Winter has arrived, and we have reluctantly moved from summer shorts and thongs to winter woollies and thermals. To add to the iciness, each year as the temperature drops, our bills begin to rise. Inefficient heaters, uneconomical appliances and poor insulation are some of the leaders in excessive energy use during the cooler months, but you can improve that.
Every little bit adds up, so sit back and relax in a cozier home with more comfortable costs thanks to these handy hints.
It’s all about insulation
A well-insulated home can reduce energy use by as much as 45%. Simply sealing any cracks or gaps in your home can decrease heat loss by an amazing 15-20%. So, to avoid your money quite literally slipping through the cracks, arrange to have any gaps in your windows, doors and floors sealed.
If your hot water pipes aren’t insulated, now is the time to change that too. Insulating your pipes will reduce heat loss and raise the water temperature, enabling you to lower your water temperature setting and improve your energy savings annually.
Insulation doesn’t have to be completely unexciting, though. Take the opportunity to revamp your rooms by investing in rugs for bare floors or heavier curtains in rooms regularly used. They will not only change the feel of the space but can also prevent a large percentage of heat from escaping from your home.
Get warm without turning up the heat
If you’re wanting to reduce your winter-warming costs, there’s no point cranking the heater to a balmy 25°C and wandering around the house in your singlet and shorts. Rather than solely focusing on heating your house, focus on heating yourself. Invest in some woollen socks and slippers, dress in layers and warm yourself from the inside out with winter-warming meals. Enjoy the opportunity to indulge in soups, stews and casseroles and relax under a blanket with a hot cup of tea before jumping into bed with your fresh flannel sheets, warm wheat pack and feather down doona.
Opt for off-peak
When it comes to power bills, there are a number of tariffs that will determine just how high it will be. Taking note of your supplier’s peak and off-peak times could be the difference between a pleasing bill and blowing the budget.
Currently, Aurora’s Residential Tariff peak periods are Monday to Friday 7am-10am and 4pm-9pm. Off-peak periods are 10pm-7am on weekdays and 24 hours on weekends.
Consequently, if you’re considering hitting ‘start’ on your dishwasher, wait until after 10pm. Better yet, set the timer, climb into bed and forget about it. If you can organise enough outfits, wait until the weekend to wash your clothes. Another option is to throw them on before 7am and hang them out before you head to work.
Simple changes such as the above could enable you to regularly use power at a significantly lower rate.
All systems go – or are they?
At least 30% of your electricity bill comes from the use of your appliances. Therefore, if your appliances are working harder than need-be or are not energy-efficient to begin with, your bill is going to be bigger.
When purchasing appliances, it is common for us to prioritise the price tag, and that is understandable. The dilemma is, if you are going to be using the appliance for the next six to 15 years, the cost of running it should be just as much of a priority. Saving money on your energy bill over all of those years will more than make up for the initial outlay.
The way in which you use and maintain these appliances also has an impact on your energy bill. Get a professional to check your heating and cooling systems to improve energy efficiency and air quality. A dirty filter means your heat pump is working harder than need-be and will ultimately increase your energy bill.
Consider your fridge as well, if it has an ineffective seal, cool air will be escaping, resulting in the appliance having to work harder to maintain the set temperature. In recent years, there have been significant improvements in fridge efficiency, resulting in them now using 40-60% less energy than older models. So, if you have a fridge from the 90s or earlier, consider purchasing a new one – you could save yourself anywhere between $120 and $250. Similarly, modern dishwashers have made significant steps towards saving you money. Contemporary dishwashers use about 22 litres per load and are more energy-efficient in comparison to older models which use about 37 litres for each wash.
HANDY HINT: If appliance repair is more than 50% of the price of a new one, consider investing in a new one.
Which leads us to our next point…
Ditch your additional appliances
Consider just how much you use your additional appliance. Do you really need that extra fridge in the garage? Is the ancient plasma sitting in your spare room, constantly on standby mode, really essential? Not to mention the desktop computer in ‘sleep’ mode sitting in your study is gathering dust while you use your laptops each evening.
Amazingly, appliances on standby can account for up to 10% of electricity bills, so if you’re not using it, unplug it. Better yet, if you never use it, get rid of it.
Gas heaters vs electric heaters
Whether you choose to purchase or use either a gas or electric heater should come down to a variety of details. How healthy is your budget? What is the size of the space you want to heat? Do you want to use the appliance for both heating and cooling?
If outlaying a large amount of money is not an option, electric heaters are your best option. They are cheaper to buy up front and allow for both portable and fixed installations. Gas heaters, on the other hand, can be expensive to purchase but are more efficient and generally much cheaper to run than electric heaters.
When it comes to energy efficiency, it’s important to choose a heater to suit the size of your room is important. If an electric heater fits better with your budget, choose an electric fan heater for small rooms with low ceilings and an electric radiant heater for large rooms with high ceilings. For smaller- to medium-sized spaces, gas wall heaters can be a great economical option.
If you have a large, open area and plan to leave the heater on for extended periods of time, an unflued (where fumes are pushed out into the room) gas heater can be an energy-efficient option. It’s important to note, though, that the area they are used needs to be well ventilated and there are regulations surrounding their use due to the fumes.
If you are looking for an option to heat the whole house, gas ducted heating is the most cost-effective method. For a similar price to gas ducted heating, split system air conditioners can also be installed. This will provide the benefit of both heating and cooling. The downside is, the air conditioner head will only heat or cool the room it is located in.
Sometimes the simple changes can be the most economically-friendly, so relax in a cosier home with these easy extras:
• Don’t heat rooms to excessive temperatures. The ideal temperature to heat your room to is 18-20°C – for every 1°C higher, the cost of running your appliance increases by about 10%.
• When the sun does decide to shine, open your curtains and blinds to make the most of its warmth. As it gets cooler, shut them to keep the heat in and the cold out.
• Choose energy-efficient light bulbs – LED use a tenth of the energy of halogen.
• Practise ‘task lighting’, where you only have a light on when it is required.
• Check your hot water taps and cylinder for any leaks.
• Only heat the rooms you’re actually using – close the doors, blinds and curtains and invest in a door snake to stop the heat from escaping into other rooms (or worse yet, the cool air seeping into your cozy room!).