Two people cooking at home

Taking action to reduce your energy consumption not only helps to avoid bill shock, it helps our environment too by reducing how much we contribute to carbon emissions.

From time to time, government-funded energy credits are made available to help households manage electricity bills to deal with rising energy costs and as part of cost-of-living measures. This is on top of any ongoing state- and territory-based energy concessions and benefit schemes and support.

If you’re renting a property, you don’t have the luxury of making any major changes to make your home more energy efficient and minimise your power consumption. However, energy bills are unavoidable and even small changes can really add up.

So, we’ve done the hard yards for you and pulled together our top budget-friendly home energy efficiency tips, to help you keep your electricity and gas usage and costs as low as possible.

Read on, or jump ahead using the below links:

  1. Let nature do its job
  2. Dress for the weather
  3. Eat and drink to suit the season
  4. Switch off and save
  5. Replace your light bulbs
  6. Plug gaps and insulate the property
  7. Use your appliances more efficiently
  8. Harness solar power savings

Cheap, energy-saving solutions and quick wins

1. Let nature do its job

Nature is a wonderful free resource, so it makes sense to use it to our advantage whenever we can.

In the summer months, instead of relying on fans or air conditioners to move air, open your windows to let in a natural breeze and get some cross ventilation going in your home.

During cooler weather, the sun is a natural heater, so make sure you open your window treatments to let sunshine warm your room. It’s a good idea to follow the sun and plan your activities in rooms which receive a good amount of sunlight.

2. Dress for the weather

While it’s nice to walk around the house in a t-shirt and shorts, it’s not the best (nor cheapest) idea if we’re relying solely on electric or gas heating to keep us warm. If you’re looking at keeping your energy bills low, you should start by warming yourself first and not the property.

When you’re feeling cold, it won’t cost you anything to layer up. Get cosy in puffer vests, jumpers, hoodies and tracksuits; beanies, scarves and gloves or mittens; thick socks and slippers or ugg boots. Flannelette pyjamas will keep you warm in bed. If you’re looking to spend the ultimate lazy day at home bingeing your favourite streaming series, then maybe an oodie could be a good investment!

In summer, you can pack all of your winter gear away and get back into your t-shirt and shorts.

3. Eat and drink to suit the season

On hot days, there’s nothing like an icy, cold beverage and light salads to beat the heat. Conversely, in cooler months we gravitate towards steaming hot chocolates and warming comfort foods like casseroles and soups.

Matching your food and drinks to whether you want to warm up or cool down is a simple way to help regulate your body temperature.

4. Switch off and save

It goes without saying that we should should switch off lights if we’re not in the room and appliances when they’re not in use. We should also be unplugging devices once they’re fully charged, instead of leaving them on charge indefinitely (which can also reduce the lifetime of your device’s battery).

What you might not know is that leaving electrical appliances on standby power (often referred to as ‘phantom power’ or ‘vampire power’) running 24/7 flies under the radar when it comes to energy consumption.

While it varies for each household depending on the appliances you have in your home, all your appliances on standby could contribute up to 10% of your power usage and cost you more than $100 every year on wasted electricity.

Easy ways to switch off your appliances are to use smart plugs and smart timers, have appliances plugged into a powerboard so you can turn them all off together, or you can make it part of your routine, like switching everything off standby before you go to bed.

For lighting, using sensors mean they will only come on whenever you need them and then switch off automatically.

5. Replace your light bulbs

In Australia, lighting accounts for around 10% of an average household’s electricity costs. While lighting isn’t the largest energy drain in a home, swapping traditional globes to energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) is a quick and inexpensive tactic to reduce your electricity bills. Compared to halogen light bulbs, LED lights use about 75% less energy.

An additional benefit of LED globes is that they last a lot longer too. The average lifespan of an LED light is 50,000 hours compared to only a few thousand hours from a traditional light bulb. LEDs last 5 to 10 times longer than a halogen lights, significantly reducing replacement costs and the number of bulbs going to landfill.

6. Plug gaps and insulate the property

Hopefully, your property already has well-insulated roof and wall cavities as a bare minimum. Other ways to help with keeping your home cooler in summer and warmer in winter include:

  • Window insulation: While double glazed windows are the gold standard, they’re very expensive and not an option when you’re renting. Some people swear by the effectiveness of applying or repurposing bubble wrap to insulate windows for both hot and cold weather. The air pockets in bubble wrap create the same insulating effect as double glazing, but without the cost. To install, you simply spray the window with water and then press the bubble wrap on top. When you no longer need it, you can just peel it off. You can pick up some clear, good quality or double layer bubble wrap from Amazon or removalist / packing stores.
  • Block out window treatments: For maximum insulation and protection against hot or cold weather, opt for ‘block out’ (also called ‘blackout’) curtains or blinds. Block out fabric, as its name implies, is designed to minimise heat transfer in addition to blocking out light. In a rental property, block out curtains may be the best option if there are existing curtain rods or tracks in place. Otherwise, you can use heavy-duty removable adhesive hooks to hold up the curtain rod.
  • Draught stoppers, door snakes, window and door seals: These are cheap ways to maintain the temperature in a room by reducing air flow through gaps in doors and windows. A bonus is that you can also get some pretty cool shapes and designs to suit your personal or home style! Bunnings Warehouse offers a range of window and door seals, such as door snake for $4 or a double-sided draught stopper for $6. A free alternative is to use a rolled towel placed at the base of a door.

7. Use your appliances more efficiently

Our electric and gas appliances are the biggest contributors to our household energy use. The highest energy consumers are typically heating and cooling systems, fridges and freezers, washing machines and clothes dryers, cooktops and ovens, dishwashers, and entertainment systems.

Below are some ideas for minimising the electricity consumption of common appliances:

  • Air conditioner and heater: Use a fan for cooling before resorting to switching on the air conditioner. In cooler weather, ceiling fans can be reversed to push hot air downwards. Set ideal temperatures for cooling (24–26 degrees) and heating (18–20 degrees). Keep doors, windows and window coverings closed, and use door and window seals or draught stoppers to contain the heated or cooled air. Using timers and setting a thermostat will also help with energy efficiency.
  • Hot water system: Set the thermostat to 60 degrees if you’ve got a hot water storage system, 50 degrees for an instantaneous (continuous) flow system. You can also take shorter showers, avoid filling up the bathtub, wash clothes with cold water, and wait for a full dishwasher load rather than handwashing with the water running.
  • Washing machine: Wait for full wash loads, use cold water to wash as often as possible, and choose the eco setting if it’s available. Using a high spin speed will also mean your washed items will come out dryer and need less drying time. Clean out the drum and filter regularly to ensure optimal performance.
  • Clothes dryer: Line dry whenever possible, using an outdoor clothesline or indoor clothes airer. If drying inside, you can position it in the warmest room or near a heater. Clean out the drum and filter regularly to ensure optimal performance.
  • Cooktop and oven: Opt for the more energy efficient microwave, air fryer or slow cooker over the cooktop or oven whenever possible. Plan ahead and cook fewer times but in bigger batches. After using the oven, leave the door ajar and let the residual heat warm up your space.
  • Dishwasher: Wait for a full wash load and choose the eco setting if it’s available. Clean out the filter regularly to ensure optimal performance.
  • Electric blanket or rug: A warm throw rug, thick blanket or hot water bottle are energy-free ways to keep warm over using an electric blanket or electric rug.

8. Harness solar power savings

More than three million Australian households now have rooftop solar panels, but as a renter, you don’t get the option (nor would you want to take on the cost) to install them. If you’re lucky enough to have a rooftop solar power system at your property, you should definitely use them to your advantage.

With solar power, you’ll notice a tangible difference in lower energy bills overall, the best way to save money is to use more of the electricity generated by your solar system and less from the grid.

This means that planning the bulk of your energy consumption (when to run appliances) to occur during daylight hours (when the solar system is generating electricity) will further cut down your bills. Typically, the best times are 10am–4pm in summer and 11am–2pm in winter.

For people who work away from home during the day, you can use a smart timer or set your appliances to run at a specific time to take advantage of solar power.

Energy.gov.au has a handy guide for getting the most from your solar system.

You might also like:
> Chill out: Practical tips to keep your rental cool this summer

> 6 simple ways to reduce your winter electricity bill
> 40 brilliantly simple ways you can save money on your energy bills

Other energy efficiency considerations

If you’re interested more effective and longer-term (albeit more expensive) solutions to minimise energy use, here are are few suggestions below:

  • Remove unnecessary appliances: Do you have an extra fridge or freezer that you keep in the garage just in case or for parties? Maybe you have an old video player or CD player you’ve kept plugged into your entertainment system that you haven’t used in years? It’s time to rethink whether you still need these or should consider a cull. If you don’t think you’ll ever use a particular appliance again, how about selling it or giving it away in your local community or buy nothing group. If you do need the extra fridge or freezer space, is it perhaps time to upgsize your main fridge or freezer and then let go of both your existing main and secondary / backup appliances?
  • Repair faulty and replace older, inefficient appliances: Older appliances can become less efficient or even faulty without us even realising. If it’s faulty and repair is an option, will it be worth it? If it’s an older appliance that’s becoming an energy drain, then it might be time to get a new one and benefit from the latest technology.
  • Choose energy-efficient appliances: When you’re in the market for buying a new appliance, there are more considerations than the initial, upfront cost. The features and functionality, running costs, ongoing maintenance requirements, and warranty are also important for you to think about before you buy. Its energy efficiency rating should be a key focus. For example, there are four types of clothes dryers: vented, condenser, heat pump condenser and gas. A heat pump condenser clothes dryer is expensive to buy, but is the most energy efficient and economical option for heavy users. CHOICE gives a useful overview on how to buy a great clothes dryer.

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