Author

Derek Lotts

These days you can spend a fortune renovating your home to make it greener and more energy efficient, however not everyone has the time or money to upgrade their home. Don’t be disheartened there is still lots that you can do to make your home more energy efficient without breaking the bank.

pink piggy bank

Creating good energy habits is the first step to making your home more energy efficient, simple steps like turning lights and electrical appliances off when you leave a room. If no one’s in there you’re wasting energy to entertain an empty room. Standby energy consumption can account for up to $120 on your annual energy bill. By simply turning everything off at the wall can save you over $100. Easy, right?

Operating your appliances efficiently is another important step. You can buy the most energy efficient appliance however if you don’t operate it efficiently and smartly it can be counterproductive. For dishwashers and washing machines ensure that you always operate these with full loads, washing your dishes and clothes in half loads is a waste of energy and water, unless the appliance you are using has a specific half load function. Operate the machines using the eco function.

dishwash machine full of dishes

Washing your clothes in cold water can save you up to $100 on your washing energy bills a year, you can increase this saving by drying your clothes using your solar dryer (the clothes line!), hang your clothes on the line or on a drying rack inside and you can almost double this saving.

Other simple steps you can take with your fridge and freezers is to ensure that the door seals are clean and free from grim, ensuring they close properly and don’t let air out. Make sure that your fridge freezer is full, empty space means that your fridge or freezer has to work harder to keep that area cool, fill up those spaces with Tupperware to help combat this issue.

Hot water accounts for a large part of your annual energy bill and while it might be tempting to stay in the shower to heat up on those cold mornings this is going to drive your hot water heating bills through the roof. Have a timer in the shower and get everyone in the house to actually stick to it.

girl taking a shower

Did you know that if you turn on the faucet when it’s in the hot position even if the water coming out the tap is not hot it’s still costing you on your energy bill? Always ensure you have the faucet on the cold position to ensure you are not drawing hot water unnecessarily.

We hope these tips will help you save energy and money on your next electricity bills!

Created by Julie Moore director of Save Energy Save Money

Many people started growing plants to fill an empty corner in their yards. Stores often have a wide variety of trees to choose from. It’s not an easy decision. One option you might want to consider is growing bonsai trees. Bonsais can make a beautiful display. Growing them is also a fun and relaxing hobby. There are no special powers required to make a bonsai, just a bit of knowledge and enough time to care for them. Here are some tips from a bonsai enthusiast to get you started!

Tip 1: How to keep your tree mini

Scissors are the secret weapon to turn a tree into a miniature version of its potential. The trick to keeping the tree small is to continually cut back shoots as they grow. As a general rule, let a shoot grow to four or five sets of leaves and then cut it back to two. Each time you cut back a shoot, there is a good chance it will branch into two. Wait until those two shoots grow out and then cut them back to two sets of leaves. Do that again and again and soon there’ll be lots of little branches. Just keep in mind that to mimic real trees, you should aim for shorter node lengths (the distance between branch off points) the closer you get to the outside of the tree.

old man trimming bonsai

Tip 2: Sunbathe and rotate sides

As tempting as it may be to keep a bonsai inside so it can be shown off to guests, most species flourish with lots of sun.They can be displayed inside for a day or two here and there, but make their home in a sunny spot in the yard. For even growth, rotate the tree every few weeks so that sun gets on all sides. Otherwise, one side may look healthy while the other side looks sparse.

bonsai tree with yellow leaves

Tip 3: Read the soil

Bonsai soil dries up pretty quickly. There’s only so much water a small pot can hold. It may only take a few hot, dry days without water for a bonsai to wither and die, taking with it years of work and a piece of your heart. The key is to water the bonsai after the soil has mostly dried up but before It’s completely dry. Never let the soil completely dry out or it won’t last long. But allowing it to dry out a bit is necessary to prevent root rot, which is fungi growing in the root system. Root rot can occur when the soil is constantly damp. Watering daily is probably a reasonable place to start but try and read the soil rather than sticking to a strict time-based watering schedule.

Tip 4: Repot and trim the roots every year

Roots can quickly outgrow a small pot. If the roots take up too much space, there won’t be enough room for the soil and the tree won’t be able to absorb enough nutrients. To make sure there is enough room for the roots to grow, repot the tree every year and trim off about a third of the root mass during each repot. Mix in some slow release fertiliser into well drained soil and you’re ready for another season. The time to repot deciduous trees is when the leaf buds swell before buds open. For evergreens, research the specific variety to find the recommended time to repot.

Tip 5: Let your bonsai grow in free spirit

The quickest way to an old looking bonsai is to develop a nice thick trunk and to grow lots and lots of little branches at the outside of the tree. Having lots of little branches also helps make the leaves smaller too. The way to thicken the trunk is to let the tree grow. So let the top of the tree or a particular branch you want to thicken grow long. Yeah, it’ll look funny for a while, but you can chop it back after it thickens up.

bonsai tree

Tip 6: Be patient with the growth

After getting a bonsai, you may find yourself racing outside every few hours to see if it looks old yet. It’s going to take a while. Try and enjoy the process. Photo journalling is a great way to see progress over time. It won’t be until looking back over old photos that you realise how much they’ve grown and developed.

Tip 7:Get tooled up

To get started, you’ll probably need bonsai scissors, a branch cutter, some cut paste and some wire (a selection ranging from 1mm to 5mm in thickness). It’s worth going for quality. Japanese manufactured bonsai equipment is highly regarded. Although you can probably get away with using normal scissors for a little while, the benefits of bonsai scissors are the clean cuts especially on the roots during repotting. A clean cut will be more likely to generate new root branches. And a clean branch cut with quality branch cutters will heal over faster and more attractively.

tools for maintaining bonsai tree

Tip 8: Find some buddies

If you want to get into this bonsai thing, why not join a group or attend some classes to learn more? Discussing with others is a great way to learn and get solutions for problems in your area. Also, since bonsais are so needy, it can be hard to leave them on their own for any length of time which means it’s difficult to get away. A bonsai buddy may be willing to care for your bonsais while you tick off those travel goals.

So now you have another option to fill up that vacant patch of yard. If you could imagine yourself crafting some beautiful miniature trees and you have the ability to give them the attention and care they need, why not grow a bonsai? If you are interested in knowing other options for renovating your garden, connect with a local gardener or local arborist for more information.

Author Bio

Andrew works at Oneflare as an Android Developer He loves writing, mountain bike riding, and surfing. Oneflare is Australia’s fastest growing online marketplace connecting consumers with experts within the home improvement and services categories.

Australians love the great outdoors, but it’s all too easy to neglect our outdoor spaces when we think about rejuvenating the design of our home. We tell ourselves, it’s too big a job, no one sees the backyard anyway, and besides, it’s too expensive.

But an outdoor renovation can breathe new life into your home like nothing else, so we talked to Steve Jovcevski, property expert at financial comparison site Mozo.com.au, to get some top tips on refreshing your outdoor spaces – without sending you broke. Here’s what he had to say:

Assign the space a purpose

If you’re working to a budget, the first thing to do is sit down and think through what you want to achieve with your outdoor space. Will you be hosting big groups of people? Relaxing on your own? There’s no point spending a bundle on beautiful lawn furniture that you have to pack away every time family comes over because the kids want to play backyard cricket.

Choosing a centre piece for your outdoor area – say a classic BBQ – and then working out from that is a good way to create a cohesive, useful space. Decide what you want to use the space for, then make sure all your effort – and money – is going toward that purpose.

barbecue grill

Keep up with maintenance

Another easy thing that will give your outdoor areas an immediate boost is making sure you keep everything – from lawn, to garden beds, through to outdoor furniture or decks – well maintained. A nice neat lawn that’s mowed and watered regularly looks a thousand times better than one that’s been neglected, and old patio furniture can often be rejuvenated with a good scrub down and a bit of elbow grease.

Make an escape from the weather

One key way to make your outdoor space more useful and versatile is by putting up some kind of cover to keep it safe from the weather. This doesn’t have to be a full-blown pergola – a fabric sail can work just as well to keep the hot Aussie sun off and transform your backyard into an oasis.

It’s important to make sure your design elements all compliment each other and unify the space, and getting this major element right can help you with the design and tone of the rest of your outdoor entertaining area.

man mowing grass

Light up your life

When it comes to fairy lights, I find people either love them or hate them, but there’s a reason they’ve been a hot trend lately – if you often entertain at night, stringing fairy lights above an outdoor seating area is a quick, relatively cheap way to add a touch of magic to your backyard.

It’s a good idea to plan out where you’ll place the lights before you start, and as you do, keep in mind that the more lights you have, the more expensive it will be to buy and then run them. And remember – if you’re leaving them up permanently, make sure they’re not too exposed to the elements. Stringing them up under a pergola is a good way to keep lights dry.

Get creative with outdoor furniture

Outdoor furniture is one aspect of home design that I think you can really afford to get creative with. So instead of heading out to IKEA with a shopping list, think about DIY options, like repurposing old cinder blocks, tree stumps, or barrels as seating and tables.

The beauty of using these objects – aside from giving new life to what might have otherwise ended up as rubbish – is that you really get the chance to put your own style into it. It can be as rustic or luxurious, colourful or elegant, eclectic or streamlined as you want to make it.

old garden chairs

Opt for remnant stone

Hardscaping – putting in features like retaining walls, walkways and edging – can be one of the most expensive parts of sprucing up your outdoor areas. If you like the quaint, cottage-y look, one way to refresh your hardscaping while keeping a handle on your budget is to use stone leftovers that you can get cheap at building supply auctions.

This look isn’t for everyone though – so before you go ahead, make sure remnant stone will suit the overall look of the space. If the rest of your exterior design is ultra-sleek and modern, it’s going to look pretty out of place. A nice, modern alternative that might suit your look better is a green wall.

Look underfoot

The design of a great outdoor space often starts at the bottom. Choosing the right paving material can make a big difference to both the look of your space and your budget. Generally, crushed rock or gravel is a less expensive option than traditional pavers, and with the right styling, can look just as good – just don’t forget to lay weed mat first. Polished concrete is another good, low-cost and low-maintenance option that I personally favour.

If you prefer traditional pavers, think about interspersing them with grassy areas to cut back on the amount of expensive material you’ll need.

Steve is Mozo’s property investment and lending expert. With an extensive knowledge of home loan products and property trends, Steve is full of practical tips to help first homebuyers, refinancers or investors build and get the most out of their property portfolio.

With the warmer weather finally gracing us with its presence, there’s nothing we can’t do… especially when it comes to all the long, gorgeous summer get-togethers. For some reason, parties seem to be more fun when they’re thrown in the backyard and the easier-to-clean-up aspect doesn’t hurt, either!

Let us tell you a secret

Backyard parties are meant to be cozy and casual, social and fun. Anything that even reminds of those stuffy and formal events that are not only expensive but too stressful to organize (aren’t we all stressed enough, already!) shouldn’t even cross your mind. Instead, focus on the lazy awesome summer jams that will leave you with a smile on your face and so many memories you won’t even be able to count! Essentially, your motto should be: The more casual, the better. Remember that.

In the spirit of what you’ve just read, we’re giving you a few awesome ideas to count on for an unforgettable bash!

Spread the word

To actually have people come to your gathering, you need to make sure they’re informed that there is a gathering, at all… right? Right.

When coming up with the body of invitations: a) be chill and humorous about the content; b) include these four things:

Where should they appear: My place, you know it. In case you don’t… why don’t you? Anyhow, here’s the address: (fill the address in).
When they’ll be eating: The food will be served from 5 to 8. Don’t be late or I’ll give your intended portion to the neighbor’s dog. What they should be wearing: I’ll be flipping burgers, you wear flip-flops. Please don’t show up all formal – sounds about right
What you’ll do if it rains: I hope it won’t rain but if it does, I don’t have a plan. I guess we’ll all scotch inside!

Oh, and – make sure you send out the invitations at least two weeks ahead and have them RSV Ped; these days everyone’s so busy so ensuring your desired guests will pop up is essential. When sending the invites, do it via email, social platforms (Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.) or standard mail.

Pick the backyard theme

If you’re one of the creative souls, you’ll enjoy coming up with a party theme for this summer get-together. Although choosing a theme may sound like a hassle, it actually isn’t. Knowing what style you’ll be going with helps you choose decorations in a much easier way as well as the entire vibe of the event. If, however, you aren’t that keen on theme-picking, go with a traditional yard-decorating: Christmas lights hanging from the trees, pretty paper lanterns, comfy pillows to sit on, a drinks stand and a buffet. Décor is always best done in a Bohemian and funky manner; eclectic is the way to go so no reason to worry about table accessories and matching plates. Jars can serve as glasses, a wooden cutting board can be used for food servings and paper plates may just save you. It’s all cool!

Choose smart music

Always go with songs that have a universal appeal — oldies, retro favorites, hop jazz, chill, instrumental, jazz, beach and summer pop music. Keep the volume moderate so you guys can actually talk… and keep the neighbors happy.

Plan a simple menu

If you feel like barbecuing, then barbecue. It’s simple, it’s easy and it’s fun! You may gather a few of your friends to come earlier and start the grill – you’ll get a chance to chit chat before everyone gets there and you won’t die trying to do everything yourself! If, however, you are into something fancier, then go with that. Our advice though is to choose the simplest version possible.

P.S. Here’s a fun idea: why not ask everyone to bring something to eat and drink? This may actually be amazing, especially if you’ve got a multicultural gang around! If everyone brings something from their culture, you’ll have a wonderful feast together and learn a little bit about each other’s heritage. Plus, along with the food – you’re getting a theme, too!

Renewable energy is energy that can be gathered from naturally replenished resources. Renewable resources include sunlight, waves, tides, rain and wind, and energy harvested from these resources is important in many areas, including electricity generation, transportation and air and water heating or cooling.

Nowadays, many companies have switched to using renewable energy, mostly solar, to power their businesses. This change has proven to be successful and green building has spread all the way to our homes. Many homeowners are finding new ways of using the same renewable energy in their homes for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons is to save some money on bills, but going green and using mainly solar power to run your home has many other benefits as well.

 

Rooftop solar panels

If you are looking for ways to incorporate solar power into your home, solar panels are probably the most obvious method. They are typically installed on your roof, but you can also set them up in your yard. They harvest the sunlight and its energy and further transfer it in the form of electricity throughout your home, satisfying all of your daily needs. Generated watts per square foot will vary, depending on the orientation of the panels and your latitude, but they can generate 10 or more watts per square foot, which is more than enough. Another way to harvest the sunlight through your roof is by installing solar shingles. You can set them up if your current roof needs replacing. Solar shingles are actually solar panels that are mounted on your roof and serve as your roof tiles.

Unfortunately, solar power has a weakness–it works only when the sun is up. However, in order to power your home when the sun is down, you can pay for grid electricity or invest in another type of renewable energy. Nevertheless, solar panels will greatly contribute to decreasing your utility bills and saving energy.

 

Solar water heating

Besides generating electricity, solar power can also heat your home. Many homeowners opt for solar water heaters, which use the sun’s energy to heat the reserve of water. Water heated in such a way is then pumped through your radiators and pipes all the way to your faucets or showerheads. This system is easy to install and it can save you plenty of money and energy since it is cheaper to heat your water this way than with electricity or gas. However, there are many types of solar water heaters and each of them has their advantages and disadvantages, so make sure to conduct a thorough research before you make a decision.

Solar AC

It might sound odd that you can use the sun to cool your home, but it is possible. Solar air conditioning works similarly to solar water heating, but it uses the hot water in AC systems. If summers in your area are too hot to bear, you are bound to spend plenty of energy and money on air conditioning, which only increases the utility bills. However, if you switch to solar AC, you can cut down those bills significantly. By using hot water to actually cool down your home, you will both save money and help the environment. What is more, the hot water that is produced in AC systems can also be used for other purposes. For example, you can harvest that hot water and use it for solar water heating as well, depending on the setup you have.

Climate is drastically changing and that can cause plenty of troubles for the environment and residential building. Due to environmental awareness and higher utility bills, more and more people are choosing to go green and use the renewable energy. Solar power is one of those sources and it can drastically change the functioning of your home as well as bring many benefits to you and to our environment.