Energy usage and sustainability is a growing concern in Australia, with home energy consumption a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
The size and characteristics of Australian homes greatly impacts on household energy use, with the amount of floor space affecting the amount of energy needed to heat or cool a dwelling. The size of homes are increasing, but household sizes in Australia are decreasing.
Between 1994 and 2008, the number of homes with four or more bedrooms rose from 21 per cent to 29 per cent, while the number of one, two and three bedroom homes all decreased. The 2.6 people per household in 2001 is projected to decrease to 2.2 and 2.3 people per household in 2026. This means that more space needs to be heated and cooled per person, requiring more energy.
Furthermore, Australians are looking to reduce their energy consumption (and consequently, their energy bill). Between 2007-08, almost nine in ten Australians said they took steps to limit their personal energy use.
Heaters and coolers are major contributors to household energy use. In 2005, they accounted for more than two-fifths (41 per cent) of household energy use and nearly one-fifth (19 per cent) of residential sector greenhouse gas emissions. Nearly eight in ten dwellings (77 per cent) across Australia had a heater in 2008 and more than one-third of households (39 per cent) nominated ‘Comfort/convenience’ as the main reason for their choice of heater.
Cooling has a low contribution to household energy consumption compared to heating, although energy consumption for cooling has been growing rapidly. Twothirds of Australian homes used some form of cooling (i.e. air conditioner or evaporative cooler) in 2008, up from 59 per cent in 2005 and 35 per cent in 1999. The use of coolers has been rising, with households using their cooler for 3 to 6 months, rising from 26 per cent in 2002 to 33 per cent in 2008.
A well designed house needs very little energy to maintain a comfortable temperature. If the home is built with appropriate insulation, passive solar design and is weathersealed, it can require low or no energy for heating and cooling. Even for existing homes there are many ways to reduce energy bills, improve comfort and help the environment.
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