Eco-friendly household tips
July 27th 2012
Designing for your environment
A poorly designed home will squander energy. It makes sense to capitalise on Australia’s abundant sunshine and moderate climate, and to conserve water for the times we really need it.
Insulate the ceilings, walls and floors.
Hallmarks of a well-designed house include:
- Passive solar design – orientating and designing the building to capture maximum sunlight, using elements like shading, insulation, window placement and thermal mass (materials that store heat, such as concrete) to retain warmth in winter and cool the home in summer
- Ventillation – using natural breezes to minimise the use of expensive airconditioning
- Water-efficiency features as rainwater tanks plumbed for toilet flushing and washing machine use
- A greywater system to recycle bathroom and laundry water to the garden.
- Solar energy for hot water and/or household energy use.
- Minimising wastage in the construction of the building.
- Using sustainable materials where possible.
- Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has the following advice:
- - North-facing windows in living areas (large windows in cool climates, small and high-set when summer is hot and dry)
- - Not much east-facing glass, even less on western walls (but no eastern or western windows at all in hot, dry climates)
- Ten ways to green your home
New constructions and large-scale renovations leave plenty of scope to incorporate all the best elements of eco design.
However, there are still many ways that anyone can improve the energy efficiency of their home and reduce their carbon footprint.
1. Choose water-wise toilets, tapware and whitegoods. It’s an obvious one, but the savings are huge. By replacing your old single-flush toilet with a new one, you can save around 6.5 litres per flush, which equates to about 35,000 litres per year.
If you can’t afford a new toilet, consider a cistern weight, which you can buy from most hardware stores. A slow dripping tap can waste 20,000 litres of water per year, so get onto leaks quickly.
2. Choose energy efficient appliances. An old fridge, for example, can be one of the biggest energy guzzlers in your home – consuming up to three times the electricity of an efficient new model. Those old upright freezers are also big energy users. Scrutinise the energy rating of any new appliance.
3. Bypass standby and “sleep” modes and switch off appliances. Origin Energy estimates Australian households waste over $1 billion each year by leaving appliances on stand by. Computer monitors and modems are among the worst offenders.
4. Be conservative with the thermostat. This applies to everything from your hot water system, to fridges, to indoor heating and cooling systems. It’s estimated each degree you turn down the heat saves 3 per cent of heating costs. Each degree you raise the temperature of your airconditioner saves 3 to 4 per cent of cooling costs. Of course, it you can manage with ceiling fans, rather then A/C, all the better.
5. Insulate and draughtproof. Draughts can increase your heating and cooling costs by up to 25 per cent. Good Insulation, on the other hand, will slash your bill by around 40 per cent. Fill up gaps, and put snakes under doors in winter. Get the most effective ceiling, wall and floor insulation you can, whether during construction, a renovation or retro fitted. Consult an expert.
6. Review your lighting. Install skylights or solar tubes to reduce your reliance on artificial lighting. Choose compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and LEDs over halogen lights, and low-wattage bulbs where you can. Consider solar lighting for the garden, and motion sensors for outside areas.
7. Install a solar hot water system. It’s not possible for everyone, especially if you live in an apartment block, but depending on where you live and how much hot water you use, a solar hot water system can supply between 50 to 90 per cent of your hot water needs. Otherwise, a high-efficiency gas or heat pump hot water system could be a possibility.
8. Switch to washing your clothes in cold water, and save yourself around 80 per cent on your laundry energy bill. Slash it even further by ditching the dryer and using a clothesline or clotheshorse to dry your clothes.
9. Use low-toxic or, even better, natural materials and finishes. If you’ve ever smelt a brand new car or new furniture (often the cheap stuff), or oil-based paint, you know the heady scent.
That is likely to be volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These are killers for indoor pollution, so go “low VOC” where possible. And buy Australian whenever you can.
10. Outside, use mulch on your garden to reduce water evaporation by up to 70 per cent, and try and clump your plantings according to their water requirements.
Article from The Age, by Isobel King, 27 July 2012