CRC for Low Carbon Living: How to slash energy bills and carbon too

CRC for Low Carbon Living

Energy bills have soared in recent years, and while you may have little power over energy pricing, you can reduce energy costs with some simple changes.

The CRC for Low Carbon Living’s Guide to Low Carbon Households will show you how much power you have over the energy you use, and its financial and environmental cost.

First, understand your bill

It starts with understanding the finer details on the bill. With more and more consumers choosing automatic deductions, it’s now very easy to skip straight to the key details of how much is due and when.

But there’s a wealth of useful insights in the bill, if you know what to look for, including which part of your energy use is consumed by your hot water system, and which part is other appliances, lighting and heating or cooling.

As the saying goes, what gets measured can be managed!

there’s a wealth of useful insights in the bill, if you know what to look for

The guide steps through what percentage of the average bill is generated by each category of appliances and systems. Take heating and cooling for example – along with hot water, it consumes around two-thirds of the average household’s energy use.

Actions you can take now

The guide explains a range of actions you can take to stay comfortable all year round and reduce the electricity use at the same time. It even includes options for renters that do not need permission from the landlord.

Actions are categorised from simple, low-cost or no-cost ideas through to some that may require trade skills, or an investment in better equipment.

The return on investment – how fast a change will pay for itself – is also explained.

How to spot problems

You’ll also find advice on how to spot a problem, such as gaps and other leaks that mean you are paying for heating or cooling that escapes your home, upping the cost of running the air conditioning when you need to. Techniques range from simple tricks like using an incense stick to spot where air moves out of a room, through to how a blower door test works.

It also steps you through how to seal cracks and gaps, whether it’s a tenant-friendly approach such as using a door snake or rolled towel at the bottom of a badly fitting door or a DIY project for a homeowner improving window and door seals.

Home energy smart meter in Kitchen

The burden of standby

Standby power usage equates to around three per cent of the average annual electricity bill

Standby power usage equates to around three per cent of the average annual electricity bill. One of the major ways you can shift you energy consumption downward – whether you rent or own – is through better management of energy used by appliances.

Do a DIY audit

The Guide is professional and evidence based – lead author is Dr David Whaley from the University of South Australia’s Barbara Hardy Institute – so you know you’re getting the best advice.

It explains how to carry out a basic home energy audit to help you spot the energy vampires like home entertainment equipment sucking volts on standby.

Handy tables tell you the stand-by power sucked up by different types of appliances. It might surprise you to see just how much energy you’re paying for when if the plug isn’t pulled out.

And the guide decodes the star ratings of common appliances such as fridges and dishwashers, and gives you tips on how to decide whether it’s time to upgrade to a more energy-efficient model.

It also shows that changing some old habits can be very beneficial – such as how much energy you can save by boiling only as much water as you need for a cuppa, instead of filling the jug to the brim.

New technology to improve your performance

The guide steps you through the plethora of new technology available for homes. There’s energy-efficient lighting systems, airconditioning and on-site renewable energy options. And there’s a handy explanation of their relative benefits and performance.

David says he and co authors brought together the best-available information from several expert sources such as energy raters and Housing SA, as well as insights from energy monitoring research.

The importance of renters

He says including information for people who rent was important because in many cases tenants can have little control over how their home performs in terms of thermal comfort or fixed appliance energy use. They often can’t install solar PV to offset bills either.

This is at a time when more and more people are renting.

Educating renters could help make a difference not only to their own power bills but also to overall carbon emissions, David says. The advice in the guide also equips renters with information they can use in conversation with their landlord about improving the home. For example, upgrading the hot water system or retrofitting insulation can make a great difference.

“A tenant can say to their landlord, we want to keep living here, and we want to also benefit the environment and have lower running costs.”

the guide also equips renters with information they can use in conversation with their landlord about improving the home

Take back the power

The overall goal of the guide and the others in the series produced by the CRC for Low Carbon Living is to lower our carbon emissions to combat climate change.

“There are lots of different tips and tricks that can apply to a whole lot of people who may not have known about these things,” David says.

“It is about encouraging people and giving consumers the power to manage their power bills better.

“Every little bit helps with climate change. If you do your little bit, you will have a positive impact.”

The full suite of low carbon guides can be found at Built Better, the CRCLCL’s built environment knowledge.

CRC for Low Carbon Living

University | Australia