There are two ways to approach reducing utility use – efficiency and conservation.
Efficiency involves using less of a resource to get the same service – for instance, using a lower wattage light globe that gives out the same amount of light, a low flow showerhead, or making sure that draughts are kept out so that warmth is kept inside a room, and a heater can be used on a lower setting.
Conservation involves going without the service to use less of a resource – for instance, turning a light off when leaving the room, making do with a face wash rather than a shower, or throwing on a woolly jumper before thinking of switching on the heater.
Both approaches are valid, and result in less energy or water being used. In good housing design, both efficiency and conservation, such as passive design, are employed to reduce the energy and water use of the building. The Australian Government’s YourHome resource gives lots of examples.
However, people who are living on low income can find that housing which is affordable is not well designed or maintained. This can mean that the housing is not very efficient in its design, and its occupants are forced to either use a lot of utilities to make the house comfortable, or to go without comfort in an effort to conserve utilities and reign in bills.