Energy efficiency is about using less energy to do the same job, and there are several areas around your home where you can save energy and cut your power bills dramatically.
Windows are a huge source of heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer. Choosing the right window coverings, both inside and out, can make a significant difference to your energy bills all year round.
Exposed windows account for about half of the unwanted heat your home takes in during the summer months. Simply by installing screens or shade awnings, you will cut down glare, block harmful UV rays and reduce the inside temperature considerably. External venetian blinds are also a great idea, with louvres that allow you to adjust the amount of light entering the room.
In winter, heat drains from your home through every window. If you have large sliding glass doors and windows, you will experience even greater heat loss, so the energy-efficient thing to do is to cover these areas with heavily lined drapes or, if your tastes are more contemporary, close fitting Holland or Roman blinds.
The right window coverings mean the right temperature can be maintained all year long, with much less reliance on central heating or air conditioning.
This is another area where large gains can be made in energy efficiency. There are many different types of ceiling insulation on the market today, with fibreglass being the most popular. Other types include foam, natural fibres (such as wool) and cellulose fibre made from recycled paper.
Insulating your ceiling will hold in heat during the winter and keep your home cooler for longer in summer. Apart from windows, the ceiling is the most important area to attend to when making your home more energy efficient.
You can also insulate your walls for added comfort. Foam insulation can be pumped into most wall cavities, which increases heat retention and also helps to decrease noise by up to 75 per cent.
The third most important area where energy efficiency gains can be achieved is in the type of appliances you run and how you operate them.
Refrigerators more than 10 years old use up to three times as much electricity as modern, energy-rated models. As appliances get older, replacing them with energy-efficient alternatives will make a noticeable difference to your power bill.
Most appliances these days are energy rated, and the more stars you can afford, the bigger the savings you’ll make in the long run. Modern energy-rated models are available in appliances such as air conditioners, heaters, stoves, dishwashers, hot-water systems and washing machines.
The way you operate these appliances can also save you money. Air conditioners should be set at 25ºC for maximum efficiency, hot water systems should operate at 60ºC, clothes should be washed in cold water and dishwashers should only be run when fully loaded.
Having an energy efficient home is not only better for your back pocket but also for the environment, and it only takes a five-minute tour of your home to find numerous ways you can save.