Tips to help you fight back against soaring energy bills

Lockdowns, winter and working from home are adding up to higher than usual energy bills in most households – for the second year running.

New research finds that 74 per cent of Australians are staying at home more often than in 2019 and 40 per cent are concerned about higher energy costs.

The survey of 1050 Australian adults found that NSW residents were most concerned about the high cost of their energy bill this winter (44 per cent), followed by WA residents (37 per cent) and Queenslanders (30 per cent).

Respondents also revealed the size of their electricity bills each quarter. Forty-two per cent said they were spending more than $300 each quarter on energy, while 20 per cent said they spend more than $400.

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Across the states, 48 per cent of NSW residents said their energy bills were more than $300 per quarter, compared with 37 per cent of Victorians residents and 21 per cent of WA residents.

Financial adviser and author Helen Baker says: “Between remote working, home schooling in some areas, and fears over contracting COVID, we’re staying in our homes more than ever.

“Fortunately, there are changes that can be made across all areas of the household, along with larger long-term investments that can amount to significant savings.”

Ms Baker offers eight tips to help you save on energy costs.

1. Layer up and use heating wisely. Generally, devices that heat use more energy. Gas and electric heaters can account for up to 26 per cent of household energy use. Turn your heater off when the room is adequately warm, rather than running it continuously. If using air conditioners for heating, set the temperature to no more than 8 degrees above the outdoor temperature to avoid a much higher energy bill.

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2. Be aware of vampire energy consumption. Even when appliances are not in use, they continue to consume electricity. Phone chargers are notorious energy vampires and continue to consume 0.26 watts every hour they are left idle. In instances where a phone is charged and still connected to the charger, it can consume more than 2 watts per hour. Desktop computers can consume more than 20 watts when left in sleep mode. By simply switching off devices at the power point, households can save more than $200 per year.

3. Limit hot water and hot drying. Hot water heating contributes enormously to our energy usage. Taking shorter showers and limiting baths can help reduce bills. Using a hot water cycle on the washing machine uses 50-85 per cent more energy than cold water. Households should use the cold water cycle when using the washing machine or dishwasher and only wash clothes or dishes on a full load. Clothes dryers also consume a lot of energy and households could use it sparingly and opt for clothesline drying.

4. Check existing appliances. It’s important to keep in mind that old appliances consume more energy than newer models and are therefore more costly to use. If upgrading appliances, households could use energy-star ratings to gauge the cost to run them. Multiply the number of kilowatt-hours a year (the number on the energy star label) by the electricity rate on a bill. For example, a TV with a seven-star label of 213 kWh a year on a rate of 28.55 cents can cost approximately $61 a year to run, while a three-star label could set households back $148 annually. Beyond energy ratings, households could consider smaller TVs and front-load washing machines, which use less water and shorter wash cycles than top loaders. Upgrading appliances can be costly, so consider adjusting the energy usage of existing home appliances by, for instance, ensuring the refrigerator is 3-4 degrees, and the freezer -15 to -18 degrees.

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5. Shop around for a better deal. Households would be wise to compare energy providers every year. Every time you receive a bill, consider whether there is a more affordable option in the market.

6. Keep the home well insulated. Homes that are well insulated will maintain a comfortable temperature more easily. Keeping windows shut securely, particularly during colder weather, can help retain heat. Up to 40 per cent warmth can escape through windows. Households should consider opening blinds or curtains on sunny winter days and closing them before it gets dark to trap in heat.

7. Make low-cost changes to heat the home. There are many low-cost investments household could make to heat their home, without increasing their energy bill. For example, door draft stoppers, rugs and runners to keep floors warm.

8. Consider investing in solar. Research whether solar can reduce energy bills in the long run or if energy can be sold back to the grid. While solar panels are often touted as expensive, recent government investment in renewables means this is not always the case.

What do you do to keep energy bills as low as possible? Why not share your tips in the comments section below?

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Written by Janelle Ward



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