How to make power-hungry appliances more energy efficient

Living Well | Beverley Johanson | Posted on 17 February 2019

We outline the biggest consumers of home energy.

Sometimes it seems as if household appliances are plugged directly into your bank account and help themselves to whatever cash they want.

The three biggest consumers of home energy, depending on the time of year, are heating, cooling and hot water. Together they are responsible for between 50 and 75 per cent of household power usage. Fridges and washing machines also significantly contribute to power usage. Keep an eye on the following power guzzlers:

pink piggy bank with power cord

Heating

Damien Moyse, policy and research manager at the Alternative Technology Association, says a huge range of variables affect heating costs and the thermal quality of your home is a huge factor. The quality and extent of the insulation, and whether there are gaps around windows and doors, are big contributors. The thermal properties of single-glazed windows can be improved by installing curtains and a pelmet.

The comfortable temperature range for humans is between 18 and 24 degrees, so lowering the thermostat to between 18 and 20 degrees and wearing a jumper will reduce costs significantly. Zoning – whereby heating is not turned on in unused rooms – is another efficiency.

Cooling

Avoid setting the air-conditioner temperature too low. Between 22 and 24 degrees is a good guide. Block out sunlight by drawing blinds and curtains during the heat of the day and consider exterior awnings. Open windows at night when it’s cooler. If you are expecting a very hot day, turn the air-conditioner on early; don’t wait until the room is a furnace.

Hot water

Hot-water systems need to hold the water temperature at 60 degrees or above to prevent legionella. Savings relate to usage. Don’t pre-rinse with hot water before loading the dishwasher, keep showers short and consider the many options when it’s time to replace the unit.

Fridge 

Cool air can leak out if door seals are dirty or damaged. Make sure there is a gap of seven to 10 centimetres between the fridge and the wall to prevent heat build-up which will require the fridge to work harder. Set the temperature at the optimum level recommended for your model. This will ensure it works at its most efficient. Chest freezers are more efficient than upright models.

Washing machine

Washing in warm or hot water uses 50 to 85 per cent more energy than cold water, depending on whether you have a front loader, which is a more efficient model, or a top loader.

Moyse says appliances are becoming more efficient as technology improves, but the most efficient may be more expensive initially. Another benefit of improved technology is that ‘vampire’ power, the power consumed by appliances that are turned off but still switched on at the wall, has been greatly reduced, but it is still a good idea to switch off unused items at the wall.

Check out RACV’s interactive price-deal map for your suburb’s best energy deals, price trends and a snapshot of electricity prices in your area. 

Photo: Getty Images