, wave and geothermal, but they haven’t…Why? Mmmmm….you got it, nothing to do with lack of effective renewable technology available- everything to do with making money from the limited remaining coal, oil or gas deposits in the ground, while they still exist. Unfortunately, BIG business has rarely had the best record for forward thinking or evolutionary mindsets, so while mining companies can still battle it out over who will successfully make the most money from the last remaining finite resource deposits, they will squeeze every last drop from the Earth before they are completely forced to invest in newer, more innovative, sustainable technologies.
I am not going to discuss peak oil and climate change here- that can be left for another day’s topic of discussion…as it certainly deserves it’s own soap box! My main intention today is to talk about some simple strategies for households to reduce energy use, as not all of us can afford to install renewable household energy systems yet, but the next most powerful step to take is to lessen our overall dependency and rate at which we use it.
-We can take our own action to Reduce Energy Use-
First, here is some general facts for your information:
An average household creates approximately 15 tonnes of greenhouse gas (ghg) a year.
(1000kg = 1 tonne).
1kg of ghg will fill the area of a fridge and 1 tonne will fill the size of a house. So each year, a household, on average, is producing enough ghg to fill 15 houses!
This energy usage is divided as follows:
56% household energy (8.5 tonnes of ghg) ; 38% transport (5.5 tonnes of ghg); 6% waste (1 tonne ghg).
Average breakdown of the energy use attributed to household energy is:
30% Water heating; 17% Fridges and freezers; 17% Other appliances; 14% Heating and cooling; 9% Lighting; 7% Appliances on Standby; 6% Cooking.
If you wish to calculate the amount of greenhouse gas you have created from looking at your electricity or gas bill, just use the following conversions:
1 kWh (kilowatt hour)of electricity is = 1 kg of ghg.
17.8 MJ (megajoules) of gas is = 1 kg of ghg.
To actually reduce energy use, it is equally imperative to consider how much hot water consumption is going on in your household too! Did you notice above, that out of all household energy use, the highest- 30%- is attributed to water heating?
Average breakdown of hot water usage in a 4 person household:
76% Showers; 13% Kitchen; 5% Washing clothes; 3% Basin; 3% Other
So lowering Hot Water Usage saves you money, energy AND water!
To give you a direct example of a 3.5 star rated washing machine-
Over one year if your clothes are washed in Hot water, it would use 290kWh of electricity and produce 290kg of greenhouse gas….whereas, if you were to change to cold water over that same one year period, it would use only 66kWh and produce only 66kg of ghg- a HUGE savings!!
Here’s some more ways to reduce energy use…
Let’s start in the Kitchen!
Enjoy your tea & coffee? Boil only enough water for the number of cups you are making instead of filling up the kettle. Alternatively, boil enough for several cups, pour it into a thermos and leave it on the kitchen bench for later!!
KEEP LIDS ON your saucepans when cooking, as contents will reach the boil much quicker and you can then maintain simmer at much lower temp.
Old fridges are BIG energy users. If buying new, aim for 4 stars or higher. Never position a fridge in a warm area of kitchen as it will use more energy to keep cool.
Always choose gas over electric appliances, as gas heat is instant and is not nearly as wasteful as electric, producing less greenhouse gas in relation to the quantity used to provide the same energy result.
Make the switch to Compact fluorescent light globes(cfl’s) or LED’s. Cfl’s use 1/5 the energy of a normal incandescent and can last up to 10 times as long. LED’s are the MOST energy efficient of all.
Halogens are also more wasteful than the compact fluorescents(cfl), as on average they use 35- 50 watts of energy, compared to 10-20 watts for a cfl, but there are always more than one embedded in the ceiling (there maybe 5 for every one, centralised cfl globe).
And remember…get into the habit of TURNING OFF lights not in direct use! Put sticky note reminders up at the light switches at first to help everyone remember to turn off- it works a treat!
Insulating your home can cut heating & cooling costs by 40%. Turning your reverse cycle air conditioning down or up by 1 degree can save you 10% on your energy bill.
Recommended settings: Winter- 18-21 deg. Summer- 25-27deg. Remember…Before switching on that heater, could you put a jumper & slippers on first? Use fresh air wherever possible to cool your house before you flick on the air-conditioner. Open up windows on opposite sides of house in line with the prevailing cooler winds to take full advantage of air flow.Ceiling fans are a great way to get air circulating and can effectively drop the ambient temperature in a room by 3-5 degrees.
Home Entertainment/ Office
Appliances on standby can contribute up to 7% of your energy use (a small red light, indicates an appliance is on standby). Turn off at plug or by button on appliance. If buying new appliances, look for the energy star label, they can save you 75% less energy in standby mode than standard products. There are many different energy saving powerboard devices on the market now, which enable ease of turning off all connected appliances by the flick of one switch, or the push of one button, last thing before you go to bed- certainly worth the small investment.
By switching off your desktop computer monitor you can halve its energy use.
Laptops or tablets are more efficient energy users to desktop computers- best to plug them into mains power only when needing a re-charge.
LCD televisions use much less energy than a plasma for operation, as plasmas use energy which is infact lost as screen heat- so don’t be duped by cheaper plasma prices…they will cost you much more in the long run!
Turn off that second fridge between parties. It could be costing you up to $150 per year. That’s enough to buy a six pack of beer every month!
I hope those facts can help kick start your journey to reduce energy use in your household, which is the first and most important step to lessening your carbon footprint AND saving you and your family some money!