The impacts of Australia’s historically lackluster approach to climate action are striking hard, with Australian homes being left behind in the global race to become more energy efficient. The energy efficiency of a house affects the amount of energy needed to power the house, for example for heating and cooling. The better the energy efficiency, the less energy is used for the same tasks, and vice versa. Electricity generation is the biggest contributor to climate change in Australia, as the majority of our electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels like coal and gas.
Currently, due to low energy efficiency, Australians are forced to use large amounts of energy in the home, which not only contributes to climate change, but also costs a lot of money. This is especially important for Australians, as a recent study found that homes across the country are “”glorified tents‘due to their low levels of energy efficiency, leaving residents vulnerable to increased health risks.
Many Australian homes are damp, drafty, too cold in winter and too hot in summer. With inefficient devices and poor thermal performance, residents depend on copious amounts of artificial heating and cooling to stay comfortable. Exposure to extreme temperatures can cause an increase in respiratory and cardiovascular disease, leading to increased deaths, especially in cold weather. Cold living environments account for at least 6 percent of deaths in Australia each year, a fatality rate double that of Sweden, known for its sub-zero winters.
So why are Australians disproportionately endangered?
Low energy efficiency standards
Australian building efficiency standards lag behind other major economies, with performance requirements for new homes at least 40 percent less stringent than other developed countries with similar climates. Most Australian homes were built before these energy performance standards were introduced in 2005. So even as standards improve for new construction, more than 9.5 million homes across Australia will continue to grow. ” Exposing residents to discomfort, high bills and health risks, if they are not. greatly improved.
The cost of maintaining energy inefficient homes is also high, with Australians facing some of the highest energy bills in the world. Such high energy bills can increase vital pressures and the risks of homelessness for low-income people. Strategic investment in energy efficiency for social housing and social housing can reduce this energy poverty and the burden it places on individuals and their families.
Gas vs electrical appliances in our homes
As the federal government promotes a ‘gas recovery’ of Covid-19, gas in the home is expensive, polluting, dangerous and unnecessary. Gas is a fossil fuel that worsens climate change. Renewable electricity alternatives to gas appliances for heating, cooking and hot water are more efficient and cheaper to operate. For example:
- While gas-fired hot water services lose energy in operation, electric heat pumps produce three times more energy than they consume.
- The energy costs of a 4+ star reverse cycle air conditioner are 45 percent less efficient gas heating;
- Electricity bills can go up to 80 percent less if the gas connections are completely removed from the house.
Fully electric homes powered by solar energy save homeowners between $ 9,000 – $ 18,000 over 10 years compared to gas and electric houses – without solar. Australian states and territories are already breaking world records with 1 in 4 houses with solar panels. Following this trend and shifting the housing market towards affordable, clean and efficient housing is the real COVID recovery Australians deserve.
Opportunities for energy efficiency
The transition to electrified housing is already well underway and Australia, one of the sunniest and windiest countries in the world, is well positioned to take advantage of economic opportunities. Energy efficiency is already creating jobs and has the potential to create thousands more jobs in metropolitan and regional regions. Recent modeling during COVID revealed that energy efficiency was one of the biggest job creation opportunities in Australia’s recovery.
Beyond the costs and opportunities for individuals, home energy efficiency also has a major role to play in reducing emissions. Our houses contribute more than 10 percent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency are widely recognized as one of the easiest, cheapest and fastest ways to reduce these emissions. Energy efficiency measures help to reduce demand, which lowers prices for everyone and reduces the risk of power outages at peak times, such as heatwaves.
Extreme weather conditions are a consequence of climate change, and improving energy efficiency in our homes will not only help mitigate future climate change, but will also help adapt to climate impacts already blocked due to the past inaction. The Climate Council campaigns on energy efficiency in homes to make better policies and investments a priority at all levels of government.
You can read some personal tips on home energy efficiency, see our article “Home Energy Efficiency Tips: Save Money and Emissions”.