Tips - Environment Victoria

Energy and Climate Booklet
Eco-Wise Action was funded by the Department of Sustainability and Environment
1. Background Information ............................................................................................ 2
2. Tips for Saving Energy at Home ................................................................................. 4
3. You can make a difference… ...................................................................................... 9
4. Energy commitments ............................................................................................... 15
1. Background Information
We’ve all heard that our climate is changing and that the way that we produce energy is a problem.
The good news is that we can do something about it. Reducing your energy use isn’t only good for
the climate, it can also make your home more comfortable and cost you less on your bills. First,
here’s the connection between energy use and climate.
Energy and Environment
When we talk about climate change we often talk about global warming, but this is only part of the
picture. Not only has the Earth's average temperature increased over the last century, but rainfall
patterns are changing and weather is becoming more extreme.
The Earth is surrounded by a blanket of gases which filter the sun’s energy and trap heat, resulting in
a natural greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) occur naturally,
trapping heat in the atmosphere and making the Earth warm enough for life.
Human activities have increased the amount of
greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This
increases the blanket of gases and leads to
further heating of the planet and climate change.
Today there is one third more CO2 in the air than
there was when humans started burning coal at
an industrial scale 200 years ago. Activities which
release CO2 into the air include burning coal for
electricity, using petrol in our cars, intensive
agriculture and land clearing.
Every year, Victorians release more than 40 million tonnes of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.
Per person, that makes us one of the world’s worst greenhouse gas polluters.
The Effects of Climate Change
We don’t know exactly what climate change will do to life on Earth but what we do know is:
Weather patterns are changing and becoming more severe. For example, we are getting
more flooding, droughts, heat waves and extreme cold.
The effects are uneven. Temperature rise is higher towards the poles than the equator, and
over land rather than sea.
Some ecosystems will be severely damaged or completely destroyed, meaning extinction of
plants and animals.
In Victoria the effects we are seeing
 More heat waves and more
cold snaps
 More bushfires
 Less rain and more drought
 Less water in our rivers and in
our dams
 Less snow cover in the alpine
Energy in Victoria
Most energy in Australia comes from burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and petrol, which creates
greenhouse gases. About 92 percent of electricity in Victoria comes from burning brown coal. Brown
coal has a low energy density and high water content. This means that brown coal produces less
energy and more pollution per kilogram than any other fossil fuel. In Victoria, burning brown coal to
generate electricity is responsible for over half of our greenhouse gas emissions.
Energy Consumption in Your Home
One third of Victoria’s energy (electricity and gas) is used in the home. Here’s where we use it:
Source: Victorian Energy Efficiency Action Statement, Department of Sustainability and Environment, 2006.
The areas where we use the most energy are also where there’s plenty of room to make energy
savings. An average house uses about 17 kilowatt hours of energy a day, but an energy efficient
household of four uses about 5 kilowatt hours.
2. Tips for saving energy at home
There are heaps of ways that you can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by doing things a
little differently at home. Here are some ideas on what you can do.
GreenPower is the single easiest way to cut your greenhouse gas
emissions from electricity use. And usually there’s no need to
change your current supplier.
When you sign up for GreenPower, your electricity supplier buys
electricity from renewable sources on your behalf. It’s like
getting solar panels or a wind turbine, without having to know
how to install them yourself.
GreenPower does cost a bit more – typically from $1 to $6 a
week. This cost can be offset by savings made by changing light
bulbs or turning down your heating thermostat.
If you choose to join the 900,000 odd Australians that have
already made the switch, make sure you switch to government
accredited GreenPower by visiting
Energy Rating Labels
Australia's energy rating labels make it easy to compare the energy efficiency of heaters,
refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, dishwashers, air conditioners and televisions (and more
products will be labeled in the future). The label has two main features:
 A star rating that compares similar appliances (similar size
and type) out of six stars. Appliances with more stars are
more energy efficient. If possible, aim for four or more.
 A number that estimates typical energy use in a home
(usually in kilowatt hours over a year).
Look at the number as well as the stars. A large refrigerator
might have a high star rating because it is efficient compared to
other large refrigerators. However if you only need a small
refrigerator you will use less kilowatt hours per year if you buy a
small one, even if it has a low star rating. The energy use
number will show this.
You can compare energy ratings on the stickers on appliances in
the shops, or online at, for both new
and older models.
Heating and Cooling
Victoria’s electricity grid can get overloaded, especially on very hot days in summer when lots of
people are using air conditioning. This puts vulnerable people like seniors who cannot cope with
heat at risk. Although it is the hardest time not to cool your home, before you switch on the air
conditioner try following the tips below to stop your house heating up so much in the first place.
Fans offer the most efficient form of cooling with the lowest running costs, purchase price,
energy use and greenhouse emissions.
Shut curtains during the day to keep out heat and open windows at night to let in breezes.
Don’t leave your heater or cooling system running all night or while you’re out. Installing a
timer can help you with this.
Heat or cool the space you are in by closing doors to parts of your home that aren’t
Setting your air conditioner thermostat to 24°C to 27°C in summer should allow you to be
comfortable and save money. In winter, heat your rooms to between 19 and 21C. Use a
thermometer to check the temperature if you don’t have a thermostat.
Heating and cooling is more than half of a typical household’s energy bill each year.
Insulation and Draughts
Insulate the ceiling first and then if possible
insulate walls and under floors. This will stop
chilling draughts. See the Your Home
Technical Guide for details at
Ceiling insulation for a typical home costs
about $1600, and even without rebates this
pays for itself in cheaper bills and greater
You might be surprised to hear that insulation
also keeps your cooler in the summer.
Foil insulation installed inside the roof will
help reflect heat and keep the summer heat
Old insulation can compact. New insulation can be put on top of it.
Seal any draughts in your home with draught excluders and sealing tape around doors and
windows, and even use a simple draught snake for the gaps under doors. These supplies are
available at low cost at hardware stores.
If you can, block any chimneys when you aren’t using them, to reduce heat loss.
Install heavy curtains or solid blinds to keep your home comfortable in summer and winter.
Window pelmets (boxes attached to the wall that cover the curtain rod) prevent significant
loss of heat around the curtains.
If you have north facing windows, open up curtains and blinds to let the winter sun in and
help warm up your house.
Products such as Clear Comfort (plastic film attached with two-sided tape), Magnetite
Windows (acrylic panels held by magnetic strips) can be added to windows to provide the
benefits of double glazing at a much cheaper cost.
Shading north, west and east facing
windows in summer will make a big
difference to the amount of heat getting
Water Heating
Heating water for the shower, laundry and dishes uses one fifth of energy use in a typical home in
Getting a water saving showerhead doesn’t just save water, it also saves the energy needed to heat
water. Most water retailers provide them for free.
Insulate any bits of hot water pipe which are outside. You can buy the insulation (called “lagging”)
for less than $10 from a hardware store, and it is easy to put on yourself.
Find the thermostat on your hot water service. If you have a
storage hot water system (a large tank) check it is set to
around 60 Celsius. This is hot enough for household needs
and ensures no bacteria builds up in your system. For an
instantaneous system (a small box on the wall), the
temperature should be set at 50 degrees or less. Turn the
system off when you go on holidays and you don’t use it for
long periods. There are usually instructions on the system on
how to start it again when you get home. Otherwise switch it
to the “vacation” setting (if it has one).
Consider installing solar hot water heating. There is a higher
upfront cost, but it will save money in the long term by
reducing your energy bills. There are government rebates available to help lower the cost.
Instantaneous gas hot water heating is also an excellent option. If you can’t install solar and don’t
have gas, consider getting a heat pump system. It is the most efficient way to heat water using
electricity and rebates are also available for this.
Lighting uses a small amount (3 percent) of the energy used a typical home; however, it’s easy to
make changes that will lower energy use everyday.
Change old style incandescent light globes to compact fluorescent energy efficient light
globes. Compact fluorescents last 8 times as long and use only one fifth of the energy.
Use the lowest watt globe you need to adequately light an area.
Use natural light when possible – open the curtains!
Switch lights off every time you leave a room.
Use timers to control outdoor and security lighting and make sure outdoor lights are
switched off during the day.
Dry your clothes using a washing line or clothes rack wherever possible. Tumble dryers use a
lot of energy!
When using a washing machine, wash your clothes in cold water – the clean is just as good,
it’s better for your clothes and saves the energy to heat water.
If you use a dryer, clean the lint filter after each load.
Standby energy
Standby energy is the energy an appliance uses
when you are not using it but it isn’t fully switched
off. If your TV, DVD player, microwave or computer
has a red or green light or clock glowing when you
are not using it, or if it is operated by remote
control, then it is using standby energy.
Standby energy can account for 10 percent
of the energy on your bill.
To avoid this, turn standby appliances off at
the power point.
Televisions and radios will keep their station
settings even when the power is turned off.
With computers, as long as you save your
work and shut down the computer correctly
nothing will be lost.
Your fridge runs everyday, all year, so it’s important to have it running well. Here are some tips:
Keep a space between the wall and the rear of your fridge for the air to circulate, preventing
Check that the seals on your fridge are keeping in all of the cold air.
If your freezer fills with ice, defrost it regularly.
When buying a new fridge, try to match its size to your needs. If it’s too small it will struggle
to work efficiently, and if it is too big it will waste energy.
Check the thermostat – fridges should be at 4C and freezers at 15C below zero.
If you have a second fridge, switching it off will make a big difference to your energy use,
and will also make your power bill cheaper.
Use a microwave rather than an electric stove top
when you can. It uses far less energy because it cooks
more quickly.
Only heat the water that you will use. E.g. If you are
only making two cups of tea, then only boil enough
water for two cups of tea.
Try to use the right sized pot or pan for the amount of
food you are cooking, and keep lids on when cooking.
Check that the seals on your oven are keeping the
door closed and avoid opening the oven door more
than you need to.
Driving isn’t great for the planet. Planning trips so that you complete a number of tasks in
one trip can help you drive less.
When you can, try to car pool with others to reduce your number of trips.
Try to keep you car correctly maintained, so it runs as efficiently as possible.
Driving smoothly and avoiding accelerating and braking uses less petrol, which means less
greenhouse gas emissions and spending less money at the petrol station.
Walking, cycling or public transport are all good options for short trips, and they’ll even give
you a bit of exercise.
Public transport information for
Melbourne and regional Victoria is
available from and 131
Contact your council to see if they have a
TravelSmart map with detailed bicycle
and public transport information.
Some Melbourne bike paths are shown
on Melways map 592
3. You can make a difference…
To help make a difference to the environment, look at your energy use. Use this checklist to find
out where you are doing well and where you could do better. Not all actions are appropriate for
everyone, but this checklist should give you some ideas of what to work on. Then make some
commitments to what you will definitely change in the near future, using the list that follows.
Easy Actions
Do you use GreenPower?
 No
Heating and cooling
Easy Actions
Do you heat or cool just the rooms
you are using?
 No
In winter, is the heating set too
high, i.e. too warm?
 Yes
 Look into switching to accredited GreenPower
(electricity generated from renewable sources).
 Heat or cool the areas being used rather than
paying to heat/cool empty rooms
 Close doors to stop warm/cool air from escaping
to rooms that aren’t being used
 Block draughts between heated or cooled rooms
and rooms that aren’t being used
 Set heating at 19° to 21°C (use a thermometer if
you don’t have a thermostat).
In summer, is the cooling set too
low, i.e. too cool?
 Yes
 Set cooling at 24° to 27°C (use a thermometer if
you don’t have a thermostat).
In summer, are the rooms which are
most used on the warmer sunny
(northern) side of the building?
 Yes
 Try to use the cooler shady (southern) side of your
home more – it gets less summer sun.
In winter are the rooms which are
most used on the cooler shady
(southern) side of the building?
 Yes
 Try to use the warmer sunny (northern) side of
your home more – it gets more winter sun.
Heating and cooling
Slightly harder actions
Are there draughts around the
 Yes
Do the windows have curtains or
 No
Check if gaps need to be blocked at:
 Gaps under external doors
 Edges of windows
 Exhaust fans
 Open fire places
 Cracks in wooden floors
 Fixed wall vents
 Old ceiling roses
 Other cracks and gaps located
 Install heavy curtains or solid blinds (not ones with
slats) that cover the whole window space and extend
below the window frame, leaving no gaps.
Do the windows which get a lot of
sun (north/west/east facing) have
external shading in summer?
 No
 Install external blinds or awnings OR
 Buy tinted/reflective window coverings. Go for
ones you can remove in winter to let in the winter
sun, e.g. roller blind style ones, or ones that attach
using Velcro dots stuck to the glass OR
 Plant deciduous trees or vines to provide shade.
Are the windows that get a lot of
sun (north/west/east facing)
externally shaded in winter?
 Yes
 Adjust or remove shading in winter to allow
sunlight in.
Are there window pelmets (box-like
structure which covers the curtain
 No
 Install window pelmets
Is there double glazing or equivalent
window insulation?
 No
 If you can afford it, install double glazed windows
 Install cheaper alternatives such as Clear Comfort
or Magnetite.
 Insulate the ceiling
Is the ceiling insulated?
 No
Heating and cooling
More slightly harder actions
Is your current heater inefficient or
expensive to run?
 Yes
Consider if a new heating system is really needed
and if so…
 Install gas space heating – if gas is connected
If gas is not connected, install,
 Ideally a 5 star reverse cycle heater OR
 If reverse cycle is not an option, use a portable
electric heater which has a thermostat and fan, and
is the right size for the space
If you have an air conditioner, is it
inefficient or expensive to run?
 Yes
Always go for a heater with a high energy star rating.
Consider if a new cooling system is really needed
and if so…
 Buy a pedestal fan (cheapest to buy and run, has
the lowest emissions, and is portable!)
OR if an air conditioner is needed, go for:
 One or two coolers, so you can just cool the
rooms you’re using, instead of ducted cooling which
will waste energy on cooling empty rooms
 Evaporative cooling instead of refrigerated. These
use water but less energy – go for the model that
uses the least water.
Does the house design allow you to
heat or cool individual rooms?
 No
Always check for the highest energy star rating.
 If your house is open plan or doesn’t have many
doors, see if you can install internal doors or curtains
to zone off rooms into small areas to heat or cool
Note: You may need professional advice.
Hot water
Easy Actions
Is the hot water system set at a
higher temperature than it needs to
 Yes
Do you take showers which are
longer than four minutes?
 Yes
 Set the hot water system to 60°C if it’s a storage
hot water system (a large tank), or to 50°C or less if it
is an instantaneous system (a small box on the wall).
 Aim to reduce shower length to four minutes or
less per day.
 Use a shower timer.
Hot water
Slightly harder actions
Has the shower head been changed
over to a low flow, water saving
shower head?
 No
Are sections of the pipes from the
hot water service outside?
 Yes
Is your hot water system inefficient
or expensive to run?
 Yes
 Get a low flow shower head (usually available free
of charge from the local water authority).
 Insulate exposed hot water pipes with lagging
(foam insulation tubing).
Consider if a new hot water system is really needed
and if so…
 Best option: install solar hot water
 Second best option if gas is connected: install a
gas instantaneous system
 Second best option if gas isn’t connected: install a
heat pump system
 Third best option if gas isn’t connected: install an
electric instantaneous system
Always check for the highest energy star rating.
Note: Refer to possible grants and rebates available.
Easy Actions
Do you usually use the cold and
economic wash options for laundry?
 No
Wherever possible, do you dry
clothes on the clothes line?
 No
If you use a dryer, do you usually
run it only when it’s full and on the
economy/delicate setting?
 No
Slightly harder actions
If you have a tumble dryer, is it
inefficient or expensive to run?
 Yes
 Wash laundry in cold water and on the economic
wash option.
 Where possible, dry clothes on the line and
reduce use of the clothes dryer.
 Run the dryer when full and on the
economy/delicate setting
 Clean the lint filter after every use
Consider if a new dryer is really needed and if so…
 Find a small tumble dryer
Always check for the highest energy star rating.
Note: Refer to possible grants and rebates available.
Easy actions
Are appliances regularly left on
 Yes
Are the fridge and freezer set at a
cooler temperature than needed?
(Check using a thermometer.)
 Yes
Does the fridge have adequate
ventilation and shut properly, and
are the seals tight?
 No
Slightly harder actions
Do you need special devices to to
help you use less standby energy?
(E.g. Power boards with a switch for
each plug, or power point switches
which work by remote control.)
 Yes
Is the current fridge inefficient,
expensive to run or much larger
than you need it to be?
 Yes
Switch off the following appliances when not in use:
 Mobile phone charger
 TV
 VCR/DVD player
 Stereo
 Microwave
 Air conditioning or heating unit
 Computer, monitor and printer
 Other
 Set the fridge to 4°C
 Set the freezer to 15°C below zero
 If you have an older freezer, defrost it regularly
 Move the fridge slightly forward off the wall to
leave space for ventilation
 Make sure hinges work correctly and nothing in
the fridge is stopping it closing
 If the door seals aren’t tight, replace them
 Install devices to reduce standby energy use.
NB: Do not use with fridge or freezer as these need
to operate continuously.
Is a new fridge really needed? Can the old one be
repaired?. Can the fridge be swapped for smaller
If a new fridge is needed, the replacement fridge size
is (choose smallest suitable for your needs):
 A bar fridge
 Small fridge
 Medium sized fridge
 Large fridge
Also check for a high energy star rating, good seals
and check the door closes easily.
Note: If you are on a concession card, refer to
possible grants and rebates available.
Easy actions
When making a cup of tea, do you
fill the whole kettle?
 Yes
Do you use a dishwasher?
 Yes
Slightly harder actions
Is the dishwasher is inefficient or
expensive to run?
 Yes
 Only fill the kettle with the amount of water you
need, e.g. two cups of tea requires two cups of
boiling water
Hand washing in a small amount of water can use
less energy than dishwashers, and less water than
older dishwashers. If you do use a dishwasher:
 Minimise the number of loads
 Only run it when it’s full
 Use the economy cycle
Consider if a new dishwasher is really needed and if
 Buy a dishwasher that is as small as possible to
suit your needs. If possible find a dishwater that has
separate inlets for hot water (which you can heat
more efficiently using solar hot water or
instantaneous gas)
 Avoid using the dry function
Always check for the highest energy and water star
4. Energy commitments
The best way of following through with good intentions is committing to change. Choose the
actions you would like to take, and tick the boxes on the right to remind yourself that you’re
If you are already taking most of these actions, try pledging to encourage someone else to
take action in the row at the bottom. Then stick this page on your fridge.
I’m doing my bit
Things I plan to do to look after the planet
I pledge to
do this
I do this
Set my thermostat at 19-21C in winter and not below 24-27 C
in summer.
This will save you 960kg of greenhouse gases every year
Switch off my second fridge.
This will save 730kg of greenhouse gases every year
Reduce my shower length to four minutes or less.
This will save 800kg of greenhouse gases every year
Dry my clothes on a washing line or clothes horse instead of
using a tumble dryer whenever possible.
This will save 318kg of greenhouse gases every year
Wash my clothes only when I have a full load and use the cold
water option.
This will save 215kg greenhouse gases every year
Switch off appliances at the power point when not in use, e.g.
mobile phone chargers, TVs, DVD players and computers.
This will save 390kg of greenhouse gases every year
Switch to using 100% accredited GreenPower, and so support
the development of the renewable energy industry.
This will save 8300kg of greenhouse gases every year
Change my showerhead over to a low flow shower head.
This will save 1400kg greenhouse gas every year
Get ceiling insulation installed.
This will save 2090kg of greenhouse gases every year
Investigate installing solar hot water.
Encourage my friends and family to: (name actions)
Environment Victoria mobilises people to safeguard our environment. As the state’s
peak non-profit environment group, we believe our future depends on all Victorians.
That’s why we’re asking all 5 million of us to be part of looking after our environment.
With your help, we can persuade every Victorian to get involved. It won't be easy. But
5 million people can get our representatives hopping. Get businesses bending over
backwards to become truly green. Get the whole country to pay attention. Maybe
even the world.
So what do you say? Are you in? Visit today or ring
9341 8100.
Environment Victoria provides this workshop booklet as a guide. However, it cannot take responsibility or liability for any loss,
damage or injury incurred as a result of the use of any of the information within this workshop package. We recommend that you
obtain appropriate professional advice and assistance where necessary.
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