How To Make Your Property More Sustainable And Also Lower Your Bills

September 16th, 2022 - by Brad Gillespie

Climate change and rising energy costs are combining to make many inner city residents consider how to make their properties more sustainable.

Here are our tips for doing just that.

1. Invest in insulation

The good news is that a new Green Star Home Standard certification system was introduced last month, and many new home builders have already signed up to it.

But the less impressive news is that the average Australian home achieves only 1.8 stars out of a possible 10 in the nationwide house energy rating scheme (NatHERS), according to a recent Guardian article. That makes many of our homes closer to tents than insulated houses.

A lot of properties in our area of the inner city and inner west are old properties,
and insulation is often a weak point. Locally, the Green Living Centre can lend you a free thermal imaging camera, which uses infrared light to help detect areas of heat loss in your homes, such as draughts, leaks and poor insulation.

Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can enhance the insulation and energy rating of your home simply by:

  • Installing curtains and blinds to insulate windows.
  • Making the switch to double or triple-glazed windows.
  • Considering passive heating/cooling and aspect if you’re renovating or redesigning.
  • Sealing up any cracks, holes and insulating under the floor.
  • Installing draft excluders and seals around windows and doors.
  • Investing in high-rated ceiling or wall insulation.

2. Consider building methods and materials

Did you know that 57% of Australia’s building emissions come from our residences?

According to the City of Sydney Council, buildings account for around 80% of local greenhouse gas emissions. You can read their guidance on sustainable development here.

So if you’re planning on building, renovating, or buying a new build, pay attention to the building methods and materials being used and how green they're likely to be. It’s possible to “retrofit” many green elements into an older home, but it pays to think about sustainability early in the renovation design process.

Impressively, the 2022 season of the renovation reality TV show, The Block, has made headlines for embracing sustainability with elements such as recycled building materials, innovative building technology, recycled rainwater, and triple-glazed windows all contributing to a minimum seven-star energy rating.

There are great examples of green design in our area too: from one-off architectural transformations of houses right through to Green Square town centre, which has a 6 Star Green Star - Communities rating from the Green Building Council of Australia.

3. Think about how much electricity your appliances use

Household appliances are a major consumer of energy, so check energy ratings before you buy. Follow these tips, so you’re aware of how much energy is being consumed.

  • Heating hot water could be responsible for around 21% of your energy costs, according to the ABC, so simple tricks such as insulating pipes, and lowering the temperature or thermostat, could save energy and money.
  • Appliances on ‘standby’, including phone chargers, TVs, DVD players, microwaves and more, chew up to 10% of a standard household electricity bill, so unplugging them completely could save you a lot.
  • Similarly, lighting consumes around 10% of the average Australian household’s power bill, so consider switching them off when not in use, and switching to LED lights. These use 75% less energy than halogen bulbs and last 5 to 10 times longer. On 10 bulbs, across a decade, the average household could save around $650 on electricity bills, according to
  • In the kitchen, your fridge and freezer could account for around 8% to 13% of household energy bills.
  • In the loungeroom, Canstar says it’s worth paying attention to the energy rating stars on your television: each energy rating star represents an energy efficiency increase of 20%, which really adds up on a large TV that consumes more power.
  • Reverse-cycle air conditioners offer significant energy savings compared to other styles of electric or gas heating, according to
  • In the laundry, the dryer will typically use twice as much energy as the washing machine.
  • In the bathroom, the Federal Government says that households could save an average of $175 a year by installing water-efficient taps, showers, toilets, washing machines and dishwashers. Check the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) rating for these items, and landlords should know that new rental standards in NSW take water efficiency into account.

4. Shop around for energy or go solar

According to ABC reports, the typical NSW residential electricity bill will rise by anything from 9.6% to 18.3% this financial year. That’s a rise of between $210 and $369, on the standard energy bill.

Energy Made Easy is a free comparison website set up by the Australian Government that allows you to compare electricity and gas prices so that you can find the cheapest provider. It also gives you the option to select ‘green power’ and providers that offer solar feed-in.

Installing solar energy requires an upfront investment, but there are rebates and programs to help homeowners make the switch through the State Government. Going solar will lower your carbon emissions and reduce your electricity bills. You could even make money by putting any surplus power back into the grid. There’s more advice available on going solar from the Clean Energy Council.

5. Get gardening

Gardening - even in small spaces such as courtyards or balconies - is a great way to reduce your carbon emissions. For example:

  • Deciduous trees planted in the right spot can offer your home sun in winter and shade in summer.
  • Native trees and plants offer wildlife corridors and a natural food source for native animals like birds.
  • Flowers in your garden help by attracting pollinators like bees and butterflies.
  • Composting or worm farms are a way to reduce your household garbage, reduce landfill, and save on fertiliser.
  • Veggie and herb gardens have the added bonus of producing food, helping you to cut back on bills.

If you want to take it a step further, consider getting involved in one of the many community groups or community gardens in our local area.

6. Get resourceful and seek advice

There are many resources to help homeowners and renters live a greener life in a more sustainable homes. For example:

  • If you live in an apartment block, your strata can have a NABERS energy assessment done for the building.
  • Homeowners or renters can buy and install a plug-in energy metre or use an online calculator to find out how much electricity is being used by which appliances.
  • Locally, the Green Living Centre is an initiative of the Inner West Council. Running since 2003, it offers a range of advice, workshops, webinars and information for those wanting to live a greener lifestyle.

Want more?

If you’d like to find out more about sustainable properties in Sydney’s inner city and inner west, get in touch.