How to avoid the five biggest energy wasters

Many Australians waste energy in ways that are entirely preventable. Energy expert Anne Armansin reveals five wasteful habits that can be fixed at the flick of a switch.

When it comes to how we use energy, a lot of it comes down to habit.

We turn on the kettle in the morning, run the shower after the gym, stack the dishwasher after dinner. Hundreds of mindless buttons pushed, knobs turned and remotes clicked.

And in the day-to-day grind, it can be difficult to take a step back and examine this behaviour. Flicking off the light switch once you leave the room comes pretty naturally, but what about power-points? That second-hand fridge was a steal, but what’s its Energy Star rating?

Research from Origin Energy’s third annual Good Energy Report (GER III) shows many Australians waste more energy than we may realise. And even if that doesn’t come as a shock to you, the reasons why – and how easy they are to fix – might just give you some pause for thought.

Not letting go of old appliances

If you’ve had ‘buy a new fridge’ on your to-do list for the past few years, independent energy consultant Anne Armansin wants you to stop putting it off. She says one of the biggest ways consumers waste energy is by not understanding the energy value of appliances they’re using. Newer fridge models, for example, can be up to 50 per cent more efficient than ones made 10 to 15 years ago.

And even when we do get a new appliance, we find it difficult to say goodbye. “Many of us, when we buy a new fridge, stick the old one in the garage and fill it with drinks or watermelons,” she says. “We can be wasting power by not getting rid of that old inefficient appliance.”

Neglecting to fill the load

Running your dishwasher, dryer and washing machine at full capacity is something Armansin feels passionate about.

“The most energy-efficient way to use [your dishwasher or washing machine] is to wash full loads,” she says. Between loads every few days, run a rinse cycle if necessary. “That won’t use very much water, but it will stop the machine from smelling bad every time you open the door.”

Forgetting about standby mode

It turns out, 76 per cent of Australians neglect to make sure appliances are turned off at the power point, according to the GER III. If you consider yourself part of this group, you might want to remember that, if appliances are not switched off at the wall, many of them continue to use energy in standby mode. Armansin says older plasma televisions use up to three times more power than the newer ones via the standby mode feature.

Unless you’ve got a relatively new TV, flick the switch off as often as you can.

Running your air-con inefficiently

At the height of the Australian summer, it’s almost unthinkable not to flick the air-con on. But, as Armansin suggests, there are ways to be a little smarter about it.

For starters, make sure the filter is clean and your unit is serviced regularly. The dirtier your air-conditioning filter, the harder the unit has to work to cool the room, using up more of your precious energy.

As for ideal temperature, set it to a comfortable 24 degrees. Our instinct is to pump the unit as cold as it can go, but this results in a lot of wasted energy. “Every degree lower will increase your energy use by five to 10 per cent,” Armansin says.

Not picking the right provider

Make sure that you’re with a really good company like Origin and you upgrade your plan regularly to make sure that you’re not paying too much,” Armansin says.

Only 52 per cent of Australians admit they review their power bill, according to the GER III, which is a huge missed opportunity. As a consumer, you have a right to shop around, compare rates and ensure your power company is working for you. Don’t fall into the loyalty trap.

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