Saving Power With Take-Home Kits From Local Libraries

belle butler with bmcc save power kit

Belle Butler with a ‘My Energy and Water Saver’ kit borrowed from the library. (Photo by Nahla)

Story and photos by Belle Butler

Blue Mountains libraries now stock free-to-borrow ‘My Energy and Water Saver’ kits that Blue Mountains residents can use to assess their homes for energy and water efficiency. Belle Butler borrowed one of the kits and discovered some room for improvement in her Lawson home.

Key Points:

  • Most per capita greenhouse gas emissions come from the electricity and heating needs of homes.
  • The Climate Council touts energy-efficiency as one of the easiest, cheapest and fastest ways to reduce emissions.
  • Borrowing a kit from a Blue Mountains Library can help you maximise your energy efficiency, cut your emissions and save on your energy bill.

Climate change is an issue so big that sometimes, as one little person on the planet, it’s hard to know what to do. And when everyday life is filled to the brim with various expectations and commitments, ‘doing’ something at all can feel like a daunting task.

However, even some small changes to your everyday habits can make a difference. Unless you are running your household on renewable energy (if you are, then kudos!), much of your greenhouse gas input will come from the electricity and heating needs of your home.

Here in Australia, most of our electricity still comes from non-renewable, polluting sources, with NSW still relying heavily on coal. 

energy mix by state

Graph of energy sources by state and territory. -from Australian Government – Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water

Using this fuel for most of our energy needs makes us a hefty contributor to greenhouse gas emissions via these sources:

Graph by Our World in Data

This is a significant factor in our exceedingly large global contribution (per capita) to overall greenhouse gas emissions:

Graph by Our World in Data

These graphs present a compelling argument for renewables, but if investing in household solar isn’t an option for you right now, making changes to how you use energy can reduce your emissions (and your electricity bill). The Climate Council touts energy-efficiency as one of the easiest, cheapest and fastest ways to reduce emissions.

Test your energy efficiency

Blue Mountains City Council has now introduced ‘My Energy and Water Saver’ kits to its branch libraries, which residents can borrow free of charge. The kits contain tools and a guide on how to use them in order to identify where household reductions in power and water usage might easily be made. The kits come with the following items:

  • Power Mate Lite – measures the amount of power drawn by an electrical appliance.
  • Infrared Thermometer – Measures temperature of objects to find where heat is lost or gained. Great for testing windows and doors for draughts.
  • Thermometer – measures air temperature including in the fridge and freezer.
  • Compass – Identifies north and west facing rooms that receive the most sun.
  • Stopwatch – Used to measure flow rates of showerheads and taps.
  • Worksheets – Guides the user through helpful tests and allows for record-keeping of findings.

NB. The new version of the kit also includes a Thermal Imaging Camera (FLIR) which can measure radiant heat to help you prepare for future heat waves. It can also detect areas of energy loss in the home such as missing insulation, gaps in floorboards or around doors etc.

bmcc my energy saver kit

Testing out the energy consumption of my laptop while writing this article.

“Rising energy costs are a real concern for Blue Mountains residents,” said Mayor Mark Greenhill. “This kit is a simple and effective way to identify where heating or cooling might be escaping your home and make the necessary changes.

“Making your home more energy efficient is a key part of living sustainably and having an environmentally friendly lifestyle and this kit makes that process easy.”

Putting the Kit to Use

I live with my family in a draughty older Mountains home in need of some roof-work before solar panels can be installed. So we are classic candidates for this kit. Borrowing it from the library gave us an opportunity to talk to the kids about energy and water usage and then put our home to the test with some fun activities.

draught tape

Draught tape can be purchased at hardware stores and easily applied around windows and doors to save on heating and cooling needs.

While we are probably considered more of a low-tech household, we still have the modern standards of a television and computers, and we found that we could make better choices by not leaving these devices on standby mode.

Our modest TV on standby amounts to about 50 kwh per year. Based on the emissions calculator on, that amounts to 43.5 kg Co2e (carbon dioxide equivalent, used to measure greenhouse gas emissions) each year. That seemed like a lot to me for an appliance that was just sleeping, and I wondered how many kilos of Co2e all the TVs on standby in the Blue Mountains are responsible for.

So I did a rough estimation based on the readings from my (comparatively small) TV applied to the number of dwellings in the Blue Mountains area according to the 2021 Census. If all 35,139 dwellings left one modest TV on standby for the entire year, and these households relied on the grid for their energy, these TVs would be responsible for 1,528,546.5 kg Co2e each year.

Testing the energy used by Belle’s TV while on standby 

Obviously these are not official numbers. There are many variables not considered here, from size of TV and number of TVs per household, to whether households are turning off their TVs at the switch or running them partially or fully on solar energy. However, as a rough estimation, that’s a lot of pollution coming from sleeping screens in the Blue Mountains.

In another experiment, my son was able to measure how much energy is wasted when he forgets to turn off his bedside lamp for the day, after turning it on to read when he wakes up in the morning. Rough estimations on how often he does this resulted in about 1kg of Co2e emitted by a forgotten lamp each year.

We also measured the flow rate of our showerhead (below the maximum recommendation of 9 litres a minute), the temperatures of our fridge and freezer (just right), and the temperature difference between our west facing kitchen and our internal living room at 3pm on a warm autumn day: 33 degrees versus a pleasant 25 degrees. Time for double-glazing!

Thermometer reveals a nearly 10 degree difference between a western-facing room and an internal room on an Autumn day.

My daughter’s favourite activity was finding draughts in our windows (as well as testing her own temperature and mine) with the infrared thermometer. Although many of these windows already had draught tape, the thermometer revealed that most of the tape had worn through and needs replacing.

Nahla watching the temperature jump around on the infrared thermometer due to a window draught (on a day with very little wind).

Borrowing the ‘My Energy and Water Saver’ kit was a practical way of reassessing our electricity and water consumption habits, and it made the responsibility of household emissions more real and easily grasped for both the kids and the adults of our little abode.

Needless to say, the TV is no longer on standby and when my son forgets to turn off his bedside lamp, my daughter is quick to pull him up on it (“Leo, you left your lamp on, AGAIN!”).

If you’d like to understand your energy and water habits more comprehensively and make changes to reduce your emissions, I highly recommend borrowing this kit. You can also give feedback about your experience and tips for improvement at

Take Action:

Share this article:

This story has been produced as part of a Bioregional Collaboration for Planetary Health and is supported by the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (DRRF). The DRRF is jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments.

More from around the region

In this video, Dharug artist Leanne Tobin talks eloquently about the critical importance of water and why it`s the theme of her two paintings in the Water for Life exhibition at the Blue Mountains Planetary Health Centre. View the paintings and learn more about the many ways we can work together to manage water better at our free Water Symposium next Friday 26th July. Bookings essential (link in profile):

The full video can be viewed on our YouTube channel (link in profile)

#waterforlife #leannetobin #firstnations #waterissacred #planetaryhealth #watersymposium

Electric vehicles continue to grow in popularity across Australia, but many people are still uncertain about their benefits, feasibility, and availability. To try and help local communities in the Lower Mountains have a better understanding of what EV’s can offer, @parentsforclimatebluemountains are hosting an EV Showcase in Blaxland on Saturday 27 July to help bust the EV myths and provide helpful, up-to-date and accessible information. 33 Hope Street Blaxland between 10 am and 12.30 Read more in Lower Mountains Local News (link in profile):

#electriccars #blaxland #bluemountains #ev #planetaryhealth #towardszeroemissions

As part of our Water Demonstration Site at the Blue Mountains Planetary Health Centre we`ve installed a range of sprinklers to show people how to protect their homes from bushfire. Plumber Daniel Brown will be giving a tour at our upcoming event: Future Proofing with Circular Water on Friday 26 July. The event is free but bookings essential at (link in profile) #bushfiresprinklers #beprepared #planetaryhealth ...

Global problems are creating renewed interest in traditional DIY skills like sewing. Here’s how a local grandmother is sharing her rag trade experience to make a difference and how you can get involved. Read more in Katoomba Area Local News (link in profile):
#skillshare #givingback #sharing #upcyclingfashion #sewing #patternmaking #repair #clothingadjustments #wastereduction #textilewaste #creativity #planetaryhealth

Our fortnightly Planetary Health Newsletter shares news about upcoming events, like our free Water Symposium on Friday 26 July, and stories from the Lower Mountains to Lithgow that are jam-packed with inspiration and a blueprint for the way forward.

Read it here and subscribe via any of our news sites (links in profile):

In this edition:

Katoomba Area Local News: Learning How To Upcycle Fashion with Sherlie McMillan

Mid Mountains Local News: Mid Mountains Repair Guide: Choosing Longevity in an Age of Disposability

Blackheath Area Local News: Charmaine Ledden-Lewis on Stories for a New World

Lower Mountains Local News: Busting The EV Myths: Community EV Showcase & Information Event Comes to Blaxland

Springwood Area Local News: Beyond the Yellow Bin: Surprising Things You Can Recycle – and How to Do it!

Lithgow Local News: The Gang Gang Farmers Market will Return in Spring!

#planetaryhealth #systemicchange #togetherwecan #solutions #constructivejournalism #watersymposium #hyperlocalnews

The story of Lithgow Environment Group is a saga spanning nearly two decades of their heroic struggle against fire, local habitat destruction, weak government legislation and, in particular, irresponsible mining practices. Read more in Lithgow Area Local News (link in profile):
#heroes #environmentalwarriors #dedication #care #lithgow #stewards #habitatprotection #protectors #planetaryhealth

Rainforest Aircon: Planting for Comfort & Climate

Bill Dixon has cultivated a rainforest garden on a ridge in South Springwood. He talks about how growing rainforest species can be an adaptive response to local climate conditions.

Read more in Springwood Area Local News (link in profile):

#springwood #rainforestplants #rainforestaircon #plantingforclimatechange #microclimate #planetaryhealth #bushfire

Using drones, the cliffs and hanging swamps of Blue Mountains National Park can be surveyed in a way previously impossible. In this story, Trent Forge from @nswnationalparks and drone pilot Richard Delaney search for the critically endangered `Fletcher`s Drumsticks`. Read more in Blackheath Area Local News (link in profile):

#drones #conservation #fletchersdrumsticks #endangered #biodiversity #blackheathnsw #bluemountainsnationalpark #planetaryhealth

This lift sucks!

It`s great for people with mobility issues who can no longer negotiate stairs!

You can read more about it in our story: Underground and Off-grid in Middle Earth (link in profile)

"The principle operation of the pneumatic vacuum elevator is based on the ascending push generated by the difference between the atmospheric pressure on the top of the car and the atmospheric pressure under the car.
The depression (vacuum) required to lift the car is achieved by turbines operating as exhaust fans which are located at the top of the elevator, also known as the Suction Assembly.
In the event of a power failure, the cabin slowly descends to the ground floor, at which point the passenger is able to exit the cabin."

#accessbility #lifts #planetaryhealth

About Belle Butler

Belle Butler is a writer, musician and occasional photographer. She likes mix-and-matching these artforms and often explores the same themes through each of them. Her short fiction has been published in numerous Australian literary journals and she recently received a WestWords Fellowship and Mentorship with Delia Falconer for her novel manuscript, ‘River.’ Hopefully it will be published one day.

You might also like:

boomerang bags blue mountains

Talking Rubbish with Boomerang Bags Blue Mountains

Boomerang Bags Blue Mountains is part of a global, grassroots movement replacing single-use plastic bags with sustainable recycled fabric alternatives: one sewing bee at a time. The volunteers were hard at work when Belle Butler visited the group to find out more.


Enjoyed this article? Please help spread the word :)