electricity savings guide
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How do you reduce your electricity bill when prices seem to go up every year?
Before we start it is important to understand how your electricity bill is calculated. Your electricity meter is read every three months and, based on this reading, an electricity bill is issued. Your bill comprises two sets of charges: a supply or service to property charge and a usage charge. As the supply/service charge is fixed for your meter type there's very little you can do to reduce it by much, although some power companies charge a little less and some a little more. The usage charge is calculated by multiplying the amount of electricity you have used during the quarter (in kWh or kilowatt hours) by a price per unit (cents per kWh).
Depending upon where you live and your tariff type some of you pay different prices for power used at different times of the day or week and some of you pay higher prices on excess usage once your usage goes above a certain level for the quarter. However, the usage charge equation stays the same. So this means you need to focus on the two key drivers of your usage costs: the amount of electricity you use and the price you pay for that electricity.
How do you reduce the amount of electricity you use at home?
Let's face it, most of us are lazy when it comes to reducing our energy use. Electricity is invisible - out of sight, out of mind. So it is really hard to think about switching things off or using your electrical appliances differently. Whilst we could suggest cutting back on everything you use, we understand that it is not very practical to expect you to make a lot of small changes, many of which might not do much to cut your power bill. So we will focus on those electrical appliances that are the big power guzzlers in your home.
Electric hot water
Electric hot water can be one of the biggest guzzlers of power in your home. If you have an electric hot water system with a storage tank then you are well on your way to having a shocking power bill. If you are unlucky enough to run your electric hot water on a single (peak) rate tariff then you could be looking at $70-$100 per month for your hot water. If you are fortunate to have an off-peak, hard wired electric hot water system on an off-peak tariff the running cost would be a lot lower at $25-$40 per month (although you are still producing the same CO2!).
To reduce the amount of power your hot water system uses look at turning down the thermostat setting. Decreasing your thermostat by 5 degrees could reduce your electricity consumption by up to 5 per cent. Around 60C seems to be the minimum level advised by health experts to ensure there is no bacteria build up in your system. If your thermostat is set above this level then turn it down - you certainly don't need such hot water and there is a risk of scalding at high temperatures.
You should also look at ways to reduce your hot water consumption - the less you use the less water needs to be reheated. Start by taking shorter showers and washing your clothes with cold water.
You should also think about upgrading your hot water system. This might cost you a couple of thousand up front but could pay for itself within a few years. You should look at switching to natural gas (if you live in an area with gas connected) as this is much, much cheaper than electricity. Solar hot water is a great option to provide mostly free hot water but it costs quite a lot upfront. A better option might be to move away from stored hot water altogether; continuous flow (or instantaneous) systems have been extremely popular overseas because they are cheap to run, only heating water when you turn on the hot water tap. In other words, these systems don't have to keep the water in a tank at 60C 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Heating your home in winter can be an expensive business but who wants to go cold? The cost of heating your home can vary significantly depending upon the size of your home, the type of heating system you have and how well insulated your home is. You could easily be looking at a cost of up to $200 per month to heat your home during the colder months.
To cut your heating bill you should heat only those rooms in your home that you're using. You should also adjust your thermostat setting down a couple of degrees. Decreasing your temperature setting by just one degree can reduce your power bill for heating by up to 15 per cent. If you rely on those little foot heaters don't - they are inefficient and can chew up a lot of electricity for very little warmth.
Decreasing your temperature setting by just one degree can reduce your power bill for heating by up to 15 per cent.
Insulation is key to reducing your heating bills - a well insulated home means less heat escaping outside and could reduce your heating requirements by up to 30 percent.
If your heating system is getting on a bit, look at switching to a new natural gas heating system (if gas is available). Otherwise look for 5 or 6 star electric heaters.
Living through an Australian summer without air-conditioning can be a nightmare but be aware that air-conditioning your home is very expensive - it could cost you as much as $1 per hour.
The easiest way to reduce the cost is to adjust the thermostat setting a couple of degrees higher. Turning your air conditioner's thermostat up by just one degree could save up to 10 per cent off its running costs. If you can live with 23C instead of 18C the savings would be substantial.
Insulation is just as important in keeping your home cool in summer as it is keeping your home warm in winter.
An efficient fridge-freezer can cost you from $10-$18 per month to run. If you have an older, much less efficient fridge these running costs could be double. As you need to operate your fridge 24 hours a day, 7 days a week there is not much you can do to reduce the amount of electricity it uses other than adjusting the thermostat a few degrees higher.
If your fridge is getting old then you should look to upgrade to a 5 or 6 star rated appliances. New fridges are equipped with energy saving features like superior insulation, door seals, improved compressor efficiency and defrost mechanisms, all of which means improved energy efficiency and cost savings.
Lighting represents a much smaller proportion of your electricity bill than the appliances discussed above but there are still a few things you can do to reduce the amount of power they burn. The easiest thing to do is to turn-off lights when they are not being used.
You should also consider replacing your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) globes, which last 5 times longer and use up to 70% less energy to operate.
To reduce the amount of electricity consumed washing clothes we suggest washing at lower temperatures; most of the cost of running a washing machine is heating the water not spinning the tub. Ideally you should wash in cold water - you'll save yourself loads!
If you are thinking of replacing your washing machine look for 5 or 6 star rated appliances. Front loaders, which are popular overseas, are much more energy and water efficient than the top loaders that have been popular in Australia.
All we can say is don't use your clothes dryer! Why not just hang wet clothes outside in the sun and wind or on colder days put your clothes on a drying rack next to your heater.
Smaller guzzlers of electricity are appliances like TVs, DVD players, stereos, PCs, etc. Please ensure you switch them off at the wall when you are no longer using them - this might save you around $5-$15 per year per appliance. Not a massive saving but something that's easy to do!
How do you reduce the price you pay for the electricity you use?
If you live in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, South Australia or the ACT you have a choice of energy supplier and can switch for free. Compare electricity suppliers using our calculator - you could save hundreds of dollars each year on gas and electricity.
If you live in another state or territory unfortunately you do not yet have a choice of supplier.