The combination of heating and cooling your home throughout the year is the biggest energy consumer in the average home, using up an estimated 40 per cent of household energy. If you are building a new home you can use eco-friendly design principles to minimise energy and costs, however if you are in an existing home or are renting, there are plenty of free and low-cost strategies for energy efficient heating and cooling.
1 - Automate heating and cooling cycles
Use a programmable thermostat to regulate temperature and schedule heating and cooling cycles depending on when your home is occupied and to tackle the warmest or coolest parts of the day and night.
2 - Insulate, insulate, insulate
Good insulation and appropriate glazing will minimise heat transfer and reduce the need for excessive heating or cooling. You can do this by sealing air leaks around windows, doors, and other openings to prevent drafts and heat loss. In an open-plan home, hang curtains across doorways to help keep warm or cool air in or out.
3 - Let fresh air in
Utilise natural ventilation by opening windows and doors to let in cool breezes. You can use fans to create additional cross-ventilation too.
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4 - Use energy-efficient systems
Choose energy-efficient systems that have high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) and Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings. This will help minimise energy use and cost.
5 - Do regular maintenance
Regularly clean and maintain your heating and cooling equipment to ensure optimal efficiency. You might like to get a technician to service your air conditioning units seasonally. This will help prolong the life of your systems as well as making sure they operate at optimal efficiency.
6 - Install ceiling fans
Ceiling fans help circulate air and create a wind-chill effect, allowing you to set your thermostat at a higher temperature during summer. If this is not an option, buy standalone floor or desk fans which you can move around the home and take with you if you move house.
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7 - Use natural shade in summer
Make use of natural shade from trees, awnings or curtains to block direct sunlight during the warmer months. Keep curtains closed and blinds drawn during the hottest parts of the day.
8 - Harness the sunshine in winter
During the cooler months, utilise the natural heat from the sun by opening curtains or blinds during the day to let the heat in, then close them at night to trap that heat inside.
9 - Invest in new technology
Consider alternative heating and cooling options like geothermal systems or solar panels to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and conventional electricity, reducing your energy consumption and costs.
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10 - Cheap and cheerful tricks
Instead of automatically popping on the heater during winter, throw on an extra layer, put on socks, have a warm drink and invest in a few good water bottles – it may stave off having to switch the heating on in those shoulder periods before it gets really cold. In summer, hang a damp towel over an open window to provide a cooler breeze, or pop a bowl of ice water in front of a fan to help circulate the cooler air.