Climate Council launches energy savings calculator ahead of winter

When social worker Anneliese Alexander moved into her Sydney home with her husband and young children, she immediately swapped the gas-powered hot water system in favour of solar power to save money.

Over the following 10 years, the family gradually shifted from gas to solar-powered heating and cooking, and now they are reaping the financial and health benefits.

After spending about $14,000 on three separate solar-panel installations over the past decade, along with investing in upgrades to the property’s insulation and window glazing, the household now saves about $3000 on annual energy costs.

The severe asthma experienced by the family’s youngest child, which resulted in her being hospitalised three times in the first three years of her life, has also completely cleared up since the property’s gas was fully shut off five years ago – and Ms Alexander believes there’s a direct correlation.

Anneliese Alexander is saving thousands after abandoning gas. Photo: Climate Council

Research shows cooking with gas is responsible for 12 per cent of the burden of childhood asthma in Australia.

“It was not just about getting off the gas, it was also about installing solar panels on the roof, and that’s been a big cost-saver for us, although it’s a fairly big initial cost,” she said.

Although gas and coal prices will be capped this year, power costs are expected to jump by as much as 30 per cent in some states.

With the cost of living rising across the board, Australians list energy bills as one of their most stressful expenses.

But the Climate Council has found families could save up to $2872 on their power bills every year by getting off gas and improving their home energy efficiency.

The Climate Council has launched a home bill savings calculator to help Australians work out how much they can save by upgrading the home heating system or improving insulation.

Tips for renters

Australia didn’t have minimum energy efficiency standards for residential buildings before 2003.

Carl Tidemann, Climate Council senior researcher, said many of the eight million homes built before that time aren’t performing as well as they could be.

Renters, who make up one in three Australian households, are often penalised when it comes to energy efficiency.

They often have higher bills as a result, and many have to live in places that are too hot or too cold, with their health affected by unhealthy temperatures.

University of Adelaide research found South Australia has a higher rate of deaths from extreme cold than Sweden, with a lack of energy efficiency being one of the contributing factors.

From October, the minimum energy standard for new Australian homes will be seven stars.

There is no requirement for landlords to upgrade their properties unless the conditions are deemed unliveable, but Dr Tidemann said there are still some steps renters can take to improve their home’s energy efficiency and reduce power bills.

These measures include:

  • Invest in a portable induction cooktop: Available to buy from about $60 and up, Dr Tidemann said a portable induction cooktop is about 50 per cent more efficient than a gas stove
  • Apply window film: A Climate Council report recommends installing a manufactured double-layered window, or second glazing on a pre-existing window, to reduce heat loss or gain. But if you’re renting, apply a window film, often found at hardware stores, because it can be an effective, temporary measure
  • Seal draughts: A door snake from your local supermarket or homewares store can prevent air coming under doors, and Dr Tidemann said there are also other affordable methods of sealing windows and doors against draughts from hardware stores.
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