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Residential use of fossil fuels

There are lots of cost-effective steps available to reduce the use of fossil fuels around the home. In many cases, they have been shown to actually save money on home heating and electricity bills.

The primary consideration is the type and location of home we choose to live in. Good design will ensure houses make best use of the sun’s heat and light, thereby reducing the need for remedial energy saving measures in the first place.

Of course, in many cases, we may only be in a position to improve the home heating in our current home. These include:

  • Don’t use coal in home fires. Wood is preferable, so long as you can be certain it is not unsustainably logged native timber and so long as you do not live in an area where particulate air pollution is a problem during winter.
  • Explore the possibilities for solar heating.
  • Weatherproof your house to minimise air leaks around doors and windows.
  • Up to 40% of house heating can escape through the ceiling. This heat loss can be dramatically reduced by installing insulation. Ceiling insulation can be readily installed and provide paybacks from as short as one and a half years.
  • Only heat rooms that are being used.
  • Block off any chimneys not in use.

There are many other ways to conserve energy, and particularly electricity:

  • Turn the thermostat on your water heater down to 60 C.
  • Short showers save energy and water.
  • Install a low-flow shower head.
  • If you do not have a Grade A hot water cylinder (look for the “Watermark” label), install a cylinder wrap. Studies by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority ( indicate that a $80 hot water cylinder wrap should save a typical household $65 per year in electricity costs.
  • To save really big on energy, buy a gas, solar or heat pump type hot water heater.
  • Repair dripping hot water taps.
  • Install compact fluorescent lights in high use areas.
  • Use natural light whenever practical.
  • Don’t light unused rooms.
  • Operate the dishwasher only when it’s full.
  • Look for an Energy Rating label when buying appliances (check out
  • If buying an exhaust fan for the kitchen or bathroom, make sure it has automatic shutter doors.
  • Run your clothes washer fully loaded.
  • Use cold water cycles for clothes washing.
  • Dry clothes on a clothes line whenever possible.
  • Consider buying a front-loader washing machine. Generally they are much more efficient in terms of water and energy use (e.g. see
  • Use a microwave oven, when appropriate, rather than the convential convection oven.

For more information:

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (
Rocky Mountain Institute (

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