The rising cost of electricity across Australia has driven many households to seek refuge in solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Solar PV systems, now cheaper than they’ve ever been, allow homes & businesses to generate & consume a portion of their electricity for themselves–at rates lower than what they pay for electricity from their utility. Some of the psychological appeal of solar power is doubtless attributable to its tangibility–panels are plain to see once installed–but often overlooked are the less obvious but substantial benefits of energy efficiency measures.
These days solar systems sizes–for both commercial-scale solar projects and residential solar systems–are usually selected based on a home or business’ current & historic electricity usage. With the reduction of feed-in tariffs across the country, it has become more important than ever for solar system owners to use their electricity wisely. Exporting solar electricity to the grid nets system owners only nominal credits on their power bills (8-10c per kilowatt-hour), whereas using that electricity themselves could save them up to 5x as much per unit (depending on the rate their retailer charges). If you’re planning on going solar, you’d do yourself a favour to first look at the bigger picture of your electricity consumption levels & habits.
Home energy audits: A map & compass for power bill savings
Most homeowners are unaware of some of the relatively simple changes that can be made to reduce the amount of electricity that is needed in the first place by implementing ‘behind the meter’ solutions. Energy efficiency measures and even minor behaviour changes at home promise significant electricity bill reductions. The trick is to know what they are and how to implement them, in which case it is useful to have some outside guidance.
Big Switch Projects is one company that makes energy audits and information about energy efficiency measures more accessible for Australian homes (currently focusing on Sydney and surrounds). Having been active in the commercial sphere for over a decade, working with high-profile commercial tenants like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Bupa and the Commonwealth Bank, Big Switch Projects is now offering its services to households–Big Switch at Home. The company has a principled, strategic approach to identifying potential energy savings, and is a great option for those who dread the arrival of their quarterly electricity bill and want to take action to change this.
The Big Switch approach is a mixture of investigation & education, ensuring that in the end their clients understand what devices are using electricity, when they use it, and what steps need to be taken to improve the situation. First, the company sets up the project, collecting basic information about the customer and their situation. This followed by a home visit, where stock is taken of the appliances being used in the home and some of the behaviours that might be driving up electricity usage. Big Switch will then put together a report that details a list of up to 10 things the household can do to improve their situation and discuss it with the client. As project managers, Big Switch offers to then facilitate getting the jobs done, working with trusted contractors.
What consumes the most electricity in Australian homes?
An energy audit will examine all of the types of appliances in a home that use electricity (or gas) for potential improvements and make suggestions for each category. As the graphic below illustrates (and as many homeowners may be unaware), lighting is the main culprit in home electricity usage, followed by heating & cooling, then kitchen appliances.
Recommendations included in Big Switch’s reports are customised to the individual home that receives the audit, but types improvements fall into distinct categories, usually tied to the types of appliances mentioned above. With lighting, for example, installation of highly efficient LED lights (now more affordable than ever) alone will make a significant difference. For maximising the efficiency of heating and cooling, insulation will play a major role. Many homes are also totally unaware of the impact that almost entirely unused devices (such as microwaves and computer monitors) can have on bills when left on standby mode instead of being switched off at the socket. This sort of knowledge gives homeowners the insight they need to act.
What uses electricity in the home? A breakdown.
Contact Big Switch Projects
If you’re interested in learning more about obtaining an energy audit for your home, please get in touch with Big Switch Projects directly.
Phone: 0490 138 576
All images via Big Switch Projects
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