Households

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Autumn

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About this guide

Making changes around your home over autumn can make a big difference to your energy costs and environmental impact.

This guide provides simple ways to save energy, minimise waste and prepare for the winter months.

Your location and climate zone will affect what you need to consider to have a comfortable and low-energy house. Autumn in some regions means preparing to minimise heat loss. In other regions it is an opportunity  to rely less on air conditioning and consider natural ventilation.

A home sustainability assessment will identify areas for savings. In some states and territories you may be eligible for assistance with home assessments or buying energy-saving items.

Basic energy saving in cooler weather

  • Set your heating thermostat to 18°C to 20°C in cooler regions and 25°C to 27°C in warmer regions. Every degree you increase your heating or cooling increases energy use by around 5% to 10%.
  • Close the curtains in the early evening to keep in the day’s warmth.
  • Use clothes racks in heated rooms or outdoors while the good weather lasts.
  • Hot water accounts for a large chunk of your power bill, so avoid using the shower to get warm. Staying in the shower uses up to 20 times as much energy as standing under 2 heat lamps.
  • Use appliances efficiently and turn them off at the wall when not in use. Standby power can account for more than 3% of your household electricity use.
  • Swap short car trips for walking or cycling.

Keeping your home warm

Taking action to stop air entering and leaving your home is key to saving energy. Here are some ideas that will have the greatest impact.

Draught-proofing

Draught-proofing is a cheap way to keep your home warm while saving up to 25% on your heating bills.

Draughts can occur where gaps let cold air in or warm air escape.

Look for gaps around:

  • doors
  • windows
  • architraves
  • skirting boards
  • floorboards.

Some draught-proofing tips:

  • Use adhesive foam strips to fill the gap between windows and frames and around doors. Another option is metal or plastic strips with brushes or wipers attached.
  • Fit brush strips for sliding sash windows.
  • Block gaps under external-facing doors with a brush or hinged flap draught-stopper.
  • For the inside of the door, use a sand-filled or fabric draught-stopper. 
  • For areas like chimneys or around electrical fittings, you may need to seek expert advice.
  • Some areas need good ventilation, so do not make them airtight. These include kitchens, bathrooms and rooms with open fires or unflued gas heaters.

Insulation

Insulation bring dramatic savings in heating costs. Up to 50% of  heating can leak out through gaps in and around ceilings, walls and floors.

There are many types of insulation available. Suitability depends on your location and roof type. Research about insulation and installation options then talk to an expert for the best options for your home.

Insulation should be installed by someone with expert knowledge in accordance with Australian standards.

Windows

Windows can release up to 40% of heating energy in your home.

You can improve window efficiency with:

  • Curtains and blinds. Use heavy fabrics or curtains with thermal lining or layers.
  • Pelmets above curtains. If pelmets don't fit your design, choose window fittings that attach to the wall or curtains that reach to the ceiling.
  • A strip of light timber across the curtain rail to stop heat loss.
  • Plastic coating on windows, as a low-cost alternative to double-glazing.

Maintain heating systems

Autumn is the time to check the working condition of your heater and do any maintenance required. If you have an evaporative air-conditioning system, you may need to inspect it after summer.

Keeping your heating system maintained will help it operate more efficiently and last longer. Check the operating instructions for your system or contact the manufacturer or retailer for advice. Maintenance on gas and reverse-cycle heating should be conducted by a qualified technician.

Lighting

Consider switching to energy-efficient lighting. Most homes could halve the amount of energy used for lighting by using more efficient technologies. 

LEDs (light emitting diodes) are better value for money than incandescent and halogen light bulbs. They use about 75% less energy and last 5-10 times longer which reduces replacement costs.

The up-front cost of LEDs often has a payback time of less than 1 year. Replacing 10 halogen light bulbs with LEDs can save the average household around $650 over 10 years.

State or local government assistance for new LEDs may be available. See Rebates and assistance for further information.

Easter

Here are a few tips if you’re going away over the Easter break.

  • Check that electrical appliances like microwaves and TVs are turned off at the wall.
  • If flying, you can often opt to pay a little extra to offset your air travel's carbon emissions. Check airline websites for details of carbon offset projects and look for the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) trademark,or check to see if your travel provider is certified as climate neutral in Climate Active.
  • If driving, remember that driving efficiently makes a big difference to fuel consumption.
  • Keep your vehicle well-maintained and inflate tyres to the correct air pressure. For a medium-sized car, good maintenance saves money and abates up to 1.5 tonnes of carbon emissions a year.
  • If renting a vehicle, choose the smallest one that suits your needs to minimise fuel consumption.
  • If camping or bushwalking, consider using the 'leave no trace' philosophy and don't leave behind any rubbish.
  • Use bio-degradable soap (or none at all) for cleaning up. 
  • When at the beach, be considerate of other users, marine life and animals, and help keep our beaches clean.

Easter waste

Consider these tips to reduce waste this Easter:

  • Choose products with minimal packaging.
  • Recycle packaging including Easter egg foil or browse the internet to try making your own treats or decorations.
  • Try using chickens to produce the best eggs you’ve ever tasted. They will feed on kitchen scraps, clean up weeds and fallen fruit and provide garden fertiliser. Check with your council about regulations for keeping backyard chickens in your area.
  • Consider giving life-changing gifts to people in need.

In the garden

An outdoor tidy-up to maintain your home's exterior is a good idea at any time of year.

Peak fire season varies depending on your location. Check with the Bureau of Meteorology to find out when the fire risk is highest in your area. Remove fire hazards to ensure you are bushfire ready.

Leaves and composting

  • Rake up leaves or mow over them to collect as garden mulch. Mulching reduces the need for watering.
  • Use dried leaves in your compost. A healthy compost mix needs a lot of carbon-rich organic material (about 75%) to balance out food scraps. Place dried materials in layers and cover with some fresh organic material.
  • Add some water to your compost without soaking it to help it decompose.
  • Get some air into the compost to make managing it more effective.
  • For excess garden waste, look for a garden recycling site in your area.
  • Avoid sending any green material to landfill where it releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.

Burning off

Avoid burning leaves and prunings in the backyard. In many parts of Australia at certain times of the year, it's illegal to do so.

For babies, seniors and those with health issues, including asthma and other breathing disorders, leaf burning can be very hazardous.

Smoke from burning leaves contains toxic gases and particles. If particles are inhaled, they can lodge in the lungs and stay there for years. This increases the risk of infection and reduced lung capacity.

Planting for a seasonal harvest

Autumn is a good time for planting. If growing vegetables, start planting now for harvesting over the coming seasons. Search online to identify your climate zone and ideas on what to plant and when.

Style savvy without the waste

Some waste-reduction tips when putting together your autumn/winter wardrobe:

  • Before shopping for the new season's wardrobe, consider what you actually need and what you already have.
  • Consider second-hand items to cut down on resources. There are great bargains in vintage stores and op shops.
  • Buy clothing that will last through the seasons rather than throwaway-items you will need to replace. There are a range of eco-fabrics available such as lyocell, soy fabric and organic cotton.
  • Select some basic wardrobe items and complement with a few key seasonal pieces. 
  • Recycle your unwanted clothing to a charity or swap with friends. If you haven't worn items in your wardrobe for a couple of years, perhaps it's unlikely you ever will.
  • Repair rather than toss out clothing which may be missing a button or have a small hole. If a favourite jumper has a bit of pilling use a lint remover to freshen it up.