About this guide
This guide provides some easy, practical and helpful steps that you can take to reduce your energy costs when running a home-based business without compromising on comfort or productivity. By understanding and managing energy bills, and running efficient appliances and technology, you can:
- save money
- reduce energy use
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions (or carbon footprint)
- improve productivity.
Energy use at home
Every home-based business is different, so the best place to start is understanding how much energy you use each day (business and non-business). Determine which energy-saving actions will have the biggest impacts.
Things to consider include:
- the size and features of your home
- how much of your home is used for running your business
- the energy efficiency of your appliances
- the way you manage and use the equipment around your home.
Manage your energy use
If you don't know when and where your home is using energy, it's difficult to make decisions or prioritise actions to reduce your costs. The best way to manage your energy use is to measure it. Your energy bill contains the information you need to monitor how much electricity or gas you’re currently using.
Know your energy bill. Understanding your bill will help you assess your energy-use patterns and levels so you can begin to make changes and savings around the home.
Do some simple comparisons. By comparing your use from the same period in the previous year, you’ll get a picture of your energy consumption in different seasons.
Identify when and where your home uses the most energy. This will be an important guide in selecting the right energy contract.
See the household guide on reducing energy bills for more information.
Energy hot spots in the home
Heating water, heating and cooling, refrigeration and electrical appliances use the most amount of energy in many Australian homes. Target the biggest sources of energy use around your home first and consider the most energy efficient options you can afford when replacing or upgrading equipment.
Heating and cooling
Up to 50% of home energy use can go on heating and/or cooling. This depends on your climate zone and factors such as home orientation, shading and insulation.
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 for cooling and decrease for heating, you can save up to 10% on your energy use.
Close off rooms not in use. Shut doors and vents to unused areas and only heat or cool the rooms you’re using.
Draught-proof. Sealing gaps and cracks to stop air leaking is a cheap way to cut your energy bill by up to 25%. Use a draught stopper to prevent airflow under doors. Apply weather seals to windows, skirting boards, skylights and cornices.
Improve window efficiency. Prevent heat loss or gain with well-fitted curtains and blinds to trap a layer of air next to the window. Consider transparent film to insulate windows.
Use fans before air conditioning. Fans cost around 2 cents per hour to run (much less than air conditioners) and reduce the temperature by 2°C or 3°C.
See the Heating and cooling page for more information.
Appliances account for up to 30% of household energy use.
Compare and estimate running costs. Use the Energy Rating website to compare running costs of appliances.
Buy energy-efficient appliances. The savings from an energy-efficient model can add up to more than any purchase price difference over the life of the product. The Energy Rating Label shows you how efficient a particular appliance is.
Reduce standby power. Many appliances still use power even when not in use. Most appliances can be switched off at the power point to eliminate this expense. A more convenient option is power boards that cut power to the majority of devices using a remote or a switch.
Note: Don't switch off fridges, freezers, security and medical equipment.
See the Appliances page for more information.
Lighting in homes consumes between 8% and 15% of the average household electricity budget.
Use natural sunlight. If it’s light outside, take advantage of it with open windows and blinds rather than switching on a light. Lighter coloured furnishings and reflective surfaces also reduce the need for artificial lighting.
Use lights efficiently. Use energy-efficient reading lamps rather than lighting a whole room. Switch lights off when you leave the room and consider sensors for outdoor lights.
Switch to energy-efficient lighting. Replace old-style halogen globes with LEDs, which use around 80% less energy. They should also last between 5 and 10 times longer.
See the Lighting page for more information.
Compare electricity and gas market offers in your area
One way to reduce your power bills is to shop around for the best deal to suit your energy needs. In most areas there is a choice of which electricity retailer to go with. In areas where there’s only one retailer, they will still offer a choice of energy contracts.
Energy Made Easy features calculators and estimators to find your best option by comparing offers from retailers.
There is increasing choice in how you buy energy and how this is calculated. Your bill will likely reflect how much demand your home places on the network during peak times of the day
Time-of-use pricing arrangements (also known as demand-based tariffs) mean that the cost of your energy varies depending on what time of day you use it. Time-of-use tariffs are often divided into 2 or 3 periods—peak, shoulder and off-peak. The exact time periods they cover are determined by individual energy retailers, so you will need to check the specific times when signing up.
The best energy contract will be the one that best matches your overall use and time-of-use pattern. When working from home, think about what household and business tasks can be performed outside of peak period.
Smart meters are linked to a monitor that shows your energy data, helping you to manage your usage. Contact your energy retailer to see if you can access this option.
Business equipment at home
Information technology is moving fast and can be expensive to keep up with, so it makes sense to work out your requirements and do some research before you buy or rent.
Tips when buying or renting equipment
- Consider whether any of your equipment can be economically refurbished or upgraded.
- Consider the functions that are necessary for your work.
- Look at reviews on technology sites to find the environmental innovators who produce energy-efficient products and features.
- Take energy use into account. Search the Energy Rating website to help choose the most efficient product—the more stars a model has, the higher its energy efficiency.
- Use the Energy Rating Calculator to compare running costs and estimate the real cost of a product over its lifetime.
- Look for quality items that will last and think about how you’ll dispose of them at the end of their life.
- Look for products with low standby power consumption. Check the manufacturer’s standby power information—you're looking for products that use less than half a watt in standby mode.
- Check whether the equipment you’re buying is upgradeable to new software or add-ons.
- Calculate annual running costs to narrow down your selection. The most energy-efficient products have the lowest input watts.
Consider purchasing a laptop instead of a desktop computer. Laptops and notebooks require fewer materials to manufacture and come with mobile processors designed to use less energy, meaning they can be battery-operated for longer periods.
Energy Rating Labels are on all computer monitors. You can also look for computers and peripherals that display the voluntary ENERGY STAR® mark.
If left on all the time, computers and monitors can significantly add to your energy bill. Here are some power-saving suggestions.
Adjust monitor settings. Set your monitor to switch off after 20 minutes of inactivity. Reduce screen brightness to the lowest setting you’re comfortable with. Active screensavers use full power and can interfere with power-down features.
Adjust power management options. Choose ‘sleep’ or ‘hybrid sleep’ when taking a quick break. For a longer break, opt for ‘hibernate’ which shuts the computer down and saves everything in its present state, drawing no energy from the outlet. Hibernate should not be employed for short breaks as it takes more energy than sleep mode to ‘wake up’ the computer. Hibernate mode is not recommended for Macs.
Close applications not in use. Open applications can chew up processing power even when not actively in use.
Don’t cover the heat vents. This makes your computer work harder and can lead to system failures. Excess heat from computers and appliances can also add to your home cooling bill. If your laptop is prone to overheating, consider a cooling (chill) pad.
Turn off the charger. Put the laptop charger on a powerboard that can be switched off, or turns off automatically. The charger draws power continuously, even when the laptop is not plugged into the adapter.
Most mobile phone batteries are lithium-based rather than nickel-based. Opt for small (bump) charges to your phone as a lithium-based battery can quickly lose its ability to hold charge when it is repeatedly drained.
Keep the phone in an open area when you don’t need to hide it away for security reasons. When hidden away it has to work harder to maintain a signal, using more battery.
Reduce screen brightness and turn off live wallpapers (animations). You should also shorten the amount of time for the screen to turn off automatically -- try 30 seconds.
A smartphone with more applications uses more power. Consider uninstalling any applications or widgets you aren’t using. Look for ‘battery use’ in your phone’s settings to check what’s using most of the power.
While power consumption on cordless phones may not seem significant compared with larger appliances, the phone cradle constantly uses energy.
Consider switching back to a conventional cord phone which uses only a trickle of energy via the telephone line. These phones also have the advantage of not being cut off during power failures.
Try to find a phone that consumes less than half a watt when in standby mode. Look for phones that display the voluntary ENERGY STAR® mark.
Printers, copiers and scanners
The electricity that powers office equipment is a direct cost to your business and can add up to a significant proportion of your household energy bill.
Making simple changes to the way you choose and use this equipment can lower long term costs. Look for the blue ENERGY STAR® mark when choosing office equipment like copiers, printers, scanners and multi-function devices to help you identify energy-efficient products.
Choose the right printer for your needs and workflow. A laser printer can be useful for rapid, high volume printing with clear text. Inkjet printers tend to be significantly more energy efficient (up to 90%) and great for photos. Opt for a printer that prints on both sides of the paper to save time and resources and minimise colour prints to reduce energy use and prolong toner life.
If choosing a multi-function device, ensure it meets your requirements. Consider a model with memory card slots if printing images and USB and Ethernet network adapters for network sharing. Multi-function inkjet printers can be a good option for a small business, offering good total cost of ownership.
Work with digital files where possible. Set up online communication and collaboration tools for storing and sharing documents online. Alternatively, consider getting your printing and scanning done at a bureau or online service.
Electronic waste or e-waste refers to expired products such as computers, televisions, home entertainment systems, printers, faxes and mobile phones. The average Australian household generates 73kg of e-waste per year.
E-waste contains many parts that can and should be recycled so that the resources can be used again. E-waste can also contain hazardous elements such as lead and mercury which can be released into the environment if not disposed of properly.
E-waste can’t be recycled in your kerbside bin, but it can recycled or safely disposed of through other services. Check Planet Ark's Recycling Near You or TechCollect. The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme accepts used computer accessories such as keyboards, mice and hard-drives.
If disposing of your computer, transfer your private data to another device and search online for reputable disk-erasing tools to permanently wipe all traces of personal data.
Switching to a fuel-efficient or an alternate-fuel vehicle can save thousands of dollars in running costs and reduce greenhouse and air pollution emissions.
Fuel-efficient cars also have a higher threshold for the luxury car tax and some insurers may offer discounts. Although fuel-efficient vehicles may cost more upfront, choosing a cheaper and less efficient model could end up costing more in the long term.
You can compare the fuel economy, greenhouse and emissions of different cars (including 4-wheel drives and light commercial vehicles) by using the GreenVehicleGuide.
The Truck Buyers Guide has useful information on choosing a cost-efficient commercial vehicle or truck. Sometimes the cheaper option truck can result in the highest long-term cost due to fuel and ongoing maintenance.
Electric vehicles (EVs) use a lithium-ion battery-powered electric motor and produce zero tailpipe CO2 emissions. EVs recharge from home-based power outlets and external charging stations. Maintenance needs are low, given that EVs have fewer parts and less mechanical complexity than combustion-engine vehicles.
Hybrid vehicles use a combination of petrol engine, electric motor and battery to power the vehicle. A hybrid can use 40 to 60% less fuel and emits around 30% less CO2 than a conventional vehicle.
EVs and plug-in hybrids are required to display a Fuel Consumption Label. This label shows the vehicle’s energy consumption in watt hours/km, the expected range when fully charged, and fuel consumption in L/100km and CO2 emissions in g/km.
Reduce fuel consumption
- Driving smoothly and carefully can lead to an average fuel reduction of 5% to 10%.
- Change gears sooner rather than later to keep engine revs down.
- At higher speeds, using the air conditioner is more efficient than having the windows down.
- Reduce weight and drag by emptying your vehicle of extra gear and removing unused roof racks.
- Keeping tyres at the correct pressure can save up to 3% on fuel use.
See the Transport page for more information.
Resources and assistance
Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) Australian Government
Business Portal (ATO) Australian Government
Business.gov.au Australian Government
Claiming a tax deduction for expenses for a home-based business (ATO) Australian Government
Grants & programs Australian Government
GrantCONNECT Australian Government
GreenVehicleGuide Australian Government
Instant Asset Write-Off Australian Government
Managing health and safety working from home (Safe Work Australia) Australian Government
Truck Buyers Guide Australian Government and NSW and Victoria governments