Going green Politics and activism

Energy efficiency

So after pondering how heat-efficient my house is (at least for summer), and my water consumption, I was thinking about the rest of my energy use.

Since I don’t have air con, I’m hoping the house is fairly efficient, despite heavy use of two computers. Recent bills show usage at around 8-10 kilowatt hours per day, throughout the year, with a peak of 11 kWh per day in July 2006.

That makes around 3300 kWh a year. Apparently the national average is around 6000 kWh, but 3500 kWh in cities like Perth which aren’t super-hot and have natural gas available for hot water (which is what really burns up the watts for those who have to use electricity for it).

Most of my lights are now CFLs, but there’s probably more I can do on this front, such as setting things up to be able to easily turn off most appliances at the wall instead of leaving them on standby power. Solar electricity is an option, though quite expensive, even with the current subsidies.

Cooking, hot water and central heating for me is by natural gas. Recent bills show usage at about 21 megajoules per day during summer, but a whopping 230 MJ per day in the coldest part of winter. Not sure how that compares with other homes.

Solar hot water (gas-boosted) is reasonably affordable with the rebates, so I’m seriously looking at the options there. But given the bulk of the gas is probably central heating, better insulation may be more effective in the short term.

What I’d like to see from the federal government is commitment to help people reduce their energy needs. Better public transport will help a lot. (See the PTUA’s evaluation of policies). And for buildings, more money for household and commercial solar installations could be the way to go.

For all the talk about nuclear and the myth of clean coal, both of these will cost years and billions and billions to develop (if they work at all). And in the mean time, solar technology is available now, and mass production for Australia’s sunny cities should see the price drop. So how about the right mix of subsidies and rebates to get solar panels up on more roofs?

Get the states mandating better building designs (hint: if you must have huge windows, don’t have them facing the summer sun), and we’ll be going a fair way towards reducing our energy use, and generating more of it sustainably.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

7 replies on “Energy efficiency”

You almost convince me to vote Greens … almost!
Seriously, you have inspired me to get out my last few energy bills and “do the math” like you’ve done. Thanks for the links to the greenhouse website.

We’ve looked at our houseplan (building next year) and have tried to opt for better westfacing options, like the least number of windows on that side of the house etc.
I think you are doing very well in your changes. I think if everyone was at least a little more conscious on their own changes, we’d be on the right track.
On a similar track, I’ve been told of primary schools that don’t allow packaging in their kid’s lunchboxes, lessening the amount of rubbish collected in the schools and teaching kids about lessening their footprint. Good for these schools to be teaching kids about this sort of thing. If parents and schools were on the same track, it will hopefully lessen the damage overall!

I have finally begun work implementing some of the hardware for the home automation system I’m creating, and the first stage will be lighting up our gallery which would otherwise need approximately 400W in lighting using only 40W (with automatic throttling to 20W in an energy crisis).

I’ve done some proof of concept tests and so far it’s looking promising – here’s hoping it works a treat as I’ll very quickly begin expanding it throughout the rest of the house :)


I agree that the the government should be doing more to encourage business to reduce consumption of water and power. The building I work in has glass on 3 sides (all facing the sun). On even a moderate day of 25 degrees the windows get too hot too touch. The air con can’t cope with it so it breaks down regularly.

At home Roof Vents are a good option for the summer (don’t buy cheap ones however). We’re also looking at awnings for the north facing windows for the summer to block out the heat during the day.

don’t overlook how you dry your laundry. In the USA an electric cloths dryer costs more to operate than a natural gas or propane heated one. If gas is available in the home it is wise to buy a gas dryer. Almost all dryer models sold in the USA are are available in electric or gas heated versions. They look and operate exactly the same. In the USA one can tell if it is gas dryer by looking for a gas line and a 120 volt plug. (Electric dryers require a much larger special 240 volt line to power the heating elements in the USA.) I don’t know if gas dryers are available or exist in Australia. A solar powered cloths line is of course the cheapest option. Not practical in our freezing cold and snowy northern winters.

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