Research shows energy efficiency can do more than just save on bills

02 September 2013

Research from The Brotherhood of St Laurence has revealed that actions to reduce energy bills can not only save money, but can improve home comfort and even health and well being.

Around 1000 people on low incomes took part in the Moreland Solar City Energy Hub, which provided home energy audits and retrofits that typically included draft sealing, replacement of lighting with low energy globes and upgrading of shower heads to more efficient models.

Improving the energy efficiency of homes in Moreland a research report on the Energy Hub was released today.

"Many participants said installing energy-saving devices, as well as advice and information on how to save energy had helped them save money, as well made them feel they were doing something positive about energy efficiency,'' said the report's co-author, Dr Victoria Johnson.

 “The programs lead to environmental action, with 68 percent of interviewees reporting undertaking more pro-environmental behaviours after the home visit, such as turning off lights or washing clothes in cold water,'' she said.

 Importantly the benefits of the program extended beyond purely financial or environmental savings.

The simple use of low-cost draught-stripping products such as door stoppers and weather stripping on windows not only improved thermal comfort, but helped improve health.

"Almost 60 per cent of interviewees felt their participation in the program had improved the health and well being of either themself or a household member'', Dr Johnson said.

“The research also showed that households want to do more to improve the efficiency of their homes. But a lack of up front cash is a barrier to making bigger changes to their homes. Low income renters have even more limited options for improving energy efficiency in a home they don't own.''

The energy efficiency upgrades were delivered by the Brotherhood of St Laurence, and Kildonan UnitingCare as part of the Moreland Solar City  - a partnership led by Moreland Energy Foundation Limited, together with the Brotherhood of St Laurence,  Moreland City Council and Sustainability Victoria.

Many of the households who participated in the program were facing tough times.

Financial hardship meant that, in the previous six months, around 50 per cent of survey participants had not been able to pay their electricity, gas or phone bills on time and around 50 percent were unable to heat or cool their home when needed.

Around 20 per cent had been unable to pay their rent or mortgage on time, while nearly 15 per cent of participants had gone without meals.

"Electricity prices, which rose 72 per cent between 2007 and 2012, may have contributed to the financial stress,'' Dr Johnson said.

"Low-income households, which spend a higher proportion of their income on energy than other households, are particularly vulnerable to these rises.

"Homes that are energy efficient are more able to reduce the impact of these increases in prices, but many low-income households face financial barriers to improving the energy efficiency of their homes.''

Download the report

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