Making homes more sustainable





Making homes more sustainable involves several strategies that are achievable and cost-efficient. The goal is to reduce energy consumption, conserve water, use eco-friendly materials and promote a healthier indoor environment.


Most measures are relatively inexpensive and the costs support savings enjoyed in the long term. Australia’s harsh climate will continue to impact our properties, so sustainability is becoming an essential, not a luxury.


Energy Efficiency


Install solar panels Australia receives abundant sunlight, making solar power a viable option. Installing solar panels can significantly reduce reliance on grid electricity. The heuristic for the investment is if your electricity bill exceeds $300 per quarter. Once you reach this milestone the benefit begins to outweigh the cost. If your bill is much higher than $300 per quarter the panels will pay off sooner.


Energy-efficient appliances Replace old appliances with energy-efficient models (look for high star ratings). This includes refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, and air conditioners.


LED lighting Replace incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient LED lighting, which consumes less electricity and lasts longer.


Insulation and sealing Improve insulation in walls, ceilings, and floors to reduce heating and cooling energy needs. Ensure doors and windows are sealed properly to prevent heat loss. Many people think of pink bats for the roof but our love of old polished floorboards and weatherboard walls is just as problematic. A full house assessment will allow you to stage sealing your home for the best efficiency.


Smart thermostats Use programmable thermostats or smart home systems to regulate heating and cooling according to occupancy and outside temperatures. Smart thermostats are usually for newer builds but you can have your house assessed to retrofit a thermostat.


Indoor air quality


Natural ventilation: Design or modify your home to maximize natural ventilation, reducing the need for mechanical cooling. Verandahs, awnings, curtains and blinds all reduce heat. Clean your air conditioner filter yearly – generally after summer – to prevent recirculation of dirt, dust, or mould.


Low VOC products: Choose low volatile organic compound (VOC) materials and furnishings to improve indoor air quality. Air purifiers also reduce harmful air particles – the filter will shock you.


Water conservation


Water-efficient fixtures Install water-saving showerheads, faucets, and toilets to reduce water consumption without compromising comfort.


Rainwater harvesting: Rainwater tanks are used to collect rainwater for non-potable uses such as gardening, flushing toilets, and washing cars.


Greywater systems: Implement greywater systems to recycle water from sinks, showers, and washing machines for irrigation or toilet flushing.


Sustainable materials and design


Passive design: Incorporate passive solar design principles to maximize natural light and heat in winter while minimizing direct sunlight in summer. This reduces reliance on artificial lighting and air conditioning. Solar passive design is optimal and generally adopted when building from scratch. However, if your property has an optimum aspect consult a professional as many improvements can be incorporated into your current home.


Building materials Use sustainable and locally sourced materials for construction and renovation. Examples include bamboo flooring, recycled timber, and low-VOC paints. Avoid black rooves and driveways they make the property hotter and the suburb – raising your electricity bill.


Waste reduction and recycling


Composting Start a composting system for organic waste to produce nutrient-rich soil for gardening. Cheap compost buckets bought from your local hardware store for scraps are fantastic. The scraps are dug directly into a garden bed enriching the soil and feeding your plants. It will make you feel good that you are not sending compostables to landfill.


Recycling Encourage recycling of paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, and metal. Ensure your home has adequate recycling bins and facilities. Using your council bins correctly is important and you should ask if your council offers a green waste bin for compostables – great for keen gardeners.


Sustainable landscaping


Native plants: Plant native vegetation that requires less water and maintenance compared to exotic species. Use planters on wheels so you can put hungry plants – like veggies – in the sun to conserve space and water.


Permeable surfaces: Use permeable paving or gravel in driveways and pathways to reduce stormwater runoff and allow water to infiltrate into the soil.


Community and lifestyle


Community engagement Participate in local sustainability initiatives, such as community gardens or energy cooperatives. Buy local produce to reduce the footprint. There may be thousands of kilometres between you and your food that all omit carbon.


Reduce transportation emissions: Opt for public transport, cycling, or electric vehicles to reduce carbon emissions associated with commuting.


Implementing strategies that make us more sustainable can significantly reduce environmental impact, lower utility bills and create healthier living spaces. Most approaches are relatively cheap and easy to execute so have a read and see if any could benefit you.