Natural Gas is the other type of energy we utilise in our house. It is used for hot water, heating, and our gas hob and oven. As heating and cooling are a large part of our resource usage, it was essential that we tackle our gas usage.
Firstly we had to look at our cooking methods. We tried to use the oven to ensure that it is full when we cook, and cook in batches if we are cooking cakes or biscuits. When using the stove top, ensure that the right sized pan was used on the right ring. If the pan is too small and the ring too large, energy is wasted, and visa versa, if the ring is not adequate for a large pan then it take twice as long to heat what you need. Also when boiling water ensure that the lid is on the pan. It boils quicker, and if you don’t believe me, try if for yourself. Here are some further tips;
• When cooking small to medium amounts of food, use a microwave, toaster
oven or crock-pot instead of the oven.
• If you have two ovens, use the smaller one whenever possible.
• For soups and stews that require long cooking time, use a crock pot.
• Unless you are baking breads or pastries, reduce or eliminate preheating the oven.
• Cook double or triple portions and refrigerate the extra food. It takes less energy to
reheat food than to cook it (and you can do it in the microwave).
• If you have a self-cleaning oven, run the cleaning cycle right after baking. The heat
of the oven will help minimise the heat needed for the cleaning.
• Don’t open the oven during cooking time. Use a timer/ thermometer.
Heating was a problem in our home as we have two space heaters at different ends of the house. Firstly we tried to use passive solar techniques, like having the northerly blinds drawn so we received maximum sunlight into the front of the house. When the sun set, we drew the blinds and made sure that any windows were shut. This warmed the house up during the day in Autumn and Winter, and worked well. We just had to change our habits. For the first month of Winter we managed to keep the house at about 18 degrees C for most of the time. If we needed the heater on, we turned it on till the house reached 19 degrees then turned it off again. In this way we drastically reduced our winter heating bill. I also installed self closing draft strips at the bottom of each external door, and added rubber strips around each external door frame. This cut down on heat leakage and prevented cold drafts from entering the house. I went around to all the doors and windows with an incense stick alight, and used the smoke as a draft detector. It worked well and all the windows and doors were OK. I checked the roof to ensure that the ceiling was sufficiently insulated but didn’t have to do anything, as we had cellulose insulation and it was at a sufficient depth throughout the roof space. It was the best I could do at the time and I believe it worked well.
The hot water service was only 6 months old, and is a 5 star gas hot water storage system made by AquaMax. It still used a fair amount of gas, so I turned the temperature down to number 1 on the dial, waited for a few days, and found that the family was satisfied with the new temperature. Just by turning the temperature down, so that you didn’t need to add cold water, reduced the gas consumption by about 25%! However, I wanted to do better than that. In about June 2007, I sold some shares I had been keeping hold of, and purchased a Chromagen Solar hot water service. I purchased it from Origin Energy, and basically the system has one large roof panel and a storage tank situated next to my existing gas hot water system. It works by pre-heating the mains water and then feeding the existing hot water system with warmer water. In winter it basically takes the chill out of the mains water and you save a little gas, however in the other three seasons the system really comes into its own, and the water reaches approx 70 degrees C. I installed low flow shower heads on both showers which also cut down the amount of hot water use. We also made a point of washing our clothes in cold water also reducing our hot water consumption. From late Spring to Early Autumn I turn the gas hot water system off and just leave the pilot light running in case I need to give it a boost if we have about 3 cloudy days in a row.
Our total gas usage is now down approximately 75% from last year, and I am very proud of what we have achieved. The only time that gas usage goes up during the warmer months is when I am preserving fruit and making pickles from my vegetable garden or we have a week of cloudy days!
Well done to all the family.