Category Archives: energy savings

14 ways to slash your energy costs while staying home

2. Be aware of ‘vampire energy’ consumption. 

Even when appliances are not in use, they continue to consume electricity. Phone chargers are particularly bad, consuming 0.26 watts every hour they are left idle, according to the  Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, while fully charged phones that are still connected can account for more than 2 watts per hour. Best to switch off all devices at the power point – and potentially save more than $200 a year.

Appliance/modeAverage power consumption (W)
Mobile phone charger
On, charged2.24
On, charging3.68
Power supply only0.26
LCD monitor
Laptop computer
Fully on, charged29.48
Fully on, charging44.28
Power supply only4.42
Inkjet printer
On, not playing33.99
On, playing39.16
Game console
Garage door opener
Microwave oven
Ready, door closed3.08
Ready, door open25.79

6. Use energy out of peak times.

Under some contracts, energy can cost you less if you use it outside the peak times – usually from 10pm to 7am, says the NSW government’s Energy Saver website. Put everything – such as washing machines, dishwashers and pool pumps – on timers to make everything work more efficiently, and cheaply, off-peak, advises Kelly.

7. Close doors and windows to keep heat in.

Using door snakes and rugs and closing the curtains or putting down blinds earlier at night can cut out draughts and make a room feel warmer, says Baker.

9. Check older appliances. 

They consume more energy than newer models and so it might be worthwhile replacing them with better energy-star-rated ones. For example, Baker says, a TV with a seven-star label of 213 kilowatt-hours a year on a rate of 28.55 cents can cost about $61 a year to run, while a three-star label could set households back $148 annually. Fridges and freezers can also be run on temperatures slightly warmer than usual when the weather is cool.

12. Invest in solar.

There are a lot of Federal Government solar incentives on offer at the moment, and solar itself is getting cheaper and cheaper, says Chris Williams of Natural Solar. “You can see a return on your investment as quickly as two to three years, while the average is four to five,” he says. “There are also sizeable rebates on batteries in Victoria and South Australia so you can store and use solar power at other times of the day, and interest-free loans in NSW. The goal is to get your electricity bills as close to zero as possible.”

13. Check windows and doors.

If they don’t fit well or are of lower glazing quality, it might be worthwhile considering replacing your windows and doors. Windowline, for instance, says it chooses its products for durability, wind load, thermal efficiency and acoustic performance. 

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Ditching your lawn doesn’t have to mean your xeriscape looks like the surface of the moon

Lawn, ecologically, is dead space,” said Doug Tallamy, an entomologist at the University of Delaware and author of “Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard.”

The solution, he says, is ultimately less lawn. He recommends people aim to cut the amount of turf grass in their yard in half. But getting there, he says,will take a shift in culture that goes far beyond just using an electric mower.

America’s infatuation with grassy expanses dates back to the Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson cultivated a lawn — previously a fixture of the European aristocracy — at his Monticello estate. By the second half of the 20th century, as the middle class grew, bought houses and spread into the suburbs, lawns had become a staple of Americana.

But, Tallamy insists, change is possible. “You can be an important part of conservation,” he said. “You aren’t powerless.”

Laying down mulch is one place to start. It quickly kills grass and offers a blank canvas for planting.

“If you have lawn under a mature tree, convert it to a mulched area,” suggested Kathy Connolly, a Connecticut-based landscape designer who recommends about six inches of raw, arborist, wood chips for the job. Connolly also recommends converting some of your lawn into paths, rock gardens or other features. “Ecologically, though,” she said, “the best thing to do is plant native trees and shrubs.”

Invasive plants, Tallamy said, “are ecologically castrating the land around us.” Native plants, on the other hand, often have deep root structures, making them good for storing water or providing drainage. They have also co-evolved for local conditions.

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Natural Cooling Strategies

Most people have limited tolerance for hot weather. As the thermostat rises, we quickly become uncomfortable, and if it becomes too hot inside our homes, it’s even dangerous. Our modern response to this problem is simple: “Turn up the air!” However, air conditioning consumes a lot of electricity, and most of it comes from polluting fossil fuels. Electricity is also a limited resource: On the hottest days of the year, some cities don’t have enough electricity to meet demand, leading to brownouts or rolling blackouts.

Fortunately, many old-fashioned design strategies can keep a house cool naturally, which conserves energy and saves money. Although home builders largely have stopped using these techniques over the past 100 years, there’s no reason we can’t rediscover them and use them in our homes. This article explains how to use a few basic natural cooling strategies, whether you’re building a new house or making improvements to an existing home.

Natural Ventilation

Before society embraced air conditioning, we all found simple ways to beat the heat. One was to sit on a shaded porch, sipping a cold drink. If the porch was positioned correctly, gentle breezes would blow past. Breezes help moisture evaporate from your skin — one of the body’s main methods for cooling off. In fact, many natural cooling techniques boil down to one basic principle: Keep the air moving. So how do you improve airflow within your home?

Ideally, when you’re building, you choose the site and orient your house to take advantage of naturally occurring wind patterns. You can also direct summer breezes into and through the house by carefully choosing the types and locations of windows and doors to funnel air through a building.

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If you need something now or need something temporary what can you do?

Problem: One of our clients has a house that faces west. In the morning the sun hits the patio and “cooks” the back of the house. Our client also did not want anything permanent because they liked the heat and light in the winter.

Our first recommendation was to have the attic insulation inspected to make sure they had the adequate insulation and no bare spots. If you live in San Diego check out the CSE website they have classes and a tool “library” where you can “borrow” a thermal camera. Call first because due to Covid they may have had to make changes to their programs.

This is what we came up with. The patio is attached to the back of the house. That is like having a pizza stone next to your home. The rear wall would also heat up as well as the windows. The client did not want heavy, thermal drapes on all the windows because they wanted the light. They also did not want to spend a lot of money on a retractable awning. We suggested pop-up canopies or sunshades.

We found this one Coleman Instant Canopy with Swing Wall. It like to canopies for the price of 1.

It covered most of the Patio and was easy to assemble.

The second thing we did was get a sun sail.

They had trees at their fence line so we did not have to sink posts We tied the sun sail to the eves of the house and ran rope to the trees. When winter comes they can remove and store.

The front of the house had trees that provided shade so nothing was done.

They were happy to report they have only used their AC in the evening for the humidly. They do not close the house up tight because they get a nice breeze most of the day. If you live in an area that doesn’t get a breeze you may also want to keep all your doors and windows closed and draw the drapes.