Get smart, energy smart

Do you know how much electricity your home uses each year?

Residential energy consumption in Australia in 2014/2015 increased by around 1.8% to 456 petajoules (PJ). That’s enough energy to run over 395 million fridges for an entire year!

Energy efficiency is top-of-mind for a lot of home owners, but what does energy efficiency REALLY mean? Put simply, it’s using as little energy as possible while lowering the demand for non-renewable resources and the release of greenhouse gas emissions.

Nowadays people want to use less energy to help the environment and save money. However, with the increasing use of electronics using more and more energy, it can be difficult to know how to get started.

With this in mind, we asked around the office to see how the iiTeam get smart at home without straining the budget.

First things first, let’s break the bad habits.


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Switch off

You could be paying around $93 more a year (not to mention contributing to 2.6 million tonnes of annual carbon dioxide emissions) for everyday household items that aren’t even being used! If you have any lights you leave on all day, every day – start turning them off when you leave the room. For those gadgets you aren’t using, make sure you unplug them completely. Just because they are sleeping, doesn’t mean that LED light and clock aren’t running on energy. You may want to start by turning off these common gadgets: kettle, TV, computer/ laptop, DVD player or game console, and microwave.

Or you can check out an Eco powerboard that has one master socket and slave sockets, such as 6-outlet model from Avico. Alternatively, a multi-switched powerboard will allow you to turn off each item that is plugged into it individually. HPM have a 4-outlet model available.


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Read up

Do you know how your appliances really work? It may not sound appealing but reading up on the ins and outs of your appliances’ energy consumption can help you get the most out of them while using them less, and that means saving money. A little Google-ing can go a long way!




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A light bulb moment

Switch out those incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent ones. They may cost more to start with but you’ll be rolling in the savings since they’ll last you about 12 times longer! Keep in mind that these are best for rooms where you have the lights on for a long time as continually switching the light on and off can shorten their life span. Alternatively, LED lights can save as much energy as fluorescents and can last three times longer, or consider connecting your lights to motion detectors so you can see when you need to.




Soak up those rays

Get the most out of the sun with solar panels and generate some electricity from your home. Installing solar panels will also help you to create a new energy usage pattern as you will need to adapt to using the most energy when you have higher access and prevent having to buy excess from the grid.





Insulate your home

Replacing or increasing insulation in your ceilings and walls, and ensuring doors and windows are properly sealed will prevent those cold drafts from sneaking in. If your home isn’t insulated during the colder months, you could be letting out a lot of the heat – that will not only cost you but is bad for the environment.Some older windows aren’t too good when it comes to energy efficiency. By changing single-pane windows out for double-pane windows and ditching aluminum frames for vinyl frames, you can retain the hot air in your home during winter and cold air during summer. Adding a little tint to double-pane windows will also allow you to keep your blinds open and use natural lighting to keep the savings piling up.



Out with the old, in with the new

Appliances you bought when you first moved out of home in 1999 aren’t made for efficiency. So take a look at the new models on the market and get rid of the clunky, old energy-eaters (this includes those shower heads!).

When it’s time to replace those big appliances such as the washing machine or dryer, take note of the energy rating system. This compares how much energy the appliance will use and yep, you guessed it; rates it against its average energy consumption each year. It’s pretty simple; the more stars there are the higher energy efficiency the appliance has. You can also check out the government’s Energy Made Easy site for an easy to use break down and comparison of retailers out there. Investing in these appliances may cost a bit up front but will be better for your pocket in the long run.



Don’t over work it

Now that you have energy efficient appliances you still don’t want to overuse them. It’s time to start asking yourself, do you really need to turn on the heat or can you grab a jumper? And do you need to blast the air con or can you just grab an ice cold glass of water instead?





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Heat it up

Update your old, brick hot water system to a modern, energy-saving system and try to insulate the water lines to prevent the water cooling off while you’re at work.






Get automated

Now this is where the real fun starts. For those in NSW and VIC, you’ve got a head start. Thanks to smart meters, you can record and monitor your electricity usage to help change those habits. If you have a smart meter but don’t monitor your usage with an app or website, check with your provider to see if they offer similar tools or another solution.

For the rest of Australia, there are still a number of smartphone apps and WiFi gadgets that will help you add some smarts to your home. The Belkin WeMo range is a popular choice for smart lights and switches.  The WeMo Insight Switch uses a WiFi-enabled gate to monitor in real-time how much energy the appliance is using from your phone or tablet. You can also control your home remotely just in case you left the iron on and set up some rules so the heater turns off after an hour of usage each time – now that’s pretty smart!

If you’re unsure where to start, try having an energy audit of your home. You can see a list of auditors on the Australian Government page here. It’s also great to note that you can take advantage of tax incentives for energy efficient home improvements!

If you have a great energy saving solution to keep your home smart, share it in the comments.



Image credits


  1. Allan says:

    Having been involved with energy management during my past employment I have followed through with the things that work to save energy in the home. Since also installing a little over 2 Kw of photo voltaic panels and connecting to the grid have not had to pay an energy bill for 4 years and actually get a credit with each account amounting to approx $300 per annum.

  2. Bob says:

    We cant get those sort of rebates anymore!

  3. Cherry Ripe says:

    How come, when I go overseas every year throughout June and July, when I have turned EVERY appliance off at the sockectt, I come back home to an increased amount than used in the previous quarter when I was actually living here?

  4. Debby Green says:

    Learnt from my Nana that if at 4 pm you shut up the house pull blinds down and shut all windows and doors you will keep the warm in the house all night . We never use heaters .

  5. M says:

    Converting to smart meters? Are you serious? The so-called “smart” meters work only to the benefit of the supplier and not the consumer. Normal power meters get checked 4 times a year and the power usage is averaged out and not tracked on when it is used.
    “Smart” meters check the power usage 4 times an HOUR and allow the supplier to set a higher cost for power at times when most people are needing it: In the mornings (before work) and in the evenings (after work); when dinner is being cooked, people are relaxing and children are doing homework.
    People who cannot afford to put solar panels on the roof or are in a residence where they don’t have that luxury are the ones who get penalised most.

  6. chris blaxland says:

    The Wemo products linked to this story are US-style fittings and only for 120V
    “Electrical Ration: 120V/15A/60Hz/1800W”

  7. G Mcleod says:

    Most people are probably unaware there is now a third rate option when you have a smart meter in Victoria, it cost $70 and give you 3price bands during the day

  8. James Hansen says:

    Buy LED lights instead of replacing incandescent and fluorescent lights. Fluorescent lights contain mercury which is an undesirable pollutant in air and soluble in water They are a health hazard when broken and when dumped.

  9. Mr C Marechal says:

    Well done ,putting that sort of encouragement to your customer is a great way of supporting them.

  10. Matthew says:

    As often, many of these things are difficult or impossible for renters.

  11. Maureen Watts says:

    I’ve done the same as Allan, with a similar pay-off. One of the cost-saving things now I have a smart meter is to do the washing during the off-peak period (late at night). I also ripped up the carpets and now only vacuum 3 or 4 times a year. The broom and mop seem to do a pretty good job.
    Packaging though is a real problem for the environment – there is a lot of energy use in producing the stuff in the first place and then a lot used in its disposal and recycling, if it ACTUALLy is recycled (doubts here!). Also ‘food miles’ are a cause for concern – asparagus from Peru?!! Bread cooked in Ireland and flown out here! My food has a better jet-set profile than I do! – Maureen

  12. Julien Bronn says:

    Use mixer taps for showers and don’t run the water all the time while showering. If you use separate taps you will tend to run the water all the time to avoid having to adjust the temperature when opening the taps again. This wastes both water and the power to heat it.

  13. Don says:

    Migrate north in winter and south in summer! Birds do it!

  14. Rob says:

    LOL…telling people to turn off things like a kettle (assuming your NOT referring to an electonic one)is a little lame. A microwave with a clock measures 0.7W left on 24hrs/day @35c per KwH only uses 0.17c/month…no point in leaving off.
    I have taken a powermeter to every device that is in standby and the power usage is no higher then a watt in worst case. Even 1W left on 24hr/day is only 26 cents/month.
    Saying it all adds up is double lame.
    A friend told me to turn off my toaster (el cheapo with no features). After explaining in GREAT detail that there is NO ELECTRICITY being wasted on a device (ANY) switched off (except the negligable standby devices i tested and showed they use basically nothing) i had to use the power meter to show her no power was being used.
    Point? Sometimes its good advice regarding very old electrical appliances but who leaves thier lights on all day? why?
    Changing the fridge to a more efficient option and spending LESS time in the shower (last tenant 15 mins later..struth) can go a long way then turning off ‘everything’ that has power saving mode features that DO save power and the electronics components is a better options.
    Actually…getting the solar panels while the Govt. still give a rebate is the BEST option, but if your renting,like me, you’ve no options.

  15. David Kingsley says:

    All our energy comes from the Sun. We use a little of today’s delivery today, but recently we have been digging into supplies of old energy in the form of coal,gas & oil. these supplies are finite, however the main problem at present is that for us to make those fosil fuels useful we have to BURN them, and the resulting gasses are problematic.

  16. Martin says:

    I wonder how much extra energy all those WiFi connected power monitoring gadgets will consume? Are we supposed to switch them off when not in use?

  17. john levett says:

    Just bought a new house with 14 solar panels courtesy of a previous owner.
    seems to be connected to the grid [the solar array], but where to next?

  18. KERRY THOMPSON says:

    Thank you I do have solar energy and gas hot water . I GET A REBATE FROM MY POWER PROVIDER EVERY QUARTER . THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONCERN

  19. dobbieb says:

    That worked for us as well but since the 60c per Kwh subsidy finished we have had to get a new contract This gives us 14c Kwh payment from Origin so I think we will be close to Zero costs next bill. We have 25 panels or 5kw.

  20. milly lo says:

    good reminder

  21. Judith Drake-Brockman says:

    The builders need to get smart and build houses facing north, warm in winter and cool in summer, reduces your energy costs

  22. Darryl says:

    Yeah, the ‘switch off appliances’ is a crock. I have tested the standby power usage. The only items of significance that use ‘heaps’ of standby are game controllers (e.g PS) use 9W (so about 7c a day in standby). Turn off your game controllers!

    An always on router uses about 7W. TVs use 1W when off. A desktop computer 2W.

    My huge oven with an LED light uses 3W when on standby (it has an LED display).

    My ducted air con uses 47W when off! (it needs to continually keep the elements at a current temperature). This costs 28c a day (same as the fridge), effectively another daily service charge. Grrr.

    Oh, and heating a kettle costs 1.5c.

  23. sue says:

    The rebate provide is rather poor only 8c per kw. Needs to be much better. I have 21 panels which served my needs but now I am getting bills . Not happy.
    Government how about allowing us to purchase batteries / storage systems and then claim the ENTIRE cost from our tax.
    I would like to know the difference between switching the e.g. micro off at the wall to unplugging.
    Rod made good points re money saved but the picture also needs to include the carbon foot print

  24. Brett Moore says:

    if you have solar panels make sure you wash them down every 3 months or more regularly if in a dusty area. The dust coating will reduce the effectiveness of the panels. Qld still has its 44 cents gross feed in tariff ( just!)

  25. Rob smith says:

    I hope people Know that in NSW you can tell your provider that you don’t want a smart meter and they are legally obliged to remove it.

  26. Brian Pitts says:

    We put 6kw of solar panels on our roof 18 months ago. In the first year of operation we produced 3000 kilowatt hours of electricity to the grid for 7c a unit and used 1000 kilowatt hours from the grid at a cost of 24c a unit. We still get electricity bills with service charge, delivery charge (poles & wires) administration charge and GST on top.

  27. Julitha Colvin says:

    How come when I go overseas for two months every year, turning of all appliances at the wall sockets, my electricity bill is the same or more than if I had been here?

  28. Lynn Woodcock says:

    We have pondered for years re Sola..And quite honestly; we would never recoup the cost.
    The houses are not built to save energy.
    and the regulations if new builds are no better.
    When the govenment get serious about climate change, then I will think about it !!

  29. geoff says:

    re Julitha Colvin having same or higher bill when unused while overseas for 2 months- clearly something is wrong. If you have a smart meter installed you should be able to download usage info from your supplier to analyse daily, weekly, monthly and even by peak, standard and off-peak daily to identify anomalies. I use IQ with AGL. Is it the same level all the time or spikes on certain days may indicate the neighbours are pinching electricity or you left the air con on auto?

  30. Dero says:

    For Cherry Ripe and Julitha, you may think you have turned everything off at power points but if you have not turned off your hot water, fridges and freezers, central heating system, aircon, garage door opener and several other wired in devices, you will get a surprise when you return.

  31. Con says:

    I used a couple of clear patio blinds between the window and curtains in unused rooms on the east. Acts as an air bubble insulation, keeps lots of cold/heat out. The dog did not like his basket near the glass door, i covered it with glad wrap and he is happy.
    Replaced all lights with LED, big difference in bills.

  32. Grace Hammond says:

    Further to the building of houses facing North, it should be illegal to eliminate the once efficient EAVES from the plans. These were developed to shade the walls of houses to reduce radiant heat and also the need for aircon guzzlers of energy, power and cost. Eaves also make homes more appealing, not like hot boxes.

  33. Gary Topping says:

    We’ve had a 5kw systerm for the last five years, never had an electric bill at the current rate of 28c pkwh. Next we will get 8c per KWH, however they will still charge us 28c for anything we use from the grid..we’re going battery storage, I will sell our excess to my neighbour for half what they are paying Auroa.

    Deal deal