1. Take it outside
Escape from a hot, stuffy kitchen and make the most of the balmy evenings with a barbeque dinner. If you must use the stovetop, cover saucepans tightly so the food cooks quicker; or, use the microwave, which requires less energy.
2. Keep heat out
On scorching days, keep windows and drapes shut. Light-coloured curtains or blinds reflect sunlight away. Consider installing shutters, awnings, block-out blinds or reflective window film to keep heat out and the interior shaded. If you replace windows, choose Energy Star-approved materials. At night, when the temperature falls, open the doors and windows to let in the cooler air.
3. Know what to look for
When updating appliances (especially fridges, which use the most energy), make sure they have a high Energy Star rating – each additional star means a saving of around 10 per cent in running costs. If you have an extra fridge or freezer, don’t keep it in an uninsulated area like a garage. Wash in cold water: a massive 85 per cent of energy needed for a load of washing is spent on heating the water. Swap to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), which last 12 times longer than conventional incandescent bulbs and use a third of the energy.
4. Switch off
If your power points are hard to reach, buy a couple of Eco-switches, $14.95. Voted one of the top five ideas in the ABC’s New Inventors, they let you move a power point to an easier-to-access location so you are more likely to switch off and unplug appliances when not in use. This saves substantial standby energy – up to 10 per cent of the average household’s bill.
5. Clean it up
If you have air-conditioning (AC), book a service – you’ll recoup the cost in improved efficiency. Considering getting AC? Split reverse-cycle systems tend to use less energy than fixed units. Whichever model you choose, ensure it has a high Energy Star rating, economy settings and adjustable speeds, and choose one sized for the space you want to cool – too-large units waste energy. Clean filters and coils regularly. Another option is an evaporative cooler, which works by drawing air through a water-moistened filter. Whichever system you use, maximise its effects by closing doors to areas not being cooled and using a ceiling fan, which pulls hot air up and away from where you are. Four-bladed fans with tilted blades provide the best air circulation.
6. Go natural
If you don’t have AC (or want to reduce using it), open windows on the side of a room where a breeze is coming in and position a fan to blow hot air out a window on the opposite side, creating a ‘chimney’ effect. Install a pergola over heat-affected windows, and grow deciduous climbing vines over it. Plant shady hedges along driveways and paths, as concrete and pavers store and radiate heat.