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Avoid costs, save the world

Simple steps at home will offset the expense of the Federal Government's carbon tax. As a householder, there's one key feature of the federal government's carbon tax that you mustn't overlook - you can avoid paying it.

And that's what you're meant to do. Ian Porter, from the Alternative Technology Association, says the tax is intended to encourage households and businesses to use less energy and therefore reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

''Anyone who is energy-wise is likely to experience very little impact at all,'' he says.

The government predicts a price rise of about $10 per week for an average household (offset by the average compensation, which is just over $10 per week). Of that amount, the electricity portion comprises $3.30 per week.

But these numbers are based on average usage. They don't take into account the way we can change our habits. You can offset the rising prices by becoming more energy efficient around the home.

''The normal rule of thumb is that about 10 per cent - if not more - of your energy bill can be reduced by simple, cheap or free measures, such as avoiding standby power, switching lights off and installing draught excluders under your doors to keep your rooms warmer,'' Mr Porter says.

So, for a savvy householder, the deal is good news: you can reduce your energy consumption and carbon emissions, avoid the tax and pocket the compensation.

Damian Sullivan, from the Brotherhood of St Laurence, agrees that we shouldn't worry that the tax will cause a big jump in our cost of living. The charity operates a social enterprise, Brotherhood Green, which conducts energy audits and retrofits of existing homes for low-income earners.

''Electricity prices are already rising dramatically, with or without a carbon price,'' he says. ''The compensation will cover the added impact, but the scheme also provides an incentive for people to implement energy efficiency around their homes.''

As part of the plan, the government has promised to set up a national energy savings initiative, which would oblige energy retailers to help customers reduce their electricity demand.

''There are a whole lot of measures you can take, from everyday actions and home maintenance, to purchasing efficient appliances when you need new ones,'' he says.

Mr Sullivan says it pays to regularly re-assess your habits. The dollars quickly add up, with even the most innocuous changes in household behaviour.

By washing your clothes in cold water, avoiding using a dryer, sealing draughts and installing an efficient shower head, the savings for a family of four could total more than $300 per year, he says.

For his part, Mr Porter looks coolly on the custom of running a second fridge. ''So often when we replace a refrigerator, we keep the old one. People like to leave it in their garage and store beer in it, but it's an energy guzzler if you do that,'' he says.

''Consider the type and the number of appliances you choose to have.''

If the opportunity arises, you can hard-wire cheaper bills and fewer greenhouse gas emissions by designing and building as efficiently as you can.

''If you're lucky enough to be designing, buying or renovating a house, that's when passive solar design comes to the fore - initiatives such as orientation, glazing and thermal mass,'' Mr Porter says. ''That's where you'll make some of your biggest savings.''

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