There are many ways that you can start saving money on your day-to-day home operating expenses almost immediately.
Some of these tips are just basic good old household sense that you might not be putting into full effect. Some other tips might take a little more planning and implementation, but are worth the effort. And still others might just open your eyes to some new ways of thinking about how your home can operate more effectively and save you money.
Control the climate, control your costs
One of the two biggest energy-consuming elements of a typical home is controlling the internal climate through heating and cooling. Naturally, the more energy you use the more it costs. Fortunately, there are very effective ways of controlling the climate of a home without requiring a lot of energy.
Like a lot of things in the world, when it comes to heating and cooling, the things that cost more to set-up or install are typically the cheapest to run, and the things that are the cheapest to set up are often the most expensive to run. If you’re building or renovating a home it’s crucial to consider how you are going to heat and cool your home, and how that is going to work day-to-day. But even in an existing home, there relatively easy ways you can save on your heating and cooling costs.
Take a passive approach
Introducing passive features and systems to control the internal climate of your home are typically the most energy efficient options. Let’s start with cooling. It takes a lot of energy to cool a home down from 40 degrees Celsius, for example, down to 24 degrees using air-conditioning. It’s much easier and cheaper to cool a home from 28 degrees to 24.
This is where passive elements come in. A good place to start is by using outdoor awnings or shutters to block the sun’s heat. Use windows or vents up high to release heat during the day, and use windows or vents down low to introduce airflow and keep the process moving.
Many of these features can be controlled automatically and programmed to open and close at the optimum time of day. You can find out more about passive systems for cooling your home here.
Heat up without getting burnt
Many of the very same passive elements that you can use to cool your home in summer can be used in the opposite way to warm your home in winter. For example, you could automate outdoor awnings and shutters to open on the sunny side of the house at the warmest time of day to let warmth in and then close as the cool of late afternoon draws in.
Slow your running costs to a walk
Naturally, there are many running costs that come with a home. But with a bit of thought and planning, many of them can be reduced. The key here is integrating the control of energy load into your day-to-day household routine. Many systems including lighting, hot water, heating and cooling can be controlled by the use of sensors and timers to only function when they are needed, or at off peak times with power prices are cheaper.
Caging the other energy-munching monster
Together with heating and cooling, the other big energy-hungry beast in a typical home is the hot water system. In our experience at SmarterBuildings, many households can manage this much more effectively and save money.
Systems can be easily integrated that control when a hot water service runs, so that it’s not heating all day when no-one is at home, and only heats when you are. Both electrical loads and to some extent even gas use can be controlled automatically.
Turn to the sun
Introducing co-generated power, such as a solar system, is a common and well-proven way your home can save you money. Even in cooler, unpredictable climates, solar can still be a worthwhile option. Integrated with an electrical booster system, it enables you to switch to solar when the sun is shining and generating power and switch to electrical power from the grid when it’s not.
But beware the solar power trap
Problems can arise when people rush out to buy a solar system for their home without first plugging the heating and cooling holes in their home. Think of it this way: there’s no point pumping fuel into a petrol tank that is full of holes. It’s simply throwing good money after bad. You need to be able to adequately determine the amount of fuel you need before you can determine the cost.
So too with your home. Think about plugging the holes, before deciding on the capacity of the solar system you need. Much of this goes back to the earlier point on controlling the internal climate of your home – it requires much less energy to cool or heat a home by four degrees than 14 degrees. By making your home more efficient before you choose the capacity of the solar system you need could save you thousands. You might find you need a system that is only half as big as you first thought, and that’s a great net result.
For more ideas on how to automate your home for better living, download the first chapter of Sam’s book Homes with a Heartbeat for free.