About this guide
More than a third of Australians live in rented accommodation. There are some things you can’t change when you rent. There are still ways to reduce your bills and improve efficiency. Some of the most effective steps involve small changes to your daily habits. Some have no financial cost to you.
This guide shows you where you're using water and energy. It has a range of ways you can reduce these and save money.
Small steps can mean big savings
The following simple actions could save a household of 4 about $760 a year.
- If you've got a second fridge, getting rid of it could save around $172 a year.
- Switching off the game console after use could save up to $193 a year.
- Using the clothesline instead of the dryer once a week could save $79 a year.
- Installing a water-efficient 4-star showerhead could save $315 a year on water bills. You’ll also save on your energy bills because less water will need to be heated.
These amounts are a guide. Savings will vary depending on the age and type of your appliances and the size of your home. The climatic zone you live in and the energy prices you pay will also impact on your savings.
Energy-saving ideas for the whole house
Appliances can account for around 30% of your home energy use. These include white goods, entertainment devices and cooking appliances. The appliances you choose and the way you use them change your energy use and bills.
If you're in the market for a new appliance, think about purchasing an energy-efficient model. Look for the Energy Rating Label. The more stars the more energy and money you can save. Where a product does not carry an Energy Rating Label, you can estimate the running costs. You can work out how much they will cost you each year. A more efficient model might cost a little more to purchase. But a less efficient product could end up costing more in the long run.
Landlords may be eligible for a rebate if they need to replace an appliance in your home. This could include showerheads, toilets, hot water systems and fridges. It’s worth doing your research. Start with the rebates listed on this website.
Heating and cooling
Up to 50% of home energy use goes to heating and cooling. Small changes to your air conditioning and heating habits can have a major impact on your household's energy bills.
Control your climate
In winter, set your heating between 18°C and 20°C. In summer, set your cooling between 25°C and 27°C.
For every degree you increase heating and cooling, you increase energy use between 5% and 10%.
Shut doors and vents to unused areas. Only heat or cool the rooms you’re using.
Seal gaps and cracks
Seal gaps and cracks to stop air leaking. This is a cheap way to cut your energy bill by up to 25%. Use a draught stopper to prevent air leaking under doors. Apply weather seals to windows, skirting boards, skylights and cornices. Check with your landlord or property manager before fitting any weather seals or covers.
Be window wise
Prevent heat loss or gain with well-fitted curtains and blinds. They trap a layer of air next to the window. Open curtains in winter to let the sun in during the day. Close them before it gets dark. Close curtains during the hottest part of the day in summer.
Install temporary glazing
You can insulate windows cheaply with a transparent glazing film that helps reduce heat gain and loss. Check with your landlord before doing this.
Harness the breeze
In summer make the most of natural airflow in the cooler parts of the day. Open windows to bring in the breeze and let the hot air out.
Choose fans over (or with) air conditioners
Fans cost around 2 cents per hour to run. This is much less than air conditioners. Fans can reduce the temperature by 2°C or 3°C.°Fans circulate air and can improve the effectiveness of other cooling systems.
Lighting uses around 10% of the average household electricity budget.
Minimise artificial lighting
If it’s light outside, open the curtains or blinds rather than switching on a light. Lighter coloured furnishings and reflective surfaces also reduce the need for artificial lighting
A desk or standard lamp will provide more focused reading light, They can be cheaper to run than lighting the whole room. Switching lights off when you leave the room will also save energy.
Switch to energy-efficient lighting
Replace old-style globes with light emitting diodes (LEDs) which use around 80% less energy. They should also last between 4 and 10 times longer.
Heating water accounts for around 15% to 27% of household energy use.
Get the temperature right
The recommended setting for thermostats is 60°C for storage hot water systems. It is no more than 50°C on instantaneous hot water systems.
If away for more than a week, turning off your storage hot water system saves money and energy. When turning it back on, allow time for the water to become hot. It needs to get hot enough to kill any bacteria that may have grown. The water must remain above 60°C for at least 35 minutes before you can safely use it. It could take several hours to reach this temperature.
Choose energy-efficient systems
Landlords may be eligible for a rebate if replacing an old hot water system with an energy-efficient one.
Many appliances use power when left on, even if not in use. If it's got a little light or clock, it's using power. This can account for 3% of household electricity consumption. You can switch off most at the power point. Note: Do not switch off fridges, freezers, security and medical equipment.
Save energy in the kitchen
Appliances are big energy guzzlers. Changing how you use appliances can make savings.
Fridges and freezers
The optimal temperature for your fridge is between 3 - 5°C. °For a freezer it’s between minus 15 - minus 18°C for your freezer. Every degree lower requires 5% more energy. Your fridge and freezers work best when you leaving a gap of 5–8cm around them for ventilation. Remove any frost build-up in the freezer. If you have a second fridge for entertaining, only turn it on when you need it.
Cook and clean with less energy
You can save energy on your kettle by boiling only as much water as you need. Choose the toaster over the grill when making toast. Wait till you have a full load before running your dishwasher. Try scraping your dishes rather than rinsing before loading.
Save energy in the living room
Home entertainment products are responsible for at least 5% of household energy use.
Switch off after use
When you're not using your TV, stereo or game console, switch it off at the wall. Home entertainment products generally have 4 power modes and can draw power even when not in use.
Once you've charged your phone, tablet or computer, unplug it so it's not drawing unnecessary power.
Save energy in the laundry
Save energy and water by washing in cold water and using the shortest cycle possible. Adjust your water level to suit the size of the load. Wait until you have enough clothes for a full load.
- If you have a front loader you can save about 50% on energy costs by washing in cold water.
- If you have a top loader you can save about 85% on energy costs by washing in cold water.
Every load you dry in an electric dryer uses energy and drives up your bills. Using the clothesline instead just one day a week will save around $70 a year.
Save energy in the bedroom
On cold nights, sleep with a hot water bottle or extra blanket. Choose an electric blanket over a space heater. Electric blankets consume little energy. Turn them off after 10-30 minutes. On average, they cost about 4 cents an hour, compared to some space heaters which can cost around 15 cents an hour.
Keep the warm air in by shutting your blinds or curtains.
Switch off while you sleep
Switch gadgets off at the wall. Charge your phone or computer during the day. Unplug them once fully charged.
Water-efficient appliances and fixtures
When buying a new appliance or fixture, consider a water-efficient model. Look for the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) rating. There is also a range of rebates available to you or your landlord for installing or purchasing water-efficient products.
Use taps efficiently
A tap leaking at the rate of 1 drip a second wastes more than 12,000L of water a year. Save water by fixing any leaking taps as soon as possible. You can reduce your water use by installing aerators. These limit water flow and can be fitted to the inside or outside of taps. You may have to check with your landlord before going ahead.
Save water in the bathroom
Installing a water-efficient 4-star showerhead a family of 4 could save $315 a year on water bills. You’ll also save on energy bills because less water will need to be heated. If you have old inefficient showerheads, trying asking your landlord to replace these with water-efficient models. They use around 33% of the water.
If renting in NSW and your water is separately metered you’re liable for the water bill. But only if the landlord meets water efficiency requirements. Your landlord should install showerheads, cold water taps and single mixer taps in bathroom and kitchen sinks. These should have a maximum flowrate of 9L per minute. If they do this you are liable to pay the water charges.
Use the half-flush where appropriate. If your landlord is replacing a single-flush toilet, a water-efficient dual-flush model could save 5L per person daily. Until then you could buy a water displacement device to reduce water use. Or you could use a plastic bottle filled with water in the cistern to reduce its water capacity.
Save water in the backyard
Australian householders use up to 60% of our household water outdoors.
A traditional green lawn can use up to 90% of your gardening water. You can reduce this by setting your mower to cut at 4cm or higher. You can also reduce garden water use by improving watering practices and choosing water-efficient products.
Use your greywater on your non-edible plants by placing a bucket in the shower. Or you could catch rainwater where it falls outside.
Waste not, want not
Australians generate 64 million tonnes of waste a year. This includes waste from our kitchens, bathrooms, laundries, gardens, and from building and construction activities. By making smarter purchases and disposing of waste wisely you can reduce waste going to landfill. You’ll also avoid spending on items you don't end up using.
Think before you buy and throw
Re-use and recycle
If you have unwanted goods destined for the bin, consider giving them to friends. Or you could host a garage sale, donate them to op-shops or list them online. Before buying new things check op-shops and online for goods you can give a second life to. You’ll save money at the same time. Find recycling facilities with Planet Ark's RecyclingNearYou.
Reduce landfill and breathe new life into your old items by 'upcycling' them. You can create new things from stuff you already own. If you don't know where to start, look online for tips and creative ideas.
Collective consumption means sharing, swapping, trading or renting goods. It’s a great way to share resources and save money. Before splashing out and buying a new lawnmower or ladder, see if neighbours or friends are willing to share theirs. You can lend them something you own in return.
Reduce chemical, hazardous and electronic waste
Change how you clean
Avoid exposing yourself to potentially toxic or hazardous elements by making your own cleaning products, or by purchasing lower impact options. You can create cheap and effective surface cleaners from bicarbonate of soda, white vinegar, lemon, salt and borax.
Manage hazardous waste
Hazardous waste includes things like pesticides, oven cleaners, batteries and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Follow the rules for disposing of them correctly.
Many electronic items contain harmful substances such as lead and mercury. Sell or donate them if they still work. If they don’t, drop them off for recycling.
Minimise kitchen waste
Food waste costs Australian households between $2200 to $3800 a year.
In Australia we waste up to 30% of the food we buy. Food waste costs Australian households $2200 to $3800 a year. This food ends up in land fill where it produces methane. This is a greenhouse gas that is particularly damaging to the environment.
Much of the food waste comes from poor planning. Use shopping lists. Check your pantry and fridge before heading to the shops.
If you live in a share house, you could shopping collectively. Or you could get a box of locally-produced fruit and veggies delivered each week. It's generally cheaper to buy in bulk, and you'll reduce your household's food miles.
Create a feast from leftovers
Rather than throwing food out, try getting creative with what's already in your fridge and pantry. Jump online to find recipes for inspiration.
Reduce single-use plastics
When shopping, you can reduce waste by taking re-usable bags with you and looking for recyclable packaging options.
By composting your food scraps you'll not only reduce the amount of organic waste that goes to landfill and produces methane—a harmful greenhouse gas—you'll also create great fertiliser for pot plants or the garden.
Start a worm farm
You don't need a lot of space to start a worm farm. A worm farm can be kept under the sink, on a balcony or in a shed. It’s a great way to turn your organic kitchen waste into nutrient-rich fertiliser for your plants.
Keep backyard chickens
Chooks don't just eat your scraps, they also make great pets and of course eggs! Be sure to check with your landlord and local council before going ahead.
Work with your family or flatmates
If you live with your family discuss together how to reduce your household's costs and impacts. As a renter, you may live in a share house with people who have different household habits and priorities. Talk with your flatmates when you move in to agree on what you do to save energy, water and money.
Talk to your landlord or estate agent
Repairs, servicing or maintenance, including most energy efficiency improvements, will usually require permission (and finance) from your landlord. Every state and territory has different laws for tenants. Do your research and ask permission before going ahead with any property changes.
Keep these things in mind when approaching your landlord or estate agent to request sustainable improvements.
Rebates and assistance
There is a range of government rebates and assistance available to property owners for making sustainable improvements. Explore our rebates and assistance section to find what's relevant to your situation.
Many green property improvements, as well as repairs and maintenance, are tax deductible. The Australian Tax Office's Guide for rental property owners has good advice you could pass on to your landlord.
By investing in sustainable improvements, your landlord is increasing the property's value. This makes it more attractive to future buyers and renters.
Put any requests to your landlord or real-estate agent in writing. Keep a record of all requests and agreements from your landlord or real estate agent to make changes or improvements.
Budget Planner Australian Securities & Investment Commission
Energy Made Easy Australian Government
Renters' Home Energy Assessments ACT Government
Home Energy Assessment Webtool ACT Government
No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS) Good Shepherd Microfinance
Renters guide to sustainable living (PDF 2MB) Alternative Technology Association
ACT Housing ACT Government
NSW Renting NSW Government
NT Residential tenancies Consumer Affairs
Qld Renting - know the rules mini guide Queensland Government
SA Renting Government of South Australia
Tas Renting Tasmanian Government
Vic Renting Consumer Affairs Victoria
WA Renting a home Government of Western Australia