I see my home as a reflection of who I truly am – a place where I express my unique style, personality, lifestyle and, of course, my values. Yet, I often underestimate the power I hold as both a homeowner and renter, much in the same way I do as a consumer.
Many of the decisions we make about how we live in our homes have a direct impact on the world around us. It could be something small, like switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs in a home while renting, or something bigger, like installing solar panels as a homeowner. And while many of us might believe living in an eco-friendly home is more expensive, it can actually save you significant amounts of money in the long run.
Here are five ways in which you, your wallet and the future of our planet can benefit when you live sustainably in your home.
1. Saving energy
Given that energy prices have soared dramatically in the last twelve months, there’s never been a better time to look at ways to reduce home energy consumption. Using less energy means less dependence on fossil fuels, such as coal and gas, which effectively reduces the amount of carbon emissions we send into the Earth’s atmosphere.
Ultimately, making changes to reduce energy use at home helps build a sustainable future – for you, your bank account and the planet.
Invest in energy-efficient light bulbs
Energy-efficient light bulbs are definitely worth the switch – they do exactly the same job as regular bulbs, but require much less electricity. They don’t need to be replaced nearly as often as your regular light bulbs (if you’re like me, you hate changing light bulbs!) and contain fewer toxic metals.
Try: replacing fluorescent light bulbs with LED or CFL bulbs, available at most hardware stores and supermarkets.
Look at small, smart ways to reduce your electricity usage
This can be as simple as switching off a light when you leave the room, or running your dishwasher once per day instead of twice. Invest in energy-efficient washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers. Installing skylights might mean you no longer need to switch lights on during the day, while opening windows and doors to create continual airflow during the summer months might reduce your dependence on air conditioning.
Try: walking around your home and taking an audit of the lights, lamps and appliances you use on a daily basis. Is each device necessary? Can it be used less? Is there a better alternative?
Install solar panels on your home
Over the past decade, the installation of solar panels on suburban homes has become more popular, and for good reason. Solar panels are a long-term investment, and although they require an initial layout of money, in the long term you can save more money than you initially spent.
Solar panels can either effectively reduce your energy consumption (and bills) by running back into the grid, while some people are lucky enough to find that solar panels generate enough electricity to go completely off-grid. By choosing solar, you are using a clean energy source that emits far fewer carbon emissions than fossil fuels.
Rebates for solar panel installations are available from Australian, state, territory and local governments.
2. Water saving
While the recent weather events of La Nina brought more rain than we ever could have imagined here on the east coast of Australia, the reality is that this seemingly never-ending abundance of water won’t last forever.
Water scarcity poses a huge threat to Australia, where rainfall is variable, and many parts of Australia experience prolonged periods of drought. Working together to reduce household water consumption means less reliance on water storage, such as dams and aquifers, meaning more water is available when it’s needed. And here’s a fun tip: reducing water usage can save you money on your electricity bills!
Switch to slow-flow
Making the switch to low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets is a wonderful way to save water and money. Installing low-flow toilets can save up to 50,000 litres of water a year for a family of four.
Or, if you want to start smaller, try adding an aerator to your faucet and switching to a low-flow showerhead. According to Energy Star in the US, switching to a 2.5-gallon-per-minute low-flow showerhead and taking a 10-minute shower will save up to $145 (US) each year in electricity.
And, here’s the best part: going low-flow will NOT affect the performance of your water pressure! It’s a win for our wallets, the planet, and our bathrooms.
Install a rainwater tank
Using a rainwater tank can reduce water bills, provide an alternative supply during water restrictions, and help maintain a healthy garden. Depending on tank size, average rainfall, and your plans for usage, your dependence on town water can be reduced from anywhere up to 100%, which can equate to hundreds of thousands of litres of water per year.
Installing a rainwater tank will have upfront costs, and there are ongoing electricity costs if a pump is included in the system. In the long run, however, you’ll save money on water rates and have a sustainable water source within your own home.
Rebates for water tank installations are available from Australian, state, territory and local governments.
3. Thermal comfort
We all know the deal – as soon as winter hits, on goes the heating and up go those energy bills. And with some of us now choosing to work part-time or full-time from home post-COVID, the need for heating a home 24/7 has never been greater.
But it needn’t be this way. There are some fantastic things you can do to ensure your home is warm all winter, without spending hundreds of dollars on energy bills.
A well-insulated home is one of the smartest ways to save money. Insulation stores heat within your home for longer periods, meaning there is no longer a constant reliance on energy to maintain warmer room temperatures. A good place to start is by installing better insulation in your walls, floors, attic and crawl spaces. Look into installing sustainable materials such as therma cork, denim, cellulose or lcynene.
Install double-glazed windows
Ageing, leaky windows can be responsible for 40% of the loss of thermal heating in a home during winter. The most environmentally-friendly windows are the ones that are double glazed – they work to retain heat in the winter and keep your house cool in the summer. Look for sustainable double-glazed windows made with recycled materials.
4. Carbon reduction
According to Carbon Positive Australia, the average Australian household (2.6 people) has an annual carbon footprint of approximately 15-20 tonnes of CO2e.
Climate change is the defining crisis of our time, but we are far from powerless in the face of this global threat. As individuals, we are each armed with the power to reduce our carbon footprint. This power comes from the choices we make on a daily basis, which can be as simple as choosing to catch the bus to work instead of driving, purchasing products from carbon neutral or carbon positive brands, or making the switch to a green energy provider.
As outlined above, how we choose to live in our homes can have a huge impact on the amount of CO2e we send into the earth’s atmosphere. Taking steps to live in an eco home will significantly reduce your household’s carbon footprint, and, hopefully, inspire others to do the same.
5. Save money on your home loan
Wouldn’t it be amazing if you purchased, owned or built a sustainable eco home and was financially rewarded for it? Or perhaps you’ve been looking to refinance your eco home with an ethical financial institution.
Summerland Credit Union offers an Eco Home Loan to customers who choose to build, buy or refinance an environmentally-sustainable property. Australian owned, Summerland Credit Union is an ethical financial institution that offers a competitive interest rate to customers looking to buy, build or renovate an eco home. Included in the Eco Home Loan package are no establishment or monthly fees, fast loan approval and redraw options. To be eligible, you’ll need to purchase, own or plan to build a home that ticks the boxes outlined above.
For more information, head on over to the Summerland Credit Union site.