A little ingenuity goes a long way

Greta Gillies, Harris Williams and their young family live in Heidelberg Heights, where they've been making energy efficiency improvements to their home that don’t cost a fortune.

For example, why buy new tubing when you can find perfectly functional tubing in a hard rubbish collection?! One of the simplest, cheapest and most effective improvements Greta and Harris have made is to use grey water on the more water intensive parts of the gardening, particularly the fruit trees. The house is elevated, making it easy to run the grey water out over the garden from the shower and bath, using tubing they found in a hard rubbish collection. Grey water from the washing machine is collected in a large container, into which a tap was inserted so that an old garden hose could be attached. The hose has been turned into a DIY drip feed system, which is a highly waterwise way to keep the trees watered.

All the equipment purchased is highly affordable:

Another great place to find free bits and pieces is your local swapping and giveaway group. In Heidelberg, the Rough Trade 3081 group meets every few months to trade items. A quick search online should bring up a similar group where you live.

Inside Greta and Harris' home, the stove is still connected to gas. To avoid using gas, Greta purchased a portable, single induction stove. It’s used while the sun is shining, to run it off solar power. The house is an ex housing commission concrete prefab built in the 50’s or 60’s. As a result, in summer the kitchen gets very hot - making it far too unpleasant to cook inside. So Greta and Harris use the induction stove outside, with a long extension cord to reach the power outlet inside. Their garden is the perfect place for summer dinners outdoors. For a stove that cost just $50 from Kmart, it’s made cooking a far more enjoyable experience for a very small investment!

The costliest improvement has been to install solar power. A 4.6kW solar system, coupled with a 4kW inverter, was installed on both the east and west sides of the roof. After a government rebate, the panels cost just $2,700. It’s been well worth the investment, as the solar provides for around two thirds of the family’s energy usage each year. Even with that, the family makes an effort to use as little power as possible.

Greta and Harris have much more planned for their home, particularly to phase out gas, and are looking forward to creating a home that’s highly energy efficient and carbon neutral. Their efforts so far go to show that energy efficiency at home doesn't have to be expensive. With a little ingenuity and by sourcing pre-loved equipment, anyone can make the same affordable and easy changes.

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