Stay cool over summer - energy efficiency (November 2015)

Summer is well and truly on its way and climate specialists predict it is set to break global heat records in Victoria. Temperature changes traditionally lead to higher electricity usage, so now's a good time to think about how to keep your home cool without breaking the bank.

Keeping the heat out

Before you switch on the air conditioner, consider these simple tips to keep the heat out:

Cover your windows
Your windows transfer much of the outside heat to the inside of your home. Keeping the blinds closed on a hot day will reduce the amount of heat in your home. An even better prevention method is to stop the sun from hitting your windows through the use of external blinds and awnings.

Plant trees
Planting leafy trees in front of your windows is a great way to naturally keep the sun off your windows in the summer months.

Ventilate your house
When the outside temperature drops below the inside temperature in the evening, open the windows and doors on opposite sides of the house to release some of the hot air.

Use fans
Electric fans and ceiling fans are a great low-cost alternative to the traditional air conditioning units, as they operate on a relatively low wattage.

If you decide to use an air conditioning unit, knowing what system you have might help shed some light on your energy use. For example, depending on which system you have, it can be important to keep your doors and windows closed and your thermostat set between 24 and 26 degrees.

Refrigerated air conditioning

Refrigerated air conditioning
The older the air conditioning unit, the less energy efficient it will be. Older systems generally consist of a wall or window-mounted unit, many of which are still in use, and are relatively expensive to run.

Nowadays, the majority of air conditioners are a 'split system', which consists of a wall-mounted 'blower' and an external 'condenser', often found on balconies or outside external walls. If your air conditioning system was purchased after 2000, it is likely to have inverter technology. These systems are generally more energy efficient.

With air conditioning units, it's important to keep doors and windows closed to avoid hot air from re-entering the house and keep your thermostat set between 24 and 26 degrees.

Evaporative cooling
These systems are easily recognised by a square box on the roof. When evaporative cooling systems are switched on, a pump circulates water from a reservoir to cooling pads on the side of this box. A fan then draws in the warm outside air which is cooled as it passes through the wet panels. This cool air is then distributed through the home via a ducting system.

As opposed to air conditioning systems, it is important and necessary to open some windows and/or doors as evaporative cooling relies on air flow.

Evaporative cooling systems are highly energy efficient and are potentially a good alternative to refrigerative air conditioning systems, but they do require a consistent supply of water, so they might not be suitable for all homes.

More information?

Visit the Sustainability Victoria website for more information on how to stay cool during summer and don't forget to check you have your concessions on your account.

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