Becoming a Sustainable Household

Around every home are many steps that can be taken that will help the environment, help slow climate change, and enable the house to become a "Sustainable Household". Many of these steps come with the added bonus of also saving money.

Savings from free and easy behaviour change

There are numerous steps that can be taken around every home that cost nothing; they instead require slight changes in behaviour.

  • Turn electrical items off at the power point when they are not in use.
  • Unplug the second fridge when it is not needed.
  • Use the washing line instead of a clothes dryer (each load in a clothes dryer costs around $1.50 in electricity). If it's raining outside, a pedestal fan or ceiling fan can be used to dry clothes.
  • Turn off the TV when it is not being watched.
  • Only use the dishwasher when it's full.
  • Set energy saving measures on all computers.

In summer:

  • Use fans instead of air conditioners.
  • Close the windows, curtains and blinds during the day to keep direct sunlight out and then open them at night to let the cool breeze in.
  • If using air conditioners, set the temperature as high as possible and keep doors and windows closed and well-sealed. Only cool rooms that are being used - keeping the garage, laundry, or an empty bedroom cool just wastes energy.

In winter:

  • Use a reverse cycle air conditioner instead of plug-in electric heaters as they are far more efficient. Only heat rooms that are being used. Heating unused rooms wastes energy. 
  • Open the curtains and blinds during the day to let the heat in, then close them in the evening to keep the heat in.

Savings from new installations

Electricity prices have risen quickly over recent years. Tariff 11 has risen from 14.05 cents per kilowatt hour in 2007 to 25.38 cents (plus GST) in 2014. Investing a little on energy efficiency now can reap financial rewards into the future.

  • Apply reflective films to windows and shade the house with awnings or vegetation to reduce cooling costs.
  • Install ceiling insulation.
  • Install open plan room dividers, such as sliding screens, to help minimise the heated or cooled area. 
  • Choose energy efficient appliances when upgrading.
  • Use solar powered lights, if needing to light the garden.
  • Install a solar PV system.
  • Replace a mains electric hot water system with a solar hot water or heat pump system.
  • Replace inefficient lighting such as halogen down lights with more energy efficient options such as LEDs.

Solar PV savings

Solar PV (photovoltaic, or solar power) systems allow householders to produce their own clean renewable electricity. PV systems are eligible for Small-Scale Technology Certificates (STCs), a Federal Government incentive. Thousands of dollars worth of STCs are currently available. Read the Clean Energy Council Consumer Guide to PV before buying.

Further details on solar PV is available on Council's solar PV webpage.

Hot water savings

About 25-30% of the average home's electricity bill is due to water heating when a standard electric hot water system is used. It is therefore worth either managing hot water use as effectively as possible, or replacing the old mains system with a more efficient system.

Solar flat panel, solar evacuated tube and heat pump hot water systems are all significantly more efficient than a standard electric system. Upgrading now will allow you to take advantage of hundreds of dollars in Federal STCs. Energy efficient hot water systems can save your household hundreds of dollars a year in electricity costs.

If you can't afford to upgrade yet, at least ensure your existing hot water system operates as efficiently as possible by:

  • Installing water saver shower heads.
  • Having an electrician check the thermostat setting on the hot water system. If it's over 65°C, get it turned down to just above 60°C.
  • Only using cold water in your washing machine.
  • Fixing dripping hot water taps as soon as possible.
  • Rinsing dishes prior to putting them in the dishwasher with cold water only.
  • Using the dishwasher rather than washing up by hand, but making sure it's full before running it.
  • Having short showers.
  • Connecting your hot water system to an off peak tariff. Energex are currently offering a $200 incentive to help cover the cost of taking this step.

Home lighting savings

At home, probably the smartest two things in regard to lighting you can do are:

  • Remember to turn off lights when you don't need them.
  • Change over to more energy efficient lighting technologies such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light-emitting diode (LED) lights. LED are now becoming commonly available and while more expensive they offer very long life spans.

Pool savings

The latest energy efficient pool pumps use up to 80% less electricity than old pumps. Connecting to an off-peak tariff could cut a system's electricity costs by 40%. Either step should save a pool owner at least $200 a year in electricity costs. Energex are offering a $150 rebate to install an efficient pump, or $250 to connect it to an off peak tariff.

Other steps such as installing a pool cover can not only minimise water evaporation losses but help to keep the pool warmer. A cover made from translucent plastic bubbles can help to keep a pool up to 7° C warmer, potentially removing the need for any further heating. Solar pool heating is another good option.

Power supply savings

It can be difficult to know if you are on a good electricity deal or not, with so many retailers and so many deals and contracts available. There are several electricity comparison websites which allow a quick comparison of the deal you are currently on with others available to Logan residents. They also offer an easy method of purchasing a deal that comes with a proportion of Green Power. Simply do an internet search on 'electricity price comparison' to find these sites.

Vehicle savings

Walking, skating, riding a bicycle or even riding a motorcycle or bus will all result in considerably less carbon dioxide emissions than driving a passenger vehicle.

If a passenger vehicle must be used, be mindful of how you drive and how you manage your vehicle, as this has a big impact on how much fuel your car uses. By doing the following, you will use less petrol and potentially save $100s a year in fuel costs:

  • Drive smoothly to minimise acceleration and braking.
  • Minimise idling.
  • Minimise drag by removing additional items such as roof racks, bike racks, bull bars, and flags.
  • Travel light by removing needless heavy items.
  • Look after your car and your tyres by regularly checking that the tyres are all at the same and correct pressure, and that they are properly aligned.
  • Choose a fuel efficient car. Compare vehicles using the Green Vehicle Guide.

It is possible to offset vehicle emissions through organisations that specialise in this service, such as the not-for-profit Greenfleet.

Water savings

To reduce mains water consumption and associated costs, there are a range of measures you can employ.

  • Limit shower length to four minutes.
  • Install a water saver showerhead.
  • Install a hot water recirculating valve where unused water in the hot water pipe is returned to the hot water system.
  • Install a pool cover to reduce evaporation.
  • If upgrading, choose a water and energy efficient dishwasher and washing machine.
  • Install a rainwater tank or grey water treatment system.
  • Fix water leaks as soon as possible.

Leaking hot water such as a dripping hot water tap are particularly wasteful and costly as you're not only paying for the wasted water, but for the wasted energy that went into heating the water.

Other tips

There are lots of other little things everyone can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

  • Plant trees. Free trees are available through Council's Free Trees initiative and Council's Land For Wildlife Program.
  • Offset air travel emissions when buying plane tickets.
  • Grow your own fruit and vegetables.
  • Start a compost bin or worm farm.
  • Recycle waste where possible and choose products made from recycled materials.
  • Come to the Logan Eco Action Festival (LEAF) in June.
  • For tips on how to build or renovate a house to make it more sustainable, liveable and cheaper to live in, visit the Federal Government's Your Home website.
  • Make your townhouse more sustainable. Body corporate by-laws and covenants can no longer ban certain sustainability installations such as solar panels.
  • Do one thing at a time - just pick a few steps that you feel comfortable with and focus on those for the time being.

Already doing many of these? Great work! Consider applying for a Logan Eco Award in the Sustainable Household Category. Nominations are open in March.

For more tips and advice, pick up a free 'DIY Sustainability in Logan' booklet from any Logan Library or Customer Service Centre.