Energy and Climate
To create a sustainable future, all members of the community must decrease their demand for resources and switch to less polluting options for transport and energy.
Saving Energy at Home
The average Australian household's energy use is responsible for about eight tonnes of greenhouse emissions every year. The following chart shows a breakdown of where energy is used in the average South Australian home.
As the above diagram shows, the greatest reduction in energy usage can be made by choosing energy efficient water heating and electrical appliances. The National Energy Rating Scheme shows the energy efficiency of many electrical appliances. An appliance with a higher rating might cost a bit more to buy, but can provide savings over the life of the product. You should also ensure you are only running appliances in your home that you really need, and that you are buying the right sized appliance to meet your needs. Turning off appliances at the power point when not in use will prevent the appliance drawing standby power.
See also, the Home Guide to Reducing Energy Costs and Greenhouse Gases for ideas on how to reduce energy use.
Typically, between 25% and 50% of an Australian household's total electricity and gas bills are due to hot water heating. There are two main types of water heater - storage systems and instantaneous systems. energy sources include solar, gas and electricity.
Natural gas heaters generate far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than standard electric systems. Choosing the right system will depend on several factors, including cost, household size and available space.
The 'Your Home' guide provides good advice on choosing the most suitable system for your needs and making sure your system is installed to reduce heat loss.
Selecting a solar hot water system can greatly reduce your energy bills as it uses energy from the sun to heat water at no cost. Refer to Council's Environmental Grants and Rebates page for information on how you can buy solar and save!
Fridges and Freezers
Fridges and freezers account for about one third of greenhouse gas emissions from household appliances. Set your thermostats to between 3ºC and 5ºC for the fridge and between -15ºC to -18ºC for the freezer. Every degree lower requires five per cent more energy. Place your fridge in a cool spot, out of sunlight and away from cookers and heaters. Running a rarely used second fridge can cause hefty and unnecessary costs.
Heating and Cooling Your Homes
Electric heating systems can produce up to six times as much greenhouse emissions as an efficient gas system. Radiant electric heaters have high running costs and should be avoided except in areas such as bathrooms when used for short periods of time.
Oil filled column heaters can be good for rooms with high ceilings. Open fire places are highly inefficient compared to slow combustion stoves and heaters. The 'Your Home' guide provides the following table as a general heating guide.
High efficiency natural gas
Slow combustion wood heater
Reverse cycle heat pump
Off-peak electric storage
Electric portable heaters and panel
There are three main methods for mechanically cooling a home - fans, evaporative coolers and air conditioners. Fans should be the first choice as they as cheapest to run and have the least greenhouse gas emissions.
Evaporative coolers are ideally suited to South Australia's dry climate, and they can provide effective cooling at a low operating cost. Refrigerated air conditioners have the benefit of working in any climate, but typically consume more energy than fans and evaporative systems. Most units have an energy efficiency label to help you choose an efficient model. Fixed split system are generally more efficient than ducted or portable split units.
The Australian Consumers' Association provides an on line calculator to help estimate what size and type of cooling might be most suitable for your needs.
Shading is perhaps the cheapest and most effective way to keep summer heat out of homes. North facing windows can be effectively shaded using fixed shading devices, although this may reduce the amount of solar energy collected in winter.
East and west facing windows require different types of shading devices, as the sun will shine straight into east windows in the early morning and straight into west windows in the late afternoon. South windows generally do not need shading. The Department of Transport, Energy and Infrastructure have guidance materials and can provide advice on the best shading option for your home.
Fluorescent lamps are the most energy efficient form of lighting for households. Although they are more expensive to buy, they last considerably longer than traditional halogen and incandescent lamps and are much cheaper to run. Room layout and the colour of decor also affects the amount of light you get from your energy dollar. Light coloured surfaces reflect and distribute light whereas dark surfaces absorb it. Recessed down-lights must be vented, allowing heat to escape through the roof in winter, adding to energy costs.
Task lighting should be used rather than whole room lighting when a small amount of light is required. The Department of Transport, Energy and Infrastructure website provides additional efficient lighting tips.
Choosing an Energy Source
Electricity in South Australia comes mainly from power stations fired by coal or natural gas. Natural gas can also be used directly for water heating, room heating and cooking. It is less expensive than electricity and produces fewer greenhouse gases.
Households can generate their own electricity from renewable sources. The Commonwealth Government provides a rebate program to encourage use of solar panels. If you are thinking of installing a solar system, visit of Environmental Grants and Rebates page to find out more.
GreenPower is a joint initiative of the ACT, NSW, QLD, SA, VIC and WA government, managed by the NSW Department of Water and Energy. Established in 1997, GreenPower is a national accreditation program that sets stringent environmental and reporting standards for renewable electricity products offered by energy suppliers to households and businesses across Australia. The GreenPower program has put together the simple consumer information sheet "Switching to renewable energy? Get the facts". The GreenPower Website has valuable information on:
- Renewable energy
- Its accreditation
- The environmental benefits of renewable energy products provide
- Choosing a renewable energy provider
- What consumers need to know about electricity contracts
Buying green power from your electricity retailer will support the renewable energy industry as well as reducing your personal greenhouse emissions. When you subscribe to an accredited GreenPower product, your retailer buys renewable energy on your behalf for input to the grid. Visit the GreenPower Website for more information.
Council buys 20% of its electricity requirements from an accredited GreenPower provider.
The way we travel can have a large impact on the energy we consume and the greenhouse emissions we produce. Where possible walk, cycle or catch public transport to reduce your environmental impact.
The type of car we own, and the way we drive it, can also impact on the environment. Did you know that inflating your tyres to the correct pressure will reduce your cars greenhouse emissions? For more tips on green motoring or for assistance when buying a new or used car, visit the Green Vehicle Guide.
Carbon trading and Offsets
If you own or manage a business which you wish to run in a manner that will protect the environment, monitoring and managing greenhouse gas emissions will be of a major benefit. Not only will this aid in reducing climate change but financial gains are possible through the carbon offset system. Click here for more information.