Your source of ideas, inspiration, resources and links on how to...

Ward off Climate Change

About the author

Gary Warden was raised in the Perth Hills. After graduating from the University of Western Australia with a degree in Geology, Gary joined BHP Billiton where he spent 18 years working in a variety of roles in a number of locations around the world. Prior to leaving BHP Billiton in December 2006, Gary was Global Manager for the company's US$1Billion business improvement program.

While he was originally sceptical about the claims relating to climate change, he became convinced of the urgency of the issue in early 2006. He left BHP Billiton primarily to spend more time with his young family, but also to dedicate himself to creating a more sustainable life for himself and his family and to support others in making that change.

In September 2007 he was trained by Al Gore and has delivered the "Inconvenient Truth" lectures to thousands of west australians since then. In November 2007 Gary ran for the senate in the Federal Election representing the Climate Change Coalition.

In addition to his climate change lectures, he has facilitated Living Smart workshops across Perth. Between 2008 and 2009 he was on the Executive Committee of the Conservation Council of Western Australia including one year as Vice President.

Gary co-founded and is Executive Director of the very exciting Days of Change program, one of the largest sustainability programs in Australia and is now General Manager WA for Eco-Kinetics, one of the largest Solar PV companies in Australia and subsidiary of ASX-listed CBD Energy.

Reducing Your Electricity Emissions

Electricity comprises about 17% of the greenhouse gas emissions of the typical Australian household, placing it after emissions from food, vehicle travel and plane travel. The following chart shows the breakdown of electricity consumption for the typical consumer in Southwest Western Australia. Note that is assumes an electric hot water system.

Reducing Electricity Associated with Water Heating

The following chart shows the emissions and weekly costs associated with different types of hot water heaters


Source: "How to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save money and maintain quality of life" - Rose 2006 

If you have an electric hot water system, then it is likely that this is your biggest source area of electricity consumption - and may be costing you $700 per year to run. The solution to this is simple, though expensive - replacing your system with a solar hot water system. There are many types of solar hot water system available today.  

Solar hot water systems with gas boosters are by far the lowest emission form of producing hot water.  

An alternative not shown in the chart above is a heat pump hot water system. This operates in a similar way to a reverse cycle air conditioner, where the system extracts heat from the outside air to help heat the water. In this way it is up to 300% more efficient than a traditional electric element hot water system. These systems are great where a traditional solar hot water system will not work - for example if your roof is shaded by trees or surrounding buildings or if you don't have anywhere to put the system that will receive enough sunlight. However this is still an electric system, so it is important to make sure that you subscribe to natural power (see below) with this option.  

The State Government offers rebates for the purchase of energy efficient hot water systems. 

‘Heat pump’ appliances are acceptable, but they still produce about twice the emissions of gas heaters where the electricity supply is coal fired. So it is important, if you choose to install a heat pump, that you subscribe to Natural (Green) Power.

If you can't affort to replace your hot water system, then there are still a couple of good options available to you. Firstly you can reduce the length of your showers to no more than 4 minutes. Secondly you can install low flow shower heads (9 litres per minute or less). The technology of low-flow shower heads has improved dramatically over recent years such that it is now possible to enjoy a really luxurious feeling shower, without wasting huge amounts of water. 

Reducing Electricity Associated with Heating and Cooling your House 

If your house is air-conditioned, then there are many things you can do to reduce the amount that you have to use the air conditioner. If you don't currently have an air condtioner, but are considering buying one, then you can also do these things first to avoid the need to buy and air conditioner in the first place. 

  1. Look at the insulation in the roof. Up to 30% of the heat inside a house is lost or gained  through the roof. Compared to the cost of running heaters and air conditioners, insulating your roof is a relatively inexpensive option. If you already have insulation, you should check to ensure that it is in good condition (without holes) and that it is adequately rated. Insulation receives an "R Rating" depending on how good a job it does at preventing the transmission of heat. These days you should aim to have at least R3 insulation in your roof and there are Batts available rated as high as R6. 
  2. Ensure that you seal all gaps around doors and windows. You can purchase weather strips at your local hardware store that stop drafts for most types of windows and doors.  
  3. Use some form of window covering to minimise heat loss/gain. The most effective option is heavy drapes with a boxed pelmet to ensure that air can't circulate behind the drapes. Note that blinds should be opened to allow sunlight in to heat the house on winter days. 
  4. In summer, protect windows on the north of your house from direct sunlight. This can be achieved by planting deciduous shrubs or trees. By planting deciduous plants you will ensure that you can still get the winter sun coming into the home to provide free heating. An alternative to planting is to place shade sails on the north of the house. These can be taking down in winter to allow the entry of sunlight. 
  5. Install whirligigs in your roof to extract hot air from the ceiling cavity. Install ceiling vents to allow how air near the ceiling to escape into the ceiling cavity and from there outside via the whirlygigs. Make sure that you install vents that can be closed off during winter to ensure that you don't lose the warm air you need then. 
  6. It is possible to purchase specialised window films, similar to tinting, that reduced up to 80% of the incoming heat. 3M produces one such product that is available in Australia. 
  7. You can cheaply create a double glazing effect with existing windows by installing a specialised plastic film, not unlike plastic food wrap, on the frames of your windows. This film creates an air gap which results in significant reduction in heat transfer and is a small fraction of the cost of double glazing. 
  8. If your home has halogen lights, then these will be adding significantly to the heat load of the house as they become very hot in use. If your halogens have the GU10 fitting, then you can replace them with compact flourescent lights with the same fitting. This will save you money, as the CFLs use 80% less electricity, but will also reduce the heat load as they run a much lower temperatures. There are also a range of LED lights coming onto the market place as repalcements to halogens. These are even more efficient and cooler running than CFLs. 
  9. Install ceiling fans. These use a fraction of the electricity of reverse cycle air conditioners. 
  10. If you must use the air conditioner, then set the thermostat at 25+A55C for cooling and 20C for heating. 
  11. Of course the cheapest option is to put on a jumper if you are cold and strip down if you are hot. Our parents and grand parents seemed to do just fine without air conditioners. 
  12. One last consideration. If your roof is black or dark coloured, give serious consideration to painting it a lighted colour. Studies have shown that this can reduce the temperature inside your house by up to 3C!! The following chart shows emissions and costs associated with different forms of home heating.                  
Source: "How to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save money and maintain quality of life" - Rose 2006 

Reducing Electricity Associated with Refrigeration 

In most households, refrigeration represents the third largest source of electricity consumption. There are a range of options you could look at to reduce your consumption in this regard. 

  1. Inspect the seals on your fridge and replace them if worn or broken. 
  2. Ensure your fridge(s) is well ventilated. Poorly ventilated fridges have to work much harder to cool the contents. 
  3. Don't overfill the fridge or freezer. 
  4. Consider getting rid of the beer fridge. Is it really necessary. Alternatively, turn it off and only turn it on the day before the big party. 
  5. If you are considering buying a new fridge or freezer, make sure you take into consideration the star rating. This indicates the amount of electricity consumed. The more stars the lower the electricity consumed. There are fridges and freezers available today in Australia  that are in excess of 6 stars. 
  6. If you are considering buying a new fridge, consider buying one with cyclic defrost rather than frost free. There is a considerable amount of electrcity used by frost free fridges to keep the fridge permanently free of ice. 

Reducing Electricity Associated with Cooking 

The most efficient means of cooking is using your microwave oven as all of the energy is absorbed by the food being cooked. 

Induction cooktops are also excellent. They work by generating a magnetic field beneath the pot which causes the pot to heat up - not the stove top - so heat wastage is minimal. 

Note that it is not a good option to say you will reduce you electricity associated with cooking by switching to gas. If you have electrical appliances (microwave, induction cooktop), then you can ensure you have zero emissions associated with these by either subscribing to Green Power, or by generating the electricity yourself using Photo-voltaic Panels or Wind Turbines.  

Reducing Electricity Associated with Sundry Appliances 

Sundry appliances include your television, stereo, computer etc. 

The biggest tip here is to turn the appliances off at the switch when not in use. Many modern appliances use significant amount of electricity when on standby (known as standby power). 

If you are thinking about buying a new computer, consider buying a laptop rather than a desktop computer. Laptops run on much less electricity than desktops. 

If you are thinking about buying a new TV, take into consideration the electricity consumption of the TVs you are looking at. Some old plasma televisions for example use as much electricity as a refrigerator. LCD TVs typically use less electricity than plasma TVs. 

Reducing Electricity Associated with Lighting 

Many people are surprised to find out that lighting represents less than 10% of the their electricity consumption. When you consider that electricity is just 17% of the greenhouse gas emissions for a typical household, this means that lighting produces less than 2% of a typical household's emissions. 

The answer here is simple. When an old incandescent light globe blows, make sure you replace it with the equivalent sized compact flourescent (CFL) bulb. CFLs use 80% less electricity than the equivalent incandescent light and produce much less heat. While CFLs cost more to buy, you will pay off this extra cost within a few months of use, and CFLs will last much longer than traditional incandescent lights. 

Also, make sure you turn the lights off when leaving a room - even flourescent lights. There is an old myth that you shouldn't turn off flourescent lights as it uses more energy to turn them back on again, however studies show that if you are going to leave the room for more than 17 seconds then you should turn them off.