Simple energy saving ideas

A new book sets out simple energy-saving ideas you can implement every day, writes Alex Brooks for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Save energyWriting about how to save energy is like sticking curly CFL light bulbs in your ears and yelling “party trick”. It’s forced.

It’s not that we don’t want to save energy, the planet or our wallets but it’s like trying to eat five serves of vegetables a day: worthy but too hard.

NSW electricity bills have risen by 20 per cent this year and talk of melting polar caps, rising sea levels and the end of the Great Barrier Reef should be enough to make us that weeny bit inspired to reduce our household greenhouse-gas emissions.

Now three CSIRO scientists have written a tome called The CSIRO Home Energy Saving Handbook, which is full of tips, climate science and advice to explain why we need to stop burning fossil fuels, such as the coal and gas for our electricity, oil for transport and natural gas for heating oh, and the energy it takes to make all the shoes, clothes and handbags we buy.

Author and social scientist Peta Ashworth says it’s the baby steps we take towards saving energy that make the whole exercise easy (and less annoying).

“So much of it is about how energy efficient your house is to start with but then there’s also behaviour and engaging people to make changes,” she says, suggesting we start by creating our own household energy-saving action plan.

Ashworth and her co-authors explain the action plan can be more successful with rewards along the way, such as spending the cash you save or planting a tree for every “energy infringement”.

The action-plan tips include:

Start small Although the book tells us we need to act immediately to reduce greenhouse gases, pick easy actions to start with, such as changing light bulbs or taking shorter showers.

Don’t try to do it all at once You can’t expect to change everything in your home immediately. Reducing your carbon footprint may take several years but the most important thing is that you are starting to change.

Allocate responsibilities The best chance of reducing a household’s carbon footprint is for everyone to be involved. Include all the members of your household, especially children.

Display the plan Busy lives mean it is easy to forget, so display the list of actions where everyone can see it as a daily reminder of their commitment, like on the fridge.

Track progress Set up the plan with dates to commence and complete each action and track the progress. This might be once a month or once a quarter, depending on the actions.

Check your energy bills Another way to make sure your action plan is on track is to check the greenhouse-gas emissions shown on your electricity or gas bill.

Graph your results You may like to graph your progress and display this on the fridge.

Smart ways to save


Green Switch incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or energy-saving LEDs or halogens.

Greener Use task-based lighting like desk lamps rather than overhead lighting and replace low-voltage halogen downlights with energy-efficient alternatives.

Greenest Overhaul the house to include more skylights and windows to maximise natural light and reduce the need to use energy for lighting.


Green Take advantage of the $1600 grant for home owners to install insulation or the $1000 grant for renters to do the same and reduce energy costs of heating and cooling by up to 45 per cent.

Greener Insulate the pipes that run from your hot-water service to the bathroom and kitchen taps to reduce heat loss.

Greenest Draught-proof windows and doors and insulate the walls and floor of a home to create enough thermal mass to keep perfect temperatures all year round in the house with little need for artificial heating or cooling.

In the shower

Green Install a AAA-rated shower head and aerators on taps to reduce water usage.

Greener If a family of three reduces seven-minute showers to four-minute showers, the CSIRO says it’s the equivalent of taking one small car off the road for a year. So get yourself a timer and take shorter showers.

Greenest Install solar hot water to power your showers and take advantage of generous federal government rebates and reduce the emissions created by convection electric hot-water heaters. Alternatively, take what the authors call a “submarine shower”: get in the shower, turn on the water and wet down. Turn off the water, soap down and shampoo your hair. Turn the water back on and rinse off. You need really good taps to control the water temperature quickly and easily or be really virtuous.