It’s been a long hot summer full of power failures and 40 degree heat, and those air conditioners have been getting a major workout.
Just as the temperatures are starting to cool, its time to get hot under the collar about the impending bill.
Australian energy prices have soared 106 percent in the last ten years, according to a report from the Centre for Social Research at the ANU, and the next bill which comes through the mail could be the biggest one you have ever had.
But although consumers in some states enjoy electricity markets in which there is strong competition, we seem strangely reluctant to switch power providers just as we are reluctant to change banks.
A February survey from Energy Consumers, a lobby group for residential and small business energy users, found that while a majority of households and six in ten businesses have pondered changing provider, only a small percentage have followed through in the last three years.
The group’s Consumer Sentiment Survey shows that only 27 percent of Victorians, 21 percent of people in NSW and 16 percent of South Australians have actually made the switch.
The numbers are also low in Queensland (12 percent) and WA (10 percent), while in Tasmania only 1 percent have change in the last three years, and 85 percent of households never have.
The survey showed that people are generally happy with their power providers, even though the market is full of special deals and there are significant savings to be had.
Dodo, for example, is best known as an internet provider but has gone into energy retailing, offering 30 percent off electricity and 20 percent off gas when you bundle them together, as well as offering free electricity between 6 and 7 am (beware conditions apply).
Other providers, which are not household names but are aggressively trying to get into the market have similar inducements. Sumo has a special deal for 37 percent off when you pay on time, and an “all you can eat” option for 12 months.
How much you can save will depend on which state you live in, because there is more competition along the eastern seaboard than there is in Tasmania.
Beyond that, there is always home solar. According to Energy Matters a 5.72 kilowatt solar power system can provide a financial benefit of up to $2510 a year, depending on consumption patterns.
That is without a home battery system. The first Australian to install a Tesla Powerwall has just had the system for a year, and according to consumer group Choice he saved in excess of 90 percent of his power bill.
The Pfitzner family live in a four bedroom home in Kellyville, and powering their home cost $2289 in 2015, which is around average for an Australian family.
A year on, and the bill is down to $178.71. It won’t be too long before the $10,000 investment is paid off and the Pfitzners are in the black.
Here are 10 easy tips to help keep your energy bills down, courtesy of the Victorian Government
- Wear the right clothes
Dress for the temperature. Layering clothes and wearing wool helps keep you warm in winter, and means you can turn your heater down.
- Shut doors and close curtains
Heating or cooling the whole house can be expensive. Where possible, shut doors to areas you are not using and only heat or cool the rooms you spend the most time in.
Make sure your curtains or blinds seal your windows properly, and keep your curtains closed at night, and during the day when there is a heat-wave. Block draughts around doors and windows to stop air leaking out, or in.
- Set your thermostat
In winter heating can account for over 30% of your bill. Set your thermostat between 18 and 20 degrees. Every degree above 20 can add 10% to your heating bill. In summer, set your thermostat to 26 degrees or above.
- Turn heaters and coolers off when you don’t need them
Turn off when you leave the room, or go to bed. With some ducted heating systems you can turn off the heating in the rooms that are unoccupied. Make sure all your heating or cooling is turned off when you leave the house.
- Wash clothes using cold water
You can save around $115 per year by washing clothes in cold water. You can also save by making sure you select the shortest appropriate washing cycle and waiting until you have a full load.
- Run your fridge efficiently
Your fridge is always on, making it one of your most expensive appliances. Make sure the door seal is tight and free from gaps so cold air can’t escape. An ideal fridge temperature is 4 or 5 degrees and an ideal freezer temperature is minus 15 to minus 18 degrees Celsius. If you have a second fridge or freezer, only turn it on when you need it.
- Insulate your roof
An insulated ceiling makes a big difference to your energy bills. If you already have insulation installed, check that it is properly installed and has the right rating (measured in ‘R-value’). In Victoria, insulation rated R3.5 or higher should be used for ceilings.
- Stop standby power waste
Did you know your phone charger is still using energy even when your phone is not attached? Up to 10% of your electricity could be used by gadgets and appliances that are on standby.
A standby power controller will automatically reduce standby time and switch appliances off when not in use. You may be eligible for a discounted standby power controller.
- Save energy in the kitchen
Thaw frozen food in your fridge to reduce cooking time. When you are cooking, use the microwave when you can – it uses much less energy than an electric oven. If you use the stove, keep lids on your pots to reduce cooking time. Use the economy cycle on your dishwasher and only run it when it’s full.
- Use energy-efficient light globes
Replace old incandescent and halogen light globes with energy-efficient globes. Energy-efficient globes save power and last longer. Light globes can sometimes be replaced for free or at reduced cost.