About this guide
Summer is a time when water and electricity usage can soar. The cost impact can be significantly reduced through good planning and adjustment.
This guide provides simple ways to save on your energy and water costs, minimise waste and keep cool during the summer months.
For specific energy saving-advice relating to tropical, sub-tropical and arid areas, see the Northern Australia living guide.
Beat the heat
Insulation is a worthwhile investment for comfort and energy savings. As much as 50% of the energy used to cool an uninsulated home can be wasted through air leaks.
Aside from insulation, there are a number of low-cost ways to reduce heat in your home.
- Reduce heat from direct sunlight by using shade on windows (especially north and west facing).
- Plant trees and bushes outside windows and walls to provide natural shading.
- Close windows and curtains during the hottest part of the day.
- When temperatures drop outside, open windows or doors on opposite sides of the room.
- Seal gaps around windows and doors with weather strips.
- Turn off lights, computers, consoles and televisions when not in use.
- Use the dishwasher or washing machine when its cooler and avoid using the oven in the hottest part of the day.
- Opt for LEDs which emit less heat, use 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than halogen globes.
When buying an air conditioner, look for the new Zoned Energy Rating Label (ZERL) for more detailed energy efficiency information. ZERL provides a seasonal efficiency rating for 3 climate zones across Australia to assist you in selecting the product most suited to your region.
If you have an air conditioner, use it only when necessary and set the temperature between 25 and 27°C. Every degree higher can save between 5 and 10% on your energy use. Set the programmable thermostat to suit your schedule.
If your air conditioner has a compressor that sits outside, provide it with some shading so it doesn’t need to work harder from exposure to the sun.
To ensure the system continues to operate efficiently, servicing should be done by a licensed technician. Cleaning the dust filters will improve efficiency and can be done by the householder.
Consider opting for fans instead of turning on the air conditioner. Fans have to be blowing on you to feel the cooling effect but are much cheaper to run.
Ceiling fans are the most efficient but pedestal and bladeless fans are also quite cost-effective. The portable fan costs around 2 to 3 cents per hour to operate.
For more information on cooling options, see the Heating and cooling page.
Other ways to cool down
With a slight shift in daily routine and a few simple tricks, you can reduce reliance on costly mechanical cooling.
- Adjust your routine to spend hot days in cooler public spaces if possible, such as shopping during the day instead of the evening.
- For an instant cool-down, spray yourself with a mist of water or drape a moist towel around your neck.
- Wetting your wrists and other pulse points will also cool the body.
- Opt for loose and light-weight clothing made from organic cottons and breathable fabrics and wear lighter colours.
Summer is the time when many people take their annual holidays. There are ways to minimise the environmental impact of your travel and save on energy use.
Before travelling, check electrical appliances like microwaves, kettles, televisions, home entertainment systems and gaming consoles are turned off at the wall.
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 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.
Careful driving and proper vehicle maintenance can make a big difference to fuel consumption. A well maintained medium-sized car can cut up to 1.5 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.
Some other ways to reduce fuel consumption:
- If renting a vehicle, choose the smallest one to suit your needs.
- Change gears sooner rather than later to keep engine revs down.
- If driving an automatic, ease back on the accelerator when the vehicle gathers momentum,
- Empty the cabin or boot of any heavy items.
- Remove roof racks when not in use.
- Don’t overfill the fuel tank, stop at the first click. Any more is lost in overflow and evaporation.
If flying to your destination, you can opt to pay a little extra to offset your air travel emissions. Find out about carbon offset projects on airline websites and look for the National Carbon Offset Standard trademark which indicates a business’ commitment to achieving genuine emission reductions.
For more information, see the Transport page.
Pools and spas
Pools and spas often use as much energy as your dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer combined. Careful consideration at installation can mean long-term savings.
Talk to your installer about the types of filtration systems available including natural pool designs that use biological filters. See the Voluntary Energy Rating Labelling Program (VERLP) for energy-efficiency ratings of various pool and spa pumps.
You can save money with a more energy-efficient pump even if it has a larger up-front cost. For example, a 3-star single-speed pump would have a lifetime cost of around $3,900 compared to $2,750 for a 7-star variable-speed pump.
Pools can lose considerable amounts of water through evaporation. This can be significantly reduced with a well-fitted pool cover. Having a rainwater tank is also a great way to top up a pool.
Ensure your pool and spa complies with safety and fencing regulations in your state or territory and do regular checks to minimise the risk of accidents. Check the Royal Life Saving Australia website for safety information.
For more information, see the Pool pumps page.
There are a few things to remember when dining outdoors to minimise waste.
- Avoid disposable plates and cutlery and carry re-useable drink bottles where possible.
- If there are no recycling facilities where picnicking or camping, bring your recycling home as well as food scraps for compost.
- Plan your meals before you shop and store food properly to avoid waste in the summer heat.
For more information, see the Outdoor living guide
A water-smart garden saves you money and labour, and will flourish under dry conditions.
- Learn how to make your soil fertile and improve its water retention by consulting a garden supplies expert or looking at the Your Home website.
- Use mulches (pea straw, sugar cane, wood chip etc) as a way to smother weeds and reduce moisture loss.
- Don't water mulched gardens too often as this brings roots to the surface.
- To improve the health of your soil, make your own organic mulch by starting a compost heap or keeping worms.
- Compost your kitchen and garden waste or keep chickens to prevent scraps going to landfill.
- Group plants together according to water and sun requirements for more efficient watering.
- Water early in the morning or evening for exposed plants.
- Water thoroughly to ensure good penetration — a good occasional soaking is better than several light sprinkles.
- Adhere to water restrictions in your area when designing and maintaining your garden.
- Consult your plumber and local council about regulations and options for greywater systems.
- Look for rebates and assistance that may be available to assist with establishing a water-smart garden.
For more information on landscaping and garden design visit the Your Home website.
A kitchen garden is where vegetables, herbs, and fruit are grown for one's own use. It can be on your windowsill or outside.
Planting a vegetable or herb garden is a great way to cut grocery bills and reduce waste.
- You can grow most herbs and vegetables in pots — limited space does not mean limited plant options.
- Look at gardening websites to determine what is suited to your climate zone or use a greenhouse to broaden your options.
- Growing your own produce enables you to pick food at its peak ripeness.
- Minimise the use of chemicals through organic pest controls, like placing saucers of beer near plants susceptible to snail attack.
- Control weeds by pouring boiling water directly onto them, but be careful to avoid other plants.
- Use vinegar to control couch grass.
Summer gives lawns a beating, especially in drier areas and where water restrictions apply. There are several things you can do to give your lawn the best chance.
- Do not cut your grass too short — longer blades of grass are less stressed and provide shade to keep the soil moist.
- Aerate the soil for better water absorption by using a garden fork for smaller areas or a coring machine for larger areas.
- Make a batch of organic fertiliser by combining equal amounts of 'blood and bone', ground chicken manure and river sand.
- Sprinkle fertiliser onto your lawn 2 or 3 times each year.
- Research suitable grass choices, lawn care and how to minimise water use.
- Consider alternatives to replace or reduce lawn areas, such as drought-tolerant plants, ornamental grasses, tan bark or gravel.
- Consider that yellow grass is usually just dormant and will often return to green when the weather cools.
Be bushfire ready
The key to being prepared for bushfires is understanding the level of risk to you and your property and the ways that risk can be reduced.
The most important decision is whether you and your family leave early or stay and defend your home. In either case, having a plan and preparing your property accordingly can help keep you and your family safe.
- Create a bush fire survival plan to provide the best chance of survival.
- Download a phone app showing various fire locations. Your state or territory fire services may have one available.
- Check and/or change the battery on your smoke alarms.
- Cut back any overhanging trees or shrubs and dispose of cuttings appropriately.
- Check the condition of your roof and replace any damaged or missing tiles.
- Clean leaves from the roof, gutters and downpipes and fit quality metal leaf guards.
- If you have a water tank, dam or swimming pool, consider installing a Static Water Supply (SWS) sign.
- Store wood piles well away from the house and keep covered.
- Keep garden mulch and excess vegetation away from the house.
- Ensure you have a hose long enough to reach every part of the home.
- Remove and store any flammable items away from the house.
- Check the condition of external walls, cladding and seal any gaps.
- Consider doing a quick online fire safety audit to reduce your risk of a house fire.
- The RSPCA has information about putting a Pet Emergency Plan in place. WIRES has good advice for helping wildlife during bushfires.
- Check the Bureau of Meteorology website for fire risk in your area and how to prepare in cyclone or flood-prone areas.
Emergency resources and assistance
Emergency management Australian Government
Life-threatening emergencies, including bushfires CALL 000
SES help in flood and storm emergencies CALL 13 25 00
Australian Government disaster recovery assistance CALL 180 2266
Bushfire weather Bureau of Meteorology
Tropical Cyclone Knowledge Centre Bureau of Meteorology
National flood forecasting and warning service Bureau of Meteorology