At a glance
Appliances can account for up to 30 per cent of your home energy use. How you operate your appliances and how often you use them can have a big impact on how much energy you use. Using your appliances incorrectly or inefficiently may cancel out the savings from purchasing an energy-efficient product with a high star rating.
Switch off power
Standby power is the electricity many appliances continue to draw when not switched off at the power outlet or wall—it can account for more than 10 per cent of your household electricity use.
Power management (or automatic power down), reduces the energy used by idle appliances by putting them into 'sleep mode' or turning them off after a period of non-activity. Nearly all computers and monitors, and some fax machines, photocopiers, scanners, multifunction devices and home entertainment products, have this function.
- Identify appliances you can turn off when not in use. Phone chargers, microwave ovens, electric towel rails, air conditioners, spare alarm clocks, MP3 docks, stereos and unused home entertainment equipment can be turned off at the power point. For example, over a year, a microwave will generally use more power to keep its clock running than it does in actually cooking food.
- Identify appliances you can plug into 'intelligent' or energy-saving power boards. These reduce energy usage by idle appliances. When power to the main appliance (for example, computer or TV screen) is turned off, they automatically turn off the power to secondary equipment (for example a monitor, printer or Blue-ray player).
- When you go on holidays, switch off all appliances at the wall that don't need to be on.
Operate appliances efficiently
Understanding how best to use appliances in your home means they can work better and last longer. This will save money and energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Things to consider include: position, cleaning, care and maintenance, standby power, power management and daily operation.
Fridges and freezers
Keeping your refrigerator running well is important for food safety as well as for saving energy. There are many ways to use your fridge and freezer more efficiently:
- Position your fridge away from direct sunlight and other heat sources like ovens, heaters and dishwashers. This will substantially reduce your energy consumption.
- Allow food to cool before putting it in the fridge (but don't let it sit at room temperature for too long—this could be a health risk).
- In freezers, food packages should be scattered and should never be grouped or stacked together until they are completely frozen.
- Keep your fridge set to between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius and set your freezer to between minus 15 and minus 18 degrees Celsius. Every degree lower requires 5 per cent more energy. Use a fridge thermometer to check that the internal temperature is set correctly. You can find these online or at most quality kitchenware stores.
- Provide good air circulation around the top, sides and back of your fridge—at least 7.5 centimetres. Restricting ventilation around the back of the fridge can add 15 per cent to the fridge's operating costs.
- Keep the fridge door closed as much as possible to keep the cold air in.
- Check the door seals with a piece of paper. Insert the paper in different positions around the fridge door. If the paper pulls out easily when the door is closed, you will be losing cold air through gaps and need to replace the seals.
- Defrost the freezer whenever the ice builds up to half a centimetre thick to keep it working well.
- Clean the condenser coils on the back occasionally (if there are any)—it makes a difference to the performance.
- If you have a second fridge, switch it off when it's not needed and leave the door ajar. It will be more efficient to keep it somewhere inside where room temperatures do not fluctuate too much rather than in the garage. If you don't need a second fridge, ask your local council how to dispose of it correctly.
- When away for longer periods, turn off, defrost, empty and clean the refrigerator and leave the door ajar.
Using a dishwasher efficiently can save you a lot of water, energy and money. Adopt these energy and water-wise habits to use your dishwasher more efficiently:
- Scrape dishes rather than rinsing before loading them.
- Run the dishwasher only when full.
- Use the cycle with the lowest temperature and the shortest time when you can.
- Check the operating manual to see if you can open the door to let dishes air dry naturally instead of using the drying cycle.
- Clean and maintain the dishwasher as recommended and clean the filter regularly.
- When washing up by hand use only as much water as you need. Keep in mind that two to three minutes of running a tap can use as much water as a fully loaded efficient dishwasher.
Heating water is by far the biggest user of energy when doing your washing. Modern washing machines can keep your clothes clean in cold water and use a lot less water than older machines.
- Consider washing your clothes in cold water. This can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions from washing by 80 to 90 per cent.
- Select the economy cycle as often as you can to reduce water use and washing times.
- Adjust the water level to suit the load size that you are washing. Use an automatic water level function (load detection) if your machine has one.
- Wash a full load rather than several smaller loads, and try to group clothes by fabric weight and colour, and by how dirty they are.
- Some machines have a 'suds save' option, which can save water and detergent if washing more than one load at a time. This is particularly beneficial for those on tank water.
- If you have a solar or gas hot water system and need to wash using hot water, look for a machine with separate hot and cold water connections. This is because using your solar or gas hot water system to heat water is cheaper than using the washing machine's internal heater.
- Dissolving powder detergent before you add it to the washer will improve its performance in cold water.
Clothes dryers are big energy users. Drying a load of washing in an electric dryer generates more than 3 kilograms of greenhouse gas. Use the sun (or a clothes rack) whenever you can—it's the most environmentally friendly dryer of all—and it's free.
If you're using a machine, there are some simple things you can do to save energy:
- Spin clothes well before putting them in the dryer. You can also limit use of the dryer to drying damp items that have come off the line on cold days.
- Don't mix heavyweight and lightweight articles in the same load as they take longer to dry.
- Don't overload the dryer or over-dry your clothes. A longer drying time uses more electricity.
- Run the dryer on a medium heating setting rather than high.
- Clean the dryer's lint filter after each load and keep the room well-ventilated so that the dryer runs more efficiently.
- Partly drying clothes outside (even on a cloudy day) will save energy. You can then use a dryer to 'finish off' the washing.
- If the weather is poor, avoid washing large loads.
Home entertainment products, televisions and computers
Australian households have a variety of home entertainment and technology products including televisions, set-top boxes, game consoles, CD and Blu-ray players, computers, scanners and printers. Together their energy use is significant and may contribute more to your power bill than traditional white goods.
- Turn off your television when you're not watching it. A large screen TV used 6 hours a day can generate around half a tonne of greenhouse gases a year—more than a family fridge.
- Turn off appliances not in use at the power point. Leaving them on standby means your equipment is still using power even when you're asleep or not using them.
- Turn off your computer screen when leaving your computer for any length of time. Screensavers don't save power unless they turn the monitor off.
- Turn off your computer and other office equipment when you are not using it. Printers and faxes spend most of the day unused but draw standby power.
There are some simple things you can do to reduce your electricity bill and save energy when using your air conditioner:
- Install the air conditioner (or outdoor unit of a split system) on the shady side of the building (or shade the air conditioner itself) and make sure the air flow around it isn't obstructed.
- Set the room temperature between 18 to 20 degrees Celsius in winter and between 25 to 27 degrees Celsius in summer. Check the temperature after the air conditioner has been operating for 30 minutes.
- When a hot day is expected, turn on the air conditioner early rather than wait until the building becomes hot. It operates more efficiently when the outside air temperature is cooler.
- Keep windows and doors closed when using reverse cycle air conditioners (evaporative air conditioners require some air flow so you need to keep some windows open).
- Close curtains on hot days and cold nights. Outdoor shading of windows in summer also helps to keep out heat.
- If your air conditioner has adjustable louvres, adjust them towards the ceiling when cooling, and towards the floor when heating (as cool air falls and hot air rises).
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions for filter cleaning.