Green Oversite



Save the Planet - the "Little Things"

And Not So Little Things  

By Bruce Barbour - Updated July 2022

Here is the list of what I have called the "Little Things", basically because they are things which can be done by the home owner, quickly and often at small cost or a cost saving. If adopted widely their impact would not be "little" at all. I have also included some higher cost items.

My suggestions are:-

  1. Install Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs for most lighting, to replace all incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs. It will be economically worthwhile for any room which is used for more than a hour per day (less if replacing a incandescent bulb).
  2. Remove halogens downlights as a general lighting system. A typical halogen light globe will be 50 Watts and because they are like mini spot lights there are often 6 to 12 in a room, a massive 300 to 600 Watts. There are now LED replacement globes if this type of spot lighting is required. LED IC4 downlights can be covered with insulation in ceiling space meaning that downlights no longer require holes on the ceiling insulation if installed correctly.
  3. Turn off lights when not in the room.
  4. Turn off the second refrigerator. 'Fridges are a large user of electricity in the home, having a second fridge (which is often the original fridge (much more inefficient than modern fridges) that was replaced but is still kept in the garage or den/ games room as the second drinks fridge for example) exacerbates the problem. When buying a new fridge select very carefully. Do not buy too large a fridge - size it for your needs. A bigger fridge will generally use more energy than a smaller fridge (regardless of Star rating - compare the estimated energy usage on the Star rating label). Then choose the fridge of the required size which has the highest efficiency or highest "Star" rating - as it is a large energy user it will be worth paying more for a higher efficiency fridge. If your 'fridge is older than 10 years old consider upgrading as the newer 'fridges are a lot more energy efficient - often twice, or more, as efficient than the old refrigerator - that is, they use half as much electricity. An old fridge (approx 300 litres) that I recently checked was using over 3kWh per day - over 60 cents per day, $220 per year,  to run - which is a lot. A new fridge of similar size would be, say, a third of that (<1 kWh/day) so the return on investment is reasonably good. Downsizing would be even better. (Refrigerator Efficiency)
  5. When boiling water for a cup of tea or coffee only boil the exact quantity required (provided your jug or pot allows for this).
  6. When using "Flick Mixer" taps if you only want cold water ensure that the tap is set to only supply cold water. It is my observation that these taps are often set to the middle providing water from the hot water tank as well as the cold even though in a lot of cases only cold is required. This is wasteful of energy required to heat the hot water.
  7. Use the reverse cycle air conditioner for heating in preference to central gas heating. (Quite a few house have reverse cycle air-conditioners already installed but the home owner only uses them for cooling in summer, believing gas is a cheaper form of heating. It is usually not.)
  8. Set heating at the lowest comfortable level, say 18 - 20 degrees C for living areas. (Heating may not be required for other house areas such as bedrooms and service areas, or if there is the facility set the thermostats for these areas even lower and turn heating off when the room is not in use.) Put on a jumper if necessary. Only heat the main living areas when required - turn off when you leave the house. (Look at installing doors or partitioning curtains and adjusting your heating system if your house does not lend itself to zoning. It is especially important  to block stairwells to the second floor. If open a lot of heat meant to warm the lower floor will float up the stairwell.) Turn off complete heating system overnight and pull up the blankets if required. When buying heating systems select highly efficient space heater systems. If you must buy a central heating system select one which allows different heat settings in different areas.
  9. If cooling is used set temperature to the highest comfortable level, say 26 degrees C. Only cool the main living area. Turn it off overnight and open the windows if the temperature outside has gone down below comfortable sleeping levels. Consider alternatives to refrigerated cooling - use a fan. In the evenings open the doors and windows to allow cross flow of cooling breezes. Shade windows during the day, especially north  and west facing windows. Consider planting deciduous trees on the west and east sides of the house.
  10. Seal draughts in your houses. This is especially important for rooms that are heated or cooled but should also be done elsewhere in the house. This includes draughts to the outside of the house however also seal draughts that may occur between a heated / cooled zone and another area of the house. (Do not do this if you have a open wood fire or an unflued gas / wood heated - they need to be in well ventilated rooms. Consider replacing these types of heaters. Open fire places are very inefficient - only 10% of energy available is converted to heated delivered to the house.) Sealing supplies are readily available at your local large hardware store. Also refer to the Raven website  
  11. Turn off appliances at the wall when not in use. This saves "phantom loads" (also called standby loads). Though I have noticed in the last few pieces of electrical equipment that I have bought and installed the phantom load was only 0.3 Watts rather than 10 Watts or more for some of my older electrical equipment.
  12. When buying new appliances consider the energy consumption (Star rating if applicable) and standby power use. 
  13. If going away for more than a few days turn off your electric hot water heater. The water might be too cold to shower on the day you get back but it will be fine by the following morning. (Some have boosting cycles if you can't wait but these will use peak electricity so will cost more.)
  14. Use your clothes line for solar drying of clothes (rather than the tumble drier).
  15. When buying a new clothes washer consider using a front loader machine. They use less water and in my opinion wash the clothes better. Wash clothes with cold water (unless there is a specific reason not to). (Some washing machines have electric heating elements in them so if using a warm water wash program they will heat the water with electric resistance heating.) A warm water wash can use many times (or more) the energy to wash the clothes as a cold program. (This is primarily a function of the water used - if the machine uses more water then there is more water to heat up - so top loaders would be worse than this. My front loader (5 kg wash load, 2.5 Energy Star warm wash, Triple A water rated, 51 litre per cycle) uses 0.14 kWh for a normal cold wash. When I tested it on a warm wash it used 0.86 kWh for the wash, six times more than the cold wash cycle. The wash result was the same.)
  16. Set hot water system at a lower temperature (the required minimum is 60 degrees C, for health reasons). Also check your hot water system for uninsulated hot water supply pipes that feed into the house. While you may not be able to get to them once they are inside the walls, outside there is often a section which is uninsulated or only insulated with a very thin green "insulation" layer, which is insufficient. Buy some foam pipe insulation (from a hardware stores such a Bunnings - approx. $5 per metre) and cover the pipe with the insulation and wrap with plastic ducting tape. (You may be able to insulate more hot water supply pipes if they run inside the roof cavity or underneath the house.) The pressure relief valve and discharge pipe may also be insulated but care must be taken to ensure that this can still be operated and can work the way it is meant to. You could cover it with an insulated housing which does not touch the valve itself - if in doubt don't do anything to this safety feature. You could also consider additional insulation layer on the outside of the tank. There is a commercial product or you could make something yourself from insulation batts and plastic covering - again care needs to be taken not to interfere with the pressure relief valve. (Not recommended for gas heated tanks due to potential fire risk. Also if the tank is outside then there is a risk of the insulation getting and staying wet which would be counter productive.)  If you don't wish to change over to solar hot water now be ready to have a solar system installed when the current system is to be replaced - usually decisions on replacement need to be made quickly - don't allow yourself to be pressured into replacing it with a non solar system by your plumber, because it is easier/ quicker for them. It is worth enduring a day or two extra of no hot water on tap in order to get a solar system you want, if this is necessary. (Changing to solar hot water / heat pump hot water is one of the most effective things you can do to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from your house - and it should pay for itself in 5 - 7 years. Rebates may be available.)
  17. Install low flow shower heads - minimum "3 Stars" - 9 litre/min - rating. (Along with LED lighting and draught sealing this is one of the most cost effective things you can do to save energy. Low flow shower heads may not be suitable for some (usually older) instantaneous water heaters and also gravity (or "constant pressure") hot water services - low pressure tank usually located in the roof cavity.) Also note that you do not need to use the shower heads at the maximum flow rate. For example I have a shower head rated at 9 litres/minute. I tested this and confirmed the 9 litres/min maximum flow rate when taps are fully on. I also measured the flow rate at which I usually use the shower. It was 4.5 litres per minute, significantly less than rated and therefore a significant saving in energy and water over the rated flow rate.  
  18. If you have less than R1 (metric units) insulation then install additional insulation in the areas that are easiest to access - i.e. roof space and sub floor if accessible. (Post construction fitting of wall insulation is problematic and therefore costly so may not be worthwhile.) If you do it yourself be careful not to cover any electrical cable - older installation cables may not be rated to go under insulation - nor cover or go up to the edges of recessed light fittings - unless they have been specifically designed to be able to be covered by insulation. You may be able to get covers for the fittings - e.g. Isolite - which may allow closer fitting of insulation. Consider retrofitting radiant barrier for summer comfort, however it can be difficult to find professional installers to do this so may be best to do it as a DIY job if you are that way inclined.
  19. Ensure that windows are shaded in summer to prevent the ingress of solar radiation. It is much better to keep the sun off the windows than to let it pass through then block it with internal blinds.
  20. Invest in good quality lined curtains with pelmets or some other curtaining arrangement that will add to the insulation of the window. This will add more insulation to the windows than double glazing. (Post construction fitting of double glazing is very expensive and may not be worthwhile unless your window frames are at or near the end of their useful life and need to be replaced anyway.)
  21. Use rechargeable batteries for radios, torches etc., instead of disposable.
  22. Walk, ride a bike or catch public transport.
  23. Buy Green Power
  24. Grow you own veggies.
  25. Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.
  26. Think before you buy - is the item really required?

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