Will you be caught out by COVID-19 bill shock?

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With most Australians spending more time at home than usual, now more than ever is the time to be mindful of unnecessary power usage and wasteful habits that could translate to bill shock, say CHOICE energy experts.

However, while some say increased power use at home will affect our energy bills in coming months, other energy experts are saying that because the lockdowns happened prior to winter, we may not see our bills edge too far north.

“In Australia, electricity demand from households has increased slightly as millions of people stay at home, prompting warnings of bill shock,” write Bruce Mountain, Kelly Burns and Steven Percy in a report for The Conversation.

“But activities such as boiling the kettle and cooking more often, and keeping lights on all day, do not make a big difference to consumption.

“This will change in winter, when we need to keep our houses warm. Households using split-system air conditioners for heating can expect seasonally adjusted electricity bills to be around 10-20 per cent higher if they’re heating the house 24 hours a day, rather than just briefly in the morning and again in the late afternoon and evening.”

Still, the extended time spent in isolation will most likely mean you’re using more gas and electricity on lighting, heating, cooking, charging smartphones, streaming internet and home entertainment.

CHOICE experts warn that the financial burden of these months spent at home will still likely be noticeable when energy bills come in, so be prepared.

And with winter around the corner, it’s likely that power bills could be higher than usual.

The differences will be more pronounced in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and, to a lesser extent, New South Wales. Residents in warmer states such as Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are less likely to see a change in their bills.

“This is going to be a tough winter for many Australians,” says CHOICE consumer advocate Jonathan Brown.

“Luckily, our experts at CHOICE have come up with a number of cheap and effective things you can do to keep your house warm and reduce your energy use over winter.”

1. Track down and seal draughts
Draughts can easily get in through gaps around your doors and windows, so it’s important to seal up as many as you can to keep your home nice and cosy.

“The classic door snake can be a cheap and effective way to seal draughts in your home and keep the heat in,” says Mr Brown. “If you have some time on your hands, you can make it a fun craft project for the family.”

If you’re not in a crafty mood, there are other products you can use to seal gaps in your home, including weather seal tape or draught strips.

2. Make use of curtains and rugs
“Up to 40 per cent of heating energy can be lost through your windows, so close those curtains,” says Mr Brown.

Rugs can also be an effective way to retain some of the heat in your home, particularly if you have hard floors. 

3. Be smart with your heaters and fans
“Your fan can be one of the most helpful tools to keep you warm in winter. Most modern ceiling fans have a reverse switch that can be used to push heat back down towards the floor,” says Mr Brown.

“If you have a portable heater, you can use your portable fan from summer to help circulate the heat around the room.”

4. Be aware of how heat moves around your home
While it can be tempting to sit right in front of your heater, doing so will actually restrict the flow of hot air around your home. To get the most out of your heat source, make sure nothing is blocking the flow.

“It’s also important to close doors to rooms you’re not using while the heating is on. Only heating the rooms you’re actually in will reduce your bill,” says Mr Brown.

Are you worried about how much COVID-19 is adding on to your household bills?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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15 Comments

Total Comments: 15
  1. 0
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    Will have saved quite a bit in petrol with not being able to go out so it will probably balance out.

  2. 0
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    What a beat up!. Most retirees spend a lot of time at home anyway. Think of the savings on travel including fuel, accommodation away from home, coffees, snacks and meals out and discretionary shopping etc. For these reasons I believe the extent of the government’s cash splurge has been an unnecessary burden on the nation as generally costs will be lower and the ability to stimulate the economy under lock-down circumstances is very low.

  3. 0
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    More people are staying at home so naturally there will be an increase in the use of electricity.People are cooking more and using internes for work and entertainment.

  4. 0
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    More people are staying at home so naturally there will be an increase in the use of electricity.People are cooking more and using internes for work and entertainment.

  5. 0
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    There have been hardly any better time than now to get really good deals on solar installations and home batteries. In some states such as South Australia, massive subsidies of up to $4000.00 are available. Installation of solar and participate in a virtual power plant scheme is not only good for your pocket, but it is also good for the economy and the environment.

  6. 0
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    Think of all the savings made from not eating out, going to the movies, snacks and coffees etc. In my case I think I have actually saved money

  7. 0
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    Got good wood pile just waiting for winter.

  8. 0
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    I wish YLC would understand basic science. Some of the facts for saving energy do not apply to all households. In fact some suggestions are downright harmful.

    Fact 1. Sealing the house to make it air tight introduces far more sinister problems and will cost a lot more to fix than slightly more energy usage. Mould will develop, especially in bathrooms, kitchen and laundry and other wet areas due to steam condensation, especially on walls in older houses where brick walls are plastered over and painted with gloss paint. Getting rid of mould is an ongoing repeated expense every 6 months or so. (It may involve repainting the whole room every 6 months). Also mould does a lot of damage, especially as it can contribute to rot in timber. I wouldn’t like to live in a smelly house and breath putrid air all my life. Also if visitors have colds and flu “Bingo” you’ll get it within a week.
    Finally, and the biggest piece of crap I’ve heard so far, is because gas heaters require some fresh air plus as they recirculate, closing rooms off where there are ducts means the return air won’t function and the heater thinks the house is too warm, therefore shutting down. This depends where the thermostat is located. If it is in one of the closed rooms, big, big problems working the heater, ditto the cooler especially if of the evaporative type. When it comes on, it comes on with a vengeance.

    Fact 2. Agree in general, they do add to insulation value. They (rugs) also absorb cat and dog pee/poo and larger ones require a queen/king size bed to be demolished, the carpet sprayed with disinfectant, vacuumed and taken outside for airing. Hard to do in winter?

    Fact 3. Yes agree, worthwhile especially with high or cathedral ceilings. A timer system must be employed or you pay the penalty. Note though, fans use up at say 150 watts each, i.e. 300-450 watts per hour for up to 3 fans. Over ten hours that’s 4.5 Kw @0.66 cents/Kw Hr and that’s worth $2.97 per day. If used winter and summer for at least 9 months, that’s $2.27x 270 days = $801.90 per year. (Note this is somewhat extreme, but it can be this high if misused), so beware!

    Fact 4. Before we can say don’t sit in front of the heater, we need to know what kind of heater we’re talking about. A RADIANT HEATER IS THE CHEAPEST TO BUY, but the most expensive to run! Take a 2 bar element radiant heater. It uses 2000 Watts /hr. At $0.66/hr, that’s $1.32/Hr. Again assume 10 hours use/ day and we get $13.20/day Assume a minimum of 3 months use, we are talking $13.2×90 days = $1,188. Sitting in front of an oil heater, or fan assisted heater or combustion heater (with fan) won’t create so much of a problem, as they don’t fully depend on direct radiation as happens with a bar heater. Also keep in mind a bar type radiant heater can only heat a small room.

    Here are my additional recommendations.
    A. Check power hungry appliances. these could be: Induction hobs, Electric Ovens, dishwashers,washing machines, inefficient or old fridges, Big screen TV’s toasters, steam irons, Miro waves. Then check operation of your hot water service,(gas or electric) and finally your house cooler and house heater. Learn about their usage and consumption . For example, using the dishwasher, rinse the majority of food scrapes on the plate first. If your hot water tap is far away from your hot water service, save the rinsing for all plates for the one occasion. Do a dish wash as little as possible, and fill the dishwasher where possible. Plates that are rinsed do not smell, and can be cleaned using economy cycle, if possible turn water temperature down to 40 Deg C. Same with a washing machine. Do an economy wash and reduce detergent by 50%. Also. reduce water temperature to 40 Deg C.

    Finally, look at your desktop and usage. Did you know most power supplies on older units used 500-700 watts ? Say 1000 watts/hr. with extra hard drives, printer/s and large display screen. If you switch it on and run it all day, your’re up for: 10 x 0.66 x 300 days say = $1,980/year . These rates are extreme, but what you will be charged in peak periods, so watch when you consume power. Go off peak when you can.

    • 0
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      Oil heaters? Are you referring to the coil ones? Do you realise that if you are unfortunate enough to have a fire even if it doesn’t start the fire if it is involved at all you are not covered by your insurance at all. They also aren’t as cheap to run as I thought they were supposed to be.

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      JoJozep, your post is typical of a person with little knowledge attempting to portray intelligence.

  9. 0
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    Given the crippling costs of gas and electricity in winter, I try to pay more into both accounts on each bill during summer and autumn to build up a credit balance ready for winter. That has helped me a bit for the last couple of winters. I do the same with my credit card when I am planning a holiday. When the time comes to pay for the airfares etc, I have quite a bit already saved to cover the cost.

  10. 0
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    The (Very) caring Bear. Sorry I’m not going to bite. Where do you people come from and where do you hide? How can you post assumptions that are totally untrue and based on what facts?
    Enjoy the rest of the day.

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