DIY smart home: How households can save $100s on energy bills

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Don’t wait around for the smart revolution… Report says households can save hundreds on energy use right now, through mostly simple and cheap measures.

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Last week we heard about the massive shift to smart technology and automated electricity demand management that is expected to take place in Australia over the next 10 years; cutting household energy use and bills, delaying the need to build new power plants, reducing investment needed in poles and wires, and thus cutting costs passed on to consumers.

This week, a new report from ClimateWorks and the CSIRO, commissioned by Origin Energy, shows that households can start saving money on energy bills – and reducing their carbon footprint – right now, instead of waiting around for the smart technology revolution to set in.

The report, Low Carbon Lifestyles, analysed three different house types – apartment, small house (3 bedrooms, 1 living area), large house (4 bedroom, 2 living areas) – across Victoria, NSW, Queensland and South Australia to identify different actions householders could take to reduce their energy use or switch to cleaner alternatives.

And while the suggestions the report makes – switching to energy efficient light bulbs, upgrading to an efficient hot water systems, installing solar panels – are not altogether surprising, some of the savings that it quotes are.

The report found that, for a typical large house in Victoria, upgrading to energy efficient light bulbs can save around $130 a year and cut emissions from energy use by 4 per cent. For NSW households, switching to energy efficient showerheads are estimated to save around $230 a year; $160 a year in Queensland and $315 a year in South Australia.

Upgrading to an efficient refrigerator was also recommended in the report, with Victorian households estimated to save $136 from this measure. While an upgrade to an efficient television was said to save $118 a year.

“Our research found that many of the actions were relatively easy such as replacing light bulbs and showerheads with more efficient ones, installing an energy saving plug to cut down the use of stand-by power of appliances and reducing clothes dryer use,” said Armandine Denis, head of research at ClimateWorks. “These simple actions can save typical households between $120 and $590 a year depending on the state they live in and their house type.”

Then there are the bigger ticket items, mostly for larger households, such as upgrading to efficient hot water systems and installing solar PV. The research estimates that upgrading to more efficient hot water systems could save households around $930 a year in South Australia, and $650 in New South Wales. And for those struggling households with pools, upgrading to an energy efficient pool pump could save around $390 a year in Victoria, $380 in NSW, $260 in Queensland and $500 in South Australia.

Four insulation upgrade “packages” were also investigated for their savings potential, with the most extensive upgrade – including boosting ceiling insulation from R1.5 to R4, draught-proofing with door and window seals and exhaust fan dampers, improving window efficiency with heavy drapes and pelmets, and improvement of external shading and wall insulation – said to generate energy savings of $764 a year.

As for solar, the report finds that installing a 2kW rooftop PV system could save Victorian households around $330 a year, and $470 a year in NSW, and reduce emissions from energy use by around 23 per cent.

The report also shows if households buy green power and offset this extra cost with energy efficiency-generated savings, they can drastically cut their emissions and still save money on their energy bills.

“By implementing simple actions, upgrading to a more energy efficient TV and purchasing 100 per cent GreenPower, households can achieve zero energy emissions and still save money on their energy bills – more than $230 a year for a large house in NSW and $330 in South Australia,” Denis said.

The four reports – a separate one for each of the aforementioned states (you can download them here) – were designed to be consumer friendly, says ClimateWorks chairman Professor John Thwaites, to allow householders to see, clearly, which action will give them the largest savings or the biggest reduction in emissions – “including the equivalent number of cars off the road or trees planted.”

Giving customers “insight” into their energy use and spend has been a bit of a theme with Origin Energy this year, with the utility launching its Origin Smart home energy management and conservation platform in Victoria in late August – a product, Origin said back then, that would give its customers “unprecedented visibility and control over their energy bills,” using tools that offer greater insight and understanding of household energy use.

Origin also said, in August, that their Smart offering supported the 87 per cent of Australian households looking for ways to conserve energy in the face of rising energy bills. But will offers of “visibility,” “insight” and a handful of fairly basic tips to cut and clean up household energy use be enough to keep customers happy?

As has been noted on RenewEconomy before, power retailers like Origin must be keenly aware that there are other, much less utility-friendly ways for to consumers to address rising energy bills available to Australian energy consumers: like changing suppliers, or even ditching the grid altogether.

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  1. Dave Johnson 7 years ago

    You’re absolutely right about not waiting for the smart grid, much less expecting the power companies to seriously encourage or incentivize efficiency.

    Personally I am very aggressive about this stuff:

    1) No car at all, just a bicycle.

    2) Vegetarian diet, which is as good as taking another car off the road, with respect to carbon emissions. Very cheap too.

    3) No refrigerator, since my diet does not include things like milk, meat, fish, poultry, and eggs that spoil easily.

    4) Small living quarters, so far less to heat, cool, and light. A lot less to clean, too.

    5) Solar heated shower, with an absolute limit of 5 gallons per shower. That’s how big the bucket is.

    6) Composting toilet, so I only need water for washing and cooking. No need to use thousands of gallons a year of expensive, potable water to wash tons of sewage into the public watershed.

    Soon switching to LED lights and solid state computer monitor, which will leave me with an electric bill of about 25 cents a day, exclusive of heating and cooling.

    During the heating season I spend about a dollar a day on electric space heating, and in the summer I spend a bit less on cooling. This is my total heating and cooling bill. I have no furnace or central AC. Don’t need them.

    Insulation pays like crazy. Hard to find a better investment, and the savings are not taxed, even though they are as good as a raise at work.

    Definitely don’t waste time waiting for the smart grid, which is an extremely complicated “solution” to a problem that does not exist.

    Buy a Kill-A-Watt meter instead. It’s cheap, it’s available right now, it tells you everything you need to know, and you don’t have to give the data to a snoopy power company.

  2. Pos McMillan 7 years ago

    You can actually save more than $100 and drastically lower electric bills by building diy solar air heater panels. It`s really easy:

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