Every day, more Australians are taking responsibility for their contribution to global warming. As world leaders converge on Glasgow for the Cop26 Climate Summit to discuss the issue at a macro level, millions of Australians are already on a mission to reduce their personal influence on the environment and climate. 

Some people are banning plastics, while others are making the switch to electric cars. But rather than cherry-picking methods, we know many people out there are looking to do more. How do you start creating a sustainable home in a way that maximises positive change with the least amount of convenience and cost? 

Twin Electrics & Plumbing has been a big part of the sustainability strategies of hundreds of Melbourne homeowners. So, we decided to create the ultimate guide to encourage Melbournians to drastically cut power usage, preserve resources and possibly even save a few bucks along the way. 

If you want to join the growing contingent of Aussies who are willing to make sacrifices for the good of the planet, implementing the initiatives on our list will be a great start. We’ll keep updating this article with more ideas as we experiment with new tech and innovative techniques, so check back regularly. 

Using The Galaxy’s Most Powerful Resource – Installing Solar Panels

The entry barriers for solar power are always the same. People complain about the rebates, the initial costs of installation and the fear of investing in redundant technology (e.g., rapidly improving batteries). But no one challenges the benefit of solar power. It may not be the silver bullet for climate control, but it’s a way of eliminating most fossil fuels from the electricity equation. Think about how amazing it would be to limit coal-powered energy to base electricity needs, effectively making it a backup for our green energy.

We’ve been installing solar for 20 years, so we know a thing or two about squeezing the most out of your solar panels. If you’re worried about giving most of your energy back to the grid for little reward, there are ways to ensure you’re making the most of your solar energy output. If you’re waiting for the right timing, you could be waiting forever. The key is to pick a time when the tech has markedly improved, and that time is now. As for initial costs, they’ll be countered by energy savings in the long run. 

Solar energy is the number one initiative for anyone creating a sustainable home. Solar panel installation has never been easier and safer, so if you’re looking to make a significant change, we advise you to go solar now.

Cool Trick – Cleaning Your Refrigerator Coils 

Having asked you to take the plunge and go solar, let’s balance that significant commitment with a quick win that could cost you nothing. The only appliance in your house that eats power 27-4 is your refrigerator. What happens when your fridge isn’t cold enough? Well, you turn it up, right? 

But there may be nothing mechanically wrong with your fridge. Poor performance may result from dusty or clogged coils, which the manufacturers generally recommend cleaning every four to six months. 

Of course, manufacturers place warning notices in handy places like underneath or behind the fridge. No wonder most of us aren’t aware of this relatively simple but effective way of reducing energy consumption. For the DIY heroes, you’ll find a soft-bristle brush at the hardware store that’s perfect for gently cleaning coils. If you’d rather not crawl around on the floor in the pursuit of energy savings, an experienced handyperson can do the job in 15 minutes. 

When you see the amount of gunk that gets pulled from your coils, you’ll be glad you cleaned them. You’ll probably also be able to turn down your fridge a few notches. 

You may be interested in our “Buy Smart | Energy Saving Tips”

The Home Of The Future – Passive Solar Design 

The word ‘passive’ is a little misleading here because there’s nothing passive about the commitment or investment required. In terms of commitment, even a tiny step towards passive solar design requires some form of renovation or, even better, a home explicitly designed with passive solar in mind. 

The concept is simple. Passive solar design uses positioning and materials to absorb and disburse the sun’s heat. That usually happens during the design phase, but there are ways to implement clever techniques and upgrades for existing homes. You’re probably wondering what kind of energy savings could justify passive design before construction or significant renovations to an existing home. Well, experts are throwing around figures like 90% energy savings. Imagine that!

It may be a little challenging to change the orientation of your home (slight understatement there!), but there’s more to passive solar design than architecture. Even the slightest modification to a roof or awning could provide significant benefits.

Capturing The Heat With High-Performance Windows

Just when we’ve gotten used to energy ratings on our household appliances, we now have to consider the energy ratings for our windows! What difference could window glazing possibly make, you might ask. Again, the answer is surprising. 

Thermal insulation glass, better seals and savvier installers are helping to cut down the loss of heat by as much as 40%. There are also incentives to keep windows up to date, including subsidies for developers. 

As a homeowner, you might be wondering how your windows are performing. Are they comparable to the latest designs? The general rule is that windows installed after 1995 will probably be up to current specifications. But that doesn’t mean they’re saving you a lot of energy. So if you’re in doubt, get an expert to check your windows. 

If you’re worried about costs, most experts believe the latest high-performance windows, installed correctly, can offer energy savings that will cover your costs within three years. 

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5-Star Initiative – Energy-Efficient Appliances

In Australia, we don’t need to do much research when choosing an appliance that saves energy. We’ve had star ratings for decades. As we’ve said a few times in our Going Green Guides, the issue is whether people place energy consumption above other factors like aesthetics and cost. Yes, it’s increasingly possible to have your cake and eat it too. You can enjoy great design, power, durability and low energy consumption. 

But sometimes, when you’re creating a sustainable home, you have to make a few sacrifices for the planet’s good. We don’t want to cast any aspersions on your good intentions, but let’s face facts; if you’re choosing a less energy-efficient appliance because you prefer its colour, you may not be as committed to the environment as you’d like to be. 

As for the people who, for whatever reason, have reached a point where they doubt the energy rating or believe it’s become redundant, we can assure you that isn’t the case. It’s very much alive and well. In fact, there are new ratings on the way thanks to regularly updated regulations, rules, and parameters. 

Looking for 5 star appliances is key to creating a sustainable home.

Getting To The Root Of The Problem – Drip Irrigation Systems

There was a time when the humble amateur gardener could only dream of having the lushest garden on the block. These days, having a green thumb might not matter so much. With the clever and affordable drip irrigation systems currently available, part-time gardeners can look forward to dramatically improved growth with significantly reduced water consumption. 

It’s all about getting the moisture to the plant’s roots rather than wasting it through evaporation. Plants are experts at getting to any available moisture in the soil, but in the time it takes a plant to reach water, the moisture may be severely reduced or completely lost. Drip irrigation feeds the roots directly. 

The downside? Like any tech, once you get into it, you may become addicted. You can create a very complex system and spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. So our advice is to tread carefully. 

How Your Cool Roof Can Reduce The City’s Temperature

Have you ever heard of the urban heat island? It sounds like a recreational park, but it’s the effect clustered structures have on the atmosphere. In suburbs and cities, temperatures are a few degrees above rural areas. Think of it as a form of collective radiation, and we’re all contributing to it. 

Thanks to Cool Roofs, that temperature could be reduced, making life a little more bearable during the hotter months. When people talk about one degree, it’s easy to shrug your shoulders. But three degrees on a hot summer day? Well, that’s enough of an incentive to get any sensible person involved. 

There are no gadgets or wires at work. The coating of roof products can now contain additives that reflect the sun’s heat more effectively. Melbourne City is right behind this initiative, encouraging building owners to retrofit improved materials and reduce the city’s contribution to global warming. 

For you, a cool roof has the more immediate advantage of bringing down summer temperatures. It’s likely that the next time you replace your roof tiles, they’ll contain the proper additives. But to be on the safe side, make sure you ask your contractor if they’re using the right products. 

What Water Shortage? Rain Water Harvesting In Australia

You may be interested in: Catching The Winter Rains: Why You Should Install A Water Tank

You may have heard a lot of debate about rainwater harvesting, but much of that debate is about drinking water. Let’s be as clear as the water we like to drink. Drinking water is strictly regulated, and it should remain that way. But only 4% of the water we use is for drinking. There are many other applications, and at Twin Electrics & Plumbing, we generally focus on the safest. 

We’ve already mentioned irrigation, but it’s hard to rival a good tank if you want to conserve water. You can rig a system to collect the run-off from rooves to create a large water reservoir for many applications, including irrigation and cleaning. Regulations will apply, so you need to check with local authorities to see what’s legal. 

In a drought-prone country with high water usage, bans are possible at any time. That fills the heart of any gardener with fear, but with your personal water storage system, you can avoid most of that anxiety. Twin Electrics & Plumbing install water tanks across the entire Melbourne metro area, so give us a call if you need some expert advice. 

Creating a sustainable home require plumbing and electrical upgrades. 

Light Years Ahead – Solar, Modern Bulbs and Perfect Timing

To cover the full range of modern lighting technology and techniques would require a separate guide. Luckily, we’ve already written it! Check out our Top Ten Energy-efficient Lighting tips. For those of you who are looking for the elevator pitch, we can summarise quickly here. 

If you love new technology as much as we do, lighting is one area where you’ll find an extensive range of exciting new products. For starters, LED lighting ranges are very extensive now. We all know they use a fraction of the energy of old school incandescent bulbs and can last ten times longer. Now they provide all those advantages plus an incredible range. Pick any intensity, colour and mood. It’s all possible if you understand how to read your lumens.

For your home’s lighting management and scheduling, timing and sensors light the way for better conservation. These increasingly sophisticated devices, combined with vastly superior bulbs, are lighting homes at a fraction of the energy costs we took for granted ten years ago. 

Last but not least is our favourite subject: solar. But we’re not singing the praises of panels and batteries. In this case, we’re lauding the next generation of solar-powered exterior lights. Suppose you’ve ever felt guilty about illuminating your beautiful yard during a quiet family bar-b-que. In that case, the latest exterior lights provide a beautiful and guilt-free view of your garden at night. 

Creating a sustainable home goes beyond technology. Educating your close circle may have significant effects. 

Break The Cycle – Less Energy Consumption With Climate Control

Most of us take our seasonal temperature control for granted. In winter, we have gas. In summer we have aircon. But like most norms we grew up with, the old ways are becoming redundant. 

Now, with the growing popularity of reverse-cycle split systems, costs are coming down so most of us can afford complete climate control. A central system capable of monitoring and controlling temperatures throughout the house is a gamechanger for energy reduction. With the ability to set timers and control each room’s temperature via an app, it’s also a gamechanger in terms of user experience. 

If you are creating a sustainable home, take advantage of our partnership with EVolution Australia!

From The Sun To The Panel To The Charger To The Car

With improvements in domestic EV charging leading to increasingly versatile technology, you can now collect your solar energy, use it to power your vehicle, and even store additional power longer. That will please the many people who create excess energy, only to feed it back into the grid.

The best level 2 domestic EV chargers can provide enough power for a 110km drive in one hour. These solar-aware chargers intelligently monitor your solar production to prioritise the use of solar energy. That means the cycle is complete. You can now power your vehicle with the solar energy you produce.

You may be interested in: Finding the best EV charger for home – get the most out of your solar panels

Creating A Sustainable Home – Conclusion

If you’ve made it this far, you are a true believer and probably also the type of person who knows we haven’t covered every possible energy-saving technique. But we plan to build this guide as we investigate more initiatives. If you want us to add a particular energy-saving method, please comment below. We’ll look into your suggestion and expand our guide.

For now, we hope you’ll use our guide to dramatically reduce your carbon footprint, improve your lifestyle, and save on energy bills. Remember to check our Going Green Guides regularly for more ideas on energy efficiency.

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