There are a lot of reasons to save energy in your home and on your property.  These include:

  • Saving money on power bills,
  • Doing your bit to reduce climate change by reducing carbon or ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions,
  • Making the most of limited power (especially if your power is generated on site).

There are a number of ways you can reduce the costs of your energy—a combination of which is generally the most effective way to save energy and create financial savings in both the short and long term.

Energy Efficiency

The most effective way of reducing long term energy use and costs is to incorporate passive solar design principles when first designing and building your house and other structures on your property.  Passive design is design that does not require, or significantly reduces the need for mechanical heating or cooling. Passive design principles include maximising cooling air movement (eg windows on both sides of a room to promote cross ventilation) and excluding the sun (eg through shading or reflective building materials) in summer. In winter it involves trapping and storing the sun’s heat (eg indoor and outdoor living areas facing north) and minimising heat loss (eg double glazed windows or insulated walls). Not only does passive design reduce heating and cooling bills and greenhouse gas emissions, but it can significantly improve the comfort of your home.

If your home, sheds and other buildings are already built however, there are still a number of easy, free and low cost actions that you can take to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs. Using LPG or natural gas for heating and cooking; washing clothes in cold rather than hot water; swapping incandescent light globes for compact fluorescent ones; buying energy and water efficient electrical appliances; and turning appliances off rather than leaving on standby, can all add up to substantial savings in electricity use. Other options such as the installation of lighting and climate sensors, solar hot water systems or ceiling insulation, or amending building design (eg shading windows) can all have a significant impact on reducing energy consumption and power bills.

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage
Australian Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
Local Energy Supplier

A simple way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by your energy use is to buy Green Power. Green Power is electricity that is generated from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and water power. As a result it does not produce greenhouse gases. Most electricity companies now sell Green Power, so it is worth shopping around to get the best deal.  

Off Grid Power

On-site power supply systems generate electricity separate to the main power grid.  These systems can provide a cost effective alternative for areas with high electricity connection fees, or allow excess electricity to be fed back into the main power grid system.  All remote area power supply systems consist of several basic components:

  • Generation equipment such as photovoltaic modules (solar panels), wind turbines, micro-hydro generators, petrol or diesel generators, or ‘hybrid’ combinations of these types of equipment
  • Control and regulation equipment—devices (such as circuit breakers) which control the flow and charge of electrical current
  • Energy storage (batteries are a common storage device)
  • Inverters which convert electrical current (between AC and DC) so that common household appliances can be used
  • System voltage for example; 12 V DC or 240 V AC
  • Wiring and electrical accessories including fuses.

The most common on-site power supply system is a mechanical generator—powered by diesel or gasoline.  These can be noisy, and are also subject to the changing price of oil.  Biofuels such as bio-diesel and ethanol have become available in recent years and are an alternative to fossil fuels.  Some of these can be used as a direct substitute, others require some modification of equipment.  Systems relying on renewable energy sources are also emerging.  Although these renewables often require a higher initial investment, the increasing price of oil and electricity is reducing the time taken to recoup such investment.  The use of biofuels and renewable energy have the added advantage of reducing carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.  There are a wide variety of renewable energy supply systems to choose.  Some of the more common types are summarised below.

Solar Power

There are two main solar technologies—photovoltaic systems (solar panels), and solar hot water systems.  Solar panels take light from the sun and make electricity, while solar hot water systems take heat from the sun to heat your hot water supply.  Solar systems should be orientated to the north and tilted to generate as much heat or electricity from the sun as possible.  Both solar technologies have a number of benefits— they are quiet, clean and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from your household.  In some areas, your electricity company will also buy back power from you that is generated by these systems.  Rebates for installations of photovoltaic systems are available from the Federal Government—so check with your Local Council and energy retailer for more information.

Other Renewable Power Technologies

Other power generating equipment such as wind turbines do not emit any polluting gases.  Wind turbines harness the energy of the wind to turn a turbine to generate electricity.  Wind turbines can produce noise pollution, although a number of recent models are much quieter, and have moving parts that require maintenance.  They can produce electricity at a lower initial cost than solar power—so are worth considering, depending on your location, particularly as they can operate at night.  Hybrid solar and wind power is a good option for off-grid systems.

Remember to speak to your neighbours before installing your off-grid power supply.  Apart from making sure you won’t get them offside with your choice of power supply—they may have gone down this path themselves, and be able to give you some good advice, about suppliers and helpful contacts.


Copyright 2011 HCCREMS