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, 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. The Victorian Government has a handy how-to guide for draught proofing a home.
- 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.
Other household actions
Consider these other household actions to keep your appliances running at their best and reduce bills.
- Wash clothes in cold water on the eco setting if possible. Washing in hot water uses between 50 and 85% more energy (depending on whether you have a front loader or top loader).
- Switch to drying clothes on the line or a clothes rack if you’ve been using a dryer over the cooler months. This can add up to significant savings.
- Consider solar or heat pump hot water systems if you’re thinking of upgrading your hot water system.
- Run your fridge efficiently. Clean and defrost your fridge and ensure it is set to the right temperature—between 3 and 4°C for the fridge, and minus 15 to minus 18°C for the freezer.
- Avoid turning on second fridges unless needed and consider getting rid of additional fridges and freezers to save money and energy.
- Investigate electricity and gas market offers in your area that will best suit your household and lifestyle.
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 Energy Rating Label and the Energy Rating Calculator for more information about 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.
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. Check if your airline or travel provider is a member of Climate Active and certified as a carbon neutral business.
For more information, see the Transport page.
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.
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 basics CSIRO
Bushfire weather Bureau of Meteorology
Tropical Cyclone Knowledge Centre Bureau of Meteorology
National flood forecasting and warning service Bureau of Meteorology
Rebates and assistance - Find out what support is available in your state or territory.
Your Home Australian Government - Read about how to make your home more sustainable and energy-efficient.