Melbourne Ecowise Plumbing Tips

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Newman Plumbing Ecowise Tips

Here’s some ecowise tips to help you around the house.


Targets for Easy Savings

Hot water, appliances, refrigeration and heating stand out as areas ripe for change. When you buy a household appliance, look out for the water or energy star rating labels. Both these star ratings will help you save energy and reduce your carbon footprint as well. Showerheads, toilets, taps, washing machines and dishwashers come with a water efficiency rating label known as “WELS” {Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards.} This lets you compare the water flow rate or water consumption of different products. The more stars on the label, the more water efficient. Heating water consumes a lot of energy, so reducing your water consumption can make a huge difference to your energy use!

Appliances such as dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, fridges, freezers and many air conditioners, have an energy star rating label that lets you compare how much electricity and gas different products use. The more stars on the label, the more efficient the appliance uses electricity or gas.


Star ratings on old equipment.

Energy ratings can help you buy the most energy-efficient appliance, but there is a trick! As new and more efficient products come on the market, the star rating is set higher every few years, which means that new appliances then have to perform better to achieve a star rating. So if you see a star rating on a very old appliance, remember that newer ones may have the same number of stars but even better efficiency.


Energy cost of cold water.

Australian households use enough water every year to fill Sydney Harbour four times! It takes a lot of energy to bring water from a dam, clean it up and supply it to a home, so any savings you make will not only conserve water but also reduce your carbon footprint – and water is becoming more expensive to buy!


What’s so good about gas?

If you don’t have access to renewable energy, then natural gas and liquid petroleum gas {LPG} are two of the cleanest burning fossil fuels available. They produce from one-third to one-quarter of the carbon dioxide produced by coal-fired electricity. In decades to come, as power supply moves towards clean coal and renewable technologies, this should change: meanwhile gas is an attractive option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Gas hot water produces from a third to a quarter of the greenhouse emissions compared with direct electrical heating. There is a voluntary star rating for gas hot water heaters ranging from one to six star with five star to five and a half star ratings being readily available for gas storage and instant heaters.

shower-roseno hot waterHot-shower

The Shower: money down the drain

It is so easy to lose all sense of time in the shower, particularly on a cold winter’s day. A surprising amount of energy is used to heat water and showers send most of that energy down the drain. Here are some ideas to help you save hundreds of dollars, and still stay warm.

A simple solution. A very effective alternative is to use a shower timer. An egg timer will do and these are sometimes given away by water authorities and councils. Or you can find shower timers in most hardware stores or “eco” stores that specialise in energy-saving products. Shower times usually run for four minutes and can cut water and energy use in the bathroom by 40 per cent.

For the really keen. The “submarine shower” is an option for the really tough! As you can imagine, there’s not much fresh water on a submarine. So the shower goes like this: get in, turn on the water and wet down. Turn off the water, soap down and shampoo your hair. Turn the water back on and rinse off. You need good taps to control the water temperature quickly and easily.

Keeping warm with shorter showers. It is hard to leave a hot shower if the bathroom is cold! But a cheaper way to stay warm is to use a radiant lamp heater designed for the bathroom to provide heat quickly and where you need it. These heaters are best installed directly over the area where people dry themselves. If the idea of a radiant lamp appeals, then you can either switch it on and off yourself for a few minutes when you need it or you can have an electrician fit a timer in addition to the on/off switch.

Shower Heads

A showerhead that hasn’t been designed to reduce water consumption may use up to 25 litres per minute. That’s three buckets of water every minute! Moving to a three-star water-efficient showerhead brings this down to nine litres per minute and a four- star unit can use as little as six or seven litres per minute. You can buy aerated water-saving showerheads with a variety of spray types ranging from “gentle rain” to “strong spray”, and they don’t need to feel much different from older showerheads that use more water. If you have an instant hot water service or gravity-fed water supply then it’s worth checking with Newman Plumbing to make sure the shower head is suitable.

Bath, spa or shower?

If a four minute shower with a three-star showerhead is our “gold standard”, then by comparison, a bath typically uses three times as much and a spa bath 10 times as much water and energy. If you use a spa or bath frequently then gas hot water heating, heat pumps or solar hot water heating are important options.

leaking toilet toilet


Older single-flush toilets can use one or two buckets {up to 12 litres} of water in one flush. These toilets are no longer on the market and have been replaced by dual-flush units which only need half to one-quarter as much water. If you do have a single flush toilet you could try placing a plastic bottle of water in the cistern to reduce the amount of water used.

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Older taps can sometimes run up to 20 to 30 litres per minute. Such a high flow rate sends water, energy and money down the drain and is not necessary for most household tasks. Low-flow and aerating taps will only use a third of this water, saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas in the process.


The Kitchen

There are many ways of saving energy in the kitchen, including how you wash dishes, keep your food fresh and cook your food as it can involve major decisions on appliance purchases.

Aside from hot water, ovens and cooktops are responsible for most of the energy used in the kitchen and cooking is where you can make the biggest savings. Smart buying and use of the appliances can cut their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by half or more.

Gas or Electric? Whether gas or electric is best for cooking food is a discussion for the bold, the foolhardy or the expert cook. Very little of the heat produced by an oven goes into cooking food. An electric oven can lose 90 per cent of its heat in warming the oven, and through the oven wall insulation and the glass door panel, while a gas oven loses energy in the hot exhaust gases. Despite this, the CO2 from a gas oven is typically half that from an electric oven.

Washing Dishes
Which is better for saving water and energy: using a dishwasher or washing up by hand? The answer depends on how careful you are when washing by hand, how old the dishwasher is, how many people are in the household and how the dishwasher has been loaded.

For example: A typical water-efficient dishwasher uses one litre of water per place setting. Most dishwashers can hold 12-14 place settings, with smaller units holding four to nine place settings. The small units tend to waste more water and energy, so the fewer people in your household the more competitive washing by hand becomes. Washing by hand can be wasteful. Only use as much water as you need or wash dishes in a bowl rather than a full sink to reduce your water usage to levels comparable with using the most efficient dishwasher. The least effective way is to wash a large number of small items under a running tap. Two to three minutes of running a tap can use as much water as a fully loaded efficient dishwasher. Whether washing by hand or using a dishwasher, it pays to wait until you have enough dirty dishes to fill your dishwasher or use up the water in your washing bowl.

Buying a dishwasher

If your dishwasher is seven or eight years old then it is likely that the energy savings from a new, high star rating unit will quickly make up for the energy used in its manufacture.

Another way to save energy is to check whether the dishwasher has hot or cold water connections. It is rare to find both connections available. If you don’t have solar hot water then a cold water connection and using the internal heater on the dishwasher means you avoid some of the heat losses from the water pipes between the dishwasher and your hot water storage tank. If you have solar hot water or gas then a model that connects to the house hot water supply would be the better option to reduce energy costs and avoid greenhouse gas emissions.


The Laundry

The two big consumers of energy in the laundry are heating water for your washing machine and using a clothes dryer. In fact, a cold wash reduces your washing machine greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 per cent, and of course a clothesline avoids all the greenhouse gas produced by a dryer.

Should I buy a new washing machine? Before buying a new washing machine, check if you can do most of your washing in cold or lukewarm water. Nearly all of the energy used in a washing machine goes into heating the water. So if you’re using a cold wash it doesn’t matter if your machine is old or new, a front loader or a top loader. This is worth considering as modern cold water washing techniques and detergents clean very well, although cold water may not always be effective for a really dirty wash.

If you decide to buy a new machine and need to use hot water, then a front loader will use up to 60 per cent less hot water and energy than a top loader. However, front loaders can cost more than top loaders and the washing times are longer.

Ducted Heater Melbourne gas-appliance

Heaters – which is best for you?

There’s no single best type of heating or cooling appliance and there’s plenty of variety to suit most needs. Gas heaters come in all shapes, sizes and types.

Flued and unflued gas heaters
Gas heaters produce exhaust gases that need to be handled properly for the good health of the people in the house. One approach is to vent the burnt exhaust gases into the room using unflued gas heaters, but these must be used in ventilated areas and never in bedrooms, bathrooms or confined spaces. Another approach for fixed gas heaters is to use the chimney or exhaust pipe {flue}, to take the exhaust gases outside the house. The power rating of a portable heater describes how quickly it consumes energy to produce heat. Portable electric and gas heaters can have power levels ranging from a few hundred watts up to 2.4 kilowatts for electric heaters and six kilowatts for gas.

Gas heaters produce much less greenhouse gas than electric heaters for the same energy use. However, portable gas heaters are usually unflued, which means they release water vapour and hot exhaust gases into a room, so there are practical and legal restrictions on their use. They must be in ventilated spaces and should not be in bedrooms, bathrooms or confined spaces. Health authorities recommend that people with asthma should not use unflued heaters.

Heating and cooling when you need it. Using timers to run your heaters, coolers and fans allows you to use energy just when you need it instead of running heaters and coolers all day and all night. Many heating and cooling systems come with their own timers. It’s also possible to buy timers that plug into a power outlet, but make sure they are designed to control heaters and air conditioners.

Setting a comfortable temperature.
What is a reasonable temperature for your home? We are all different, but by wearing appropriately warm or cool clothing you should be perfectly comfortable in temperatures ranging from 20C in winter to 25C in summer. Wearing seasonal clothing and resetting the temperature control on your heaters and air conditioners could easily reduce your heating and cooling bills by 10 per cent.
hot water

Harvesting and reusing water.

Rural communities have been struggling with water shortages for decades, accumulating a wealth of knowledge, and now Australian towns and cities are also responding to the challenge. Individual water consumption is dropping and we find ourselves part of an urban transformation. The most important issue here is saving scarce water. This doesn’t directly avoid much greenhouse gas but it will be an essential resource if you decide to reduce your carbon footprint by growing your own vegetables. And of course the financial savings could amount to several hundred dollars a year.

Rainwater tanks
This traditional method uses a tank to collect rainwater from roofs. Rainwater from a stand-alone tank is generally approved for all garden use, car washing and for toilets. If you want to top up the tank from the water main, then it is worth checking with your water authority if there are restrictions on the water use. A large rainwater tank may also require council approval. Costs for tanks, connections and installation range from $1000.00 to $10,000s, depending on size and construction material. You can collect rainwater without spending too much by matching the tank size to the available rainfall. A useful strategy for city dwellers is to estimate a tank size that will hold a month’s worth of rain. To do this, multiply the area of your roof in square meters by the monthly average rainfall in millimetres to obtain the tank size in litres. Monthly rainfall figures can be obtained from the Bureau of Meteorology website: You may need to consider long pipe runs from your gutters or smaller tanks placed strategically around your home to take advantage of most roof area.



Growing your own food
With household bills constantly increasing, growing your own food is becoming more and more popular, and you can do quite a lot even with limited space. It doesn’t matter what kind of soil you have, as long as it has good drainage. If water logging is a problem, you can build raised beds of soil and include organic matter such as compost. Drip irrigation is the best way to save water. The 13 millimetre diameter brown drip hose commonly available in garden stores delivers two litres per hour through each of the dripper holes that are spaced at 30 centimetre intervals. Plant the larger vegetables right next to a dripper – five minutes of irrigation a day will get the young plants going. Even fully grown tomatoes can get on half an hour’s irrigation a few times a week.


Swimming pools and spas

Two per cent of all household energy consumption in Australia is used in swimming pools and spas, and for a typical home with an in-ground pool this can be as much as 30 per cent of the house holds electricity bill. It could even be the most expensive item. Pool pumps and pool heating stand out as areas to check carefully.

Saving filter pump energy. It is surprising just how energy hungry a pool pump can be. If you ran it all the time it would produce as much greenhouse gas in a year as a typical large car! However, using the pool filter correctly is also an important health consideration, so you need to balance that with saving energy. How long you need to run your filter pump will depend on the size and usage of the pool and the pump’s flow rate. The pool or pump manufacturer can give you a recommended running time, but depending on the climate it should usually be enough to pass the volume of water in the pool through the filter once or twice per day, which would generally take from four to eight hours.

You can keep your pump working at its maximum efficiency by maintaining the filtration system and regularly cleaning the filters.

Effective pool heating.
Ten per cent of pools in Australia use gas heaters. If these were operated for 10 hours per week for a year, this is roughly as much as driving from one to seven small cars for a year!

Solar heating is a much cheaper way to heat a pool and much more widely used.

Even a simple pool cover can save water and energy by preventing evaporation.


John Wright, Peter Osman and Peta Ashworth.
The CSIRO Home Energy Saving Handbook. Sydney: Macmillan, 2009

Newman plumbing are the experienced plumbers in Eastern Melbourne Suburbs providing plumbing services to homes and businesses including:

  • Blocked drains
  • Hot water units
  • Roof leaks
  • Burst pipes
  • Taps & Toilets
  • Water jet drain cleaning
  • Gas leaks

Knowledgeable in solving plumbing issues that are common to properties we are able to expertly help you with your plumbing needs. For a reliable and prompt plumber contact Newman Plumbing on 0418 328 767.

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