Electrical devices for example television, DVD players, hi-fi and computers consume energy. Large plasma-screen TVs are particularly energy-hungry as well as their increasing popularity is one reason electricity use within Australian homes continues to rise. Consider staying with a normal-size TV.
Get into the habit of smoking of turning things off together with standby power can use as much as 10 per cent of household electricity. If something continues to have a light or clock on, then it’s still using electricity. The very best bet is to turn it off in the wall (unless it requires fiddly re-programming, like a VCR).
Replace any incandescent lightbulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescent ones, which nowadays only cost you a few dollars each.
Halogen downlights tend to be more of a problem. They may be reduced voltage, but they are still energy guzzlers – it’s wattage, not voltage, that determines energy consumption. Actually, halogen downlights can use six times more energy than the usual compact fluorescent. They also lessen the efficiency of ceiling insulation, since you can’t lay insulating batts over downlights – heat from the lights makes it a fireplace risk.
Ultra-efficient energy-saving LED downlights are now available but remain very costly – although they will still help you save money over their lifetime. If you cannot afford them, use your downlights sparingly. Better yet, don’t install them in the first place.
Nylon carpets are manufactured from petroleum – a non-renewable and polluting resource – and therefore are usually treated with chemicals as dyes, fire-retardants, mothproofing, anti-stain treatments and so forth. These chemicals are slowly released in to the air of your living room.
Wool carpets are healthier and much more environmentally-friendly, but may still have chemical treatments, as the latex backing used on most carpets contains styrene, a suspected carcinogen. The very best carpeting option is an untreated wool carpet with hessian backing. Wool, incidentally, is of course flame retardant.
But all carpets harbour dustmites that induce allergies. Instead, consider tiles or timber, or explore natural floorings for example cork tiles, sisal or jute. For timber flooring, search for recycled floorboards or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified timber to guarantee the wood did not come from an unsustainable source. Bamboo is definitely an attractive, eco-friendly alternative to timber flooring.
Furniture and furnishings
Furniture and fittings for example sofas, armchairs, curtains and blinds will also be treated with chemicals to make them fire, pest and stain resistant. When purchasing cushion covers, throws, curtains along with other furnishings look for untreated natural materials for example linen, hemp, organic cotton or organic wool.
Observe that formaldehyde, a possible carcinogen, is often used like a glue in shelves and chairs along with other furniture, particularly in pressed woods for example particleboard. Choose solid timber instead.
But, again, ensure the timber in wooden furnishings are sustainably sourced. Avoid tropical hardwoods unless they’ve FSC certification, or hunt around second-hand shops and yard sales for second-hand furniture.
Chemical-free painting and cleaning
Reduce chemicals inside your living room’s air by cleaning with microfiber dusters and mops (which have no need for detergents) and non-toxic natural cleaners. When decorating, use low-toxic paints, that are water based and use natural plant and mineral dyes rather than synthetic chemicals. Seal and polish timber floors and furniture with varnishes and polishes produced from natural ingredients such as linseed oil and beeswax.
Cooling and heating
Good insulation will lessen the energy you need to heat and funky your living room. Shade north- or west-facing windows with curtains, blinds or shutters on hot days and make sure the ceiling and walls are adequately insulated.
While there’s been a move towards open-plan home living areas recently, retaining some internal doors means you are able to close them on cold or hot days, allowing you to only heat or cool the area you are in, rather than the whole house. This could significantly reduce your energy bills.