The energy you use at home
The energy you use at home has a big impact on our environment. The biggest culprits are electrical appliances and heating. Here are some statistics that might surprise you.
Heating and cooling
In 2007, heating was responsible for 58 per cent of Victoria’s household energy use. Although most of this was gas, electric heating was responsible for far more greenhouse gas. Cooling our houses by comparison was responsbile for only 3 per cent of our household energy use.
While it doesn’t sound like much, it takes place at the same time of the year and it is rising steadily. On hot days in summer, when large numbers of people turn on air conditioning , our power use shoots up to the highest levels of the year. It doesn’t stay there for long, but it does drive the construction of new power stations to meet this peak demand.
This is one of the reasons why solar power is such a good alternative. Those hot, sunny days are exactly the time when solar power can generate the most electricity.
Appliances are the other big energy user in our homes. In 2007, they made up 32 per cent of Australia’s household energy use. This has been steadily growing as we buy more and more electrical appliances for our homes. It includes fridges, lighting, computers, washing machines, dryers, home entertainment systems and more.
Many appliances use standby energy when they are not being used, especially those operated by remote control or with lights or clocks on them which stay lit. Standby energy used in homes has been growing steadily in recent years. It can now make up to 10 percent of your energy bill. It is also projected to be a significant proportion of our appliance energy use in the future.
That’s a lot of carbon dioxide we don’t really need.
The other type of appliance energy use which is growing fast is energy consumed by televisions. As we switch to bigger and bigger LCD and plasma screens, our energy use is growing steadily. In 1996, televisions made up a tiny proportion of our energy use from appliances. However, without energy efficiency regulations from government and a decrease in consumption, they are projected to account for over a quarter of our appliance energy use by 2020.
Energy use from appliances is projected to grow more than any other area of household energy use by 2020. Australian household energy use from appliances was 70.5 petajoules in 1990. In 2007 that had risen to 124.9 petajoules. If further government regulation isn’t introduced, and we don’t check our consumption of these goods, this is projected to be 169.3 petajoules by 2020. That’s almost as high as the energy we use for heating our homes.
Many of our appliances are becoming more efficient. The average fridge in 2020 is expected to use half as much energy as your fridge did in 1996. However, while our appliances are becoming more efficient, we tend to buy more and bigger ones.
In 1966, the average fridge had a volume of 209 litres in the fridge compartment and 36 litres in the freezer. By 2007, this was 262 litres and 104 litres respectively. In 1966 Victorians had just 1.2 fridges per household. In other words, out of 100 houses, only 15 of them would have had two fridges. Now, we have 1.3 fridges fridges per household. It sounds minute, but it means that out of 100 houses, 29 now have an extra fridge. By 2020, it is projected that nearly a third of Victorian homes will have two fridges. For Australia, the figure will be close to half of all homes.
The improvement in efficiency means our total energy use from fridges and freezers is starting to decrease. However, this is largely because of the government’s energy labelling requirements and minimum energy performance standards for fridges and freezers. This has yet to be introduced for a range of other key appliances.
Australia’s household energy use was 299 petajoules in 1990 and 397 petajoules in 2007. Despite improvements in energy efficiency, as we grow wealthier, and our consumption of high energy goods and population increases, so will our energy use.
In 2020, it is projected that Australian households will be using a combined total of 467 petajoules.