How to Save Energy and Reduce Your Electricity Bill
It's never fun to have a high energy bill, and there are many reasons you might get one. With the average cost of electricity on the rise across Australia, it's more important than ever to reduce your energy usage and bills, in order to save money. By making smart choices when it comes to your energy consumption and provider, however, you can lower your electricity bill in both the short and long term.
Why is my electricity bill so high?
There are so many reasons your energy bill could be higher than normal, so it's important to read your energy bill and understand why. Some of these might just be increased energy usage for a number of reasons, billing mistakes, or something else. By figuring out why your energy bill is higher than expected, you can address the issue and make changes to lower your bill for your next billing period. Below, you can find some of the most common reasons your energy bill might be high, and ways you can fix it.
|Cause of a higher energy bill||Solution to fix high energy bills|
|More time spent at home||If you have been spending more time at home, whether it’s working from home, a long-term illness, or school holidays, you might be using more energy at home. You can implement short-term energy saving measures such as unplugging appliances when not in use or adjusting the thermostat a few degrees, to reduce your next bill.|
|Extreme weather conditions||Running the air conditioner or heater can cause a massive spike in your energy bill. Keep your home between 18 to 20 degrees in the winter and between 25 and 26 degrees in the summer. Every additional degree can add 10% to your energy bill. If you’re still spending too much on your heating and cooling, look into ways to insulate your home or replace your heating and cooling with a more energy efficient appliance.|
|Incorrect meter reading or estimated bill||Compare the usage on your energy bill to the actual number on your meter. Switching to a smart-meter can also help reduce the frequency of estimated bills. If you don’t want a smart meter, ensure there is a clear and unencumbered path for your meter reader|
|Expired benefit period||Many energy plans have benefit periods (usually 1-3 years) when your energy discounts will be applied. Once this expires you might be put on the standing market offer, costing you more money. Compare energy plans and switch to a new provider to once again get discounts applied to your energy bills.|
How to switch providers and reduce your electricity bill
If you haven’t switched your energy provider in a while, if at all, you’re probably spending too much on your electricity. Switching energy providers can save you hundreds of dollars per year, by giving you lower rates, better discounts, and more flexible billing and payment options. Switching energy providers in Australia is simple, all you need to do is compare and find the energy plan that works best for you and sign up to your new energy provider either online or over the phone. Your new energy provider will get in touch with your previous provider to let them know you’ve switched. After your final meter reading, you’ll start getting billed by your new energy provider.
Compare energy providers in Australia
The most important thing you can do when switching providers is compare. If you live in one of the contestable energy states in the National Energy Market, you’re free to compare energy providers and switch as much as you want. There are a number of things to consider when comparing energy providers, and it can seem overwhelming with over 30 providers across the Australian energy market.
- Things to consider when comparing energy providers:
- Energy rates: Finding a provider with simple, low, rates, means you don’t need to worry about benefit periods, or conditional discounts. Some energy providers guarantee your rates won't change for a year, but others have flexible rates meaning they might change at some point.
- Discounts and incentives: There are many different types of incentives your energy provider might offer you, including conditional and unconditional discounts, extra points for membership programs, or credits on your energy bill every 6 or 12 months.
- Solar feed-in-tariff: If you have solar energy, choosing a higher solar FiT might be a good choice if you have a large solar PV system.
- Billing and payment methods: Many energy providers offer low rates or conditional discounts if you pay on time or by direct debit. If you’re worried about big energy bills every three months, choosing a provider that bills every month (or fortnightly or weekly) can make these bills smaller and more manageable.
Different types of electricity discounts
There are many different ways energy providers try and entice you to sign up to their energy plans. These discounts and incentives can help you lower your energy bill and save money. Many of these energy incentives can be applied together, so finding the best plan for you might involve multiple types of discounts.
Simple, low rates: No fancy or complicated discounts, just simple, low rates. These can be fixed rates, which means they won’t change during your benefit period. If an energy provider has flexible rates, they reserve the right to review and change your rates if they want.
Unconditional discounts: Discounts that apply to either your total energy bill, or your usage rates, but don’t have a condition attached.
Conditional discounts: Discounts that only apply to your energy bill if you meet certain conditions. These are usually pay-on-time, or pay by direct debit discounts. If you know you can meet these conditional discounts, you can often save more on your energy bill.
Bill credits: These are credits your energy provider applies to your bill every 6 or 12 months. You can also get a sign-up credit, or credit for referring friends and family to your energy provider.
Additional incentives: Additional incentives are other ways your energy provider might help you save money. These include things such as additional points for membership and rewards programmes, or other perks.
Different electricity tariffs
Choosing the right electricity tariff might help you save money. By finding an energy tariff that fits your lifestyle, you can reduce how much you spend on your electricity bill. The three most common electricity tariffs are single-rate, time-of-use, and controlled load.
|Electricity tariff||How does the electricity tariff work?||Who would benefit from this electricity tariff?|
|Single-rate||You are charged a flat usage rate per kWh, no matter when you use your electricity.||You use most of your energy during weekday evenings, when demand on the grid is high.|
|Time-of-Use||You are charged more or less per kWh depending on when you use your electricity.||You use most of your electricity overnights, during the day, or on weekends when demand on the grid is lower.|
|Controlled load||A separate meter for a high-energy appliance such as a pool heater, underfloor heater, or water heater.||You have a high-energy appliance that might benefit from a separate rate.|
|Block tariff||Your usage costs either increase or decrease with each block of energy consumed. With electricity rates, the cost usually increases per block consumed.||You tend to less than the first block of electricity, so you only spend the minimum rate.|
|Demand tariff||You are charged more if you use more energy at one time (ie: have a higher demand).||You are vigilant in your household’s energy usage, and don’t tend to use multiple energy-consuming appliances at once.|
How to save energy at home
There are many ways to reduce your energy consumption at home, in order to save money on your energy bill. Whether these are habits you can start today, or long-term investments to turn your home into an energy efficient powerhouse, there are ways for everyone to save energy at home.
Why is my energy bill so high? Unplug those energy vampires!
Energy vampires are everywhere in your home. The term “energy vampire” refers to electronic items that will continue to sap electricity from your house, even if you aren’t using the item, simply because it’s plugged in. Even appliances and devices that are turned off, but still plugged in, could be costing you more on your energy bill every month. Here are some of the biggest energy vampire culprits in your home:
Plugged-in appliances: Leaving appliances (especially hair dryers, electric razors, or curling irons) plugged in between uses can still drain electricity from your house, even if the appliances aren’t turned on. By making it a habit to unplug and put away any kitchen or bathroom appliances when you’re not using them, you’ll be making your home more energy efficient and reduce your electricity bill.
Appliances with a continuous display: Things that show a continuous display (think LED clocks on radios, microwaves, or stoves) can drain more energy than you think. You probably don’t need those three or four LED clocks in your kitchen, and while the clock might be wrong if you unplug your microwave when you aren’t using it, your energy bill with thank you.
Charging your devices: Leaving your laptop, phone, or tablet plugged in and charging, despite having 100% battery, is not only wasting energy in your home, but could also be hurting the battery life and performance of your device. When your phone or laptop reaches 100% battery, unplug the whole charger from the wall outlet to prevent it from sapping energy it doesn’t need.
Home office: Home offices drain a lot of energy, even when you’re not using it. Leaving your computer plugged in and in sleep mode means that while your computer might not actively be using energy, it’s still draining some from your house. Turn off and unplug your computer and printer to keep them from draining more energy overnight.
Home entertainment systems: Those home entertainment systems; surround sound, 4K Ultra HD TV, and multiple gaming systems; tend to stay plugged in all day, even when not being used. All these devices can sap energy from your home just by being plugged in and not in use. If you keep all these devices plugged into one power strip, you can easily unplug everything at once when not in use, saving your home energy.
Energy vampires might only use a little bit of additional power individually, but when combined with multiple appliances in multiple rooms, this adds up quickly in energy usage, and in your energy bill.
Quick fixes to save energy immediately
There are plenty of small things you can start doing today to begin saving energy. While individually, these little changes in your life might not seem terribly drastic, they quickly add up to additional savings on your energy bill.
Unplug devices when they’re not being used: Energy vampires can sap energy from your home without you even realizing it, costing you hundreds of dollars extra on your energy bills. Remember to unplug appliances when you’re not using them, including phones and tablets when the battery level reaches 100%. Put things like home entertainment systems on one power strip, so you can easily unplug them before going to bed, and turn your computer off completely when not in use, instead of leaving it in sleep mode.
Adjust the thermostat: Keeping your thermostat too high during the winter, and too low during the summer, can quickly add to your energy bill. During the summer, keep your thermostat at 25 or 26 degrees if possible, while in the winter keep your thermostat to 18 to 20 degrees. Each additional degree of heating or cooling can add 10% of your running costs to your bill, and that adds up quickly.
Change your laundry-washing habits: Switch to washing your laundry in cold water, for shorter wash cycles. Hot water usually isn’t necessary for day-to-day laundry, and it takes a lot of energy to heat up the water. In addition, switching it up and drying laundry on a clothesline lowers your energy usage while taking advantage of nature’s biggest generator: the sun.
Make sure your fridge and freezer are working efficiently: Set your refrigerator to 4 to 5 degrees, and your freezer to -15 to -18 degrees Celsius. Keep your fridge and freezer in cool, well-ventilated areas away from direct sunlight or any heat sources, and keep at least 5cm of space around each to ensure good air circulation. If you have multiple fridges and freezers, ask yourself if they are really necessary, or if you can reduce how many you use. Once a month, defrost your freezer to prevent ice buildup.
Change your coffee habits: Switching from a single-serving automatic espresso machine to a manual method of coffee-making like french press or pour over, can help you save energy in your home, especially if you’re using an electric kettle. And if you can’t give up the easy espresso, make sure to unplug the machine whenever you aren’t using it.
Plan ahead to start reducing your electricity
These energy efficient tips require a bit more planning but, by incorporating these solutions in your life, you’ll end up saving more energy and money in the long run.
Switch to energy efficient light bulbs: Energy efficient light bulbs might be more expensive on the shelf, but they can be up to 75% more energy efficient than traditional halogen or incandescent bulbs. Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, or LED bulbs, are some of the more energy efficient options available when it comes to lighting your house.
Make the switch to energy-saving and smart appliances: Look for appliances with “eco”options and an energy rating. Energy efficient washers and dryers, dishwashers, fridges, and freezers might cost a bit more upfront but can save you on your bills by using anywhere from 9% to 25% less energy while in use.
Switch your shower head: Changing to a low-flow shower head could save you energy and water. Showerheads are measured in litres per minute, and 3-star energy efficient showerheads use less than 9 litres per minute while older showerheads could use over 20 litres per minute, not only wasting water but wasting energy through heating the water up. Thanks to designs in technology, low-flow doesn’t mean an unsatisfactory shower, and the feel of water pressure might actually be better with a new showerhead.
Check for drafts: Add draft stoppers to your doors and windows, to keep your heating and cooling at optimal levels. Draft stoppers (also known as draft snakes, or draft blockers) are long, thin, pillows that lie in front of the bottom edge of doors and windows to block drafts from the outside. DIY-leaning people can easily sew, crochet, or knit a draft stopper, or you can purchase them in a number of fun designs and patterns.
Add insulated curtains: Insulated, light-blocking, and sound-dampening curtains can be a great investment. Not only do they keep the heat inside your home in the winter, and the heat outside your home in the summer, they can block out the sun to prevent a greenhouse effect, and let you sleep better by preventing light and sound from disturbing you.
Long-term energy saving solutions
These energy saving solutions require more time and money upfront, but can help you transform your home into an energy-efficient powerhouse for the long term.
Check your windows: Replacing your windows with energy efficient choices can save you up to $100 per year while keeping your home more comfortable.
- Double or triple-glazed windows offer more insulation between the temperatures outside of your home and inside your home, keeping your house warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer
- Low emissivity (low-E) glass is the most energy efficient glass choice for windows. It has a microscopic coating of metal oxide on one of the internal glass surfaces, which helps reflect sun away from your house
- Gaps between the glass layers: These are the gaps between the layers of glass in double or triple glazed windows. The size of the gap affects performance, and while 16mm is generally seen as the optimal gap size, this might not always be the case. The gap might be filled with normal air, or a gas like argon which can increase insulation performance.
Weatherize your home: A more permanent solution to fixing drafts, weatherizing homes involves caulking or weather stripping to prevent air leaks. For any drafts between two non-moving objects (such as between a wall and window frame), apply caulk, and for any leaks between moving objects, such as windows, apply weather stripping. These air leaks can happen between walls and floor, around doors and windows, or even electrical outlets and light fixtures.
Insulate your home: If your home is improperly insulated, you could be losing energy through heating and cooling through your walls, ceiling, or crawlspace. Insulation is measured in R-Value which measures how well the insulation resists heat flow. Different regions in Australia have different recommended R-Values for homes.
Plant trees: Adding some green to your garden can reduce how much heating and cooling your home uses. By planting trees around the south and western sides of your house, you can help block the sun out during the summer to reduce cooling costs, and block out cold wind during the winter to reduce your heating bill.
Upgrade your HVAC system: Upgrading your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system can save you energy long-term. By replacing your heating and cooling systems with energy efficient appliances, and making sure the air ducts that make up your ventilation system are sealed and insulated properly, you could save up to 20% on your heating and cooling expenses.
Solar PV: Install solar panels and a solar PV system on your roof and begin generating your own renewable energy. Thanks to a number of payment plans and solar rebates, as well as the decreasing price in technology, solar panels are now easier than ever to get installed onto your house.
Help with electricity bills: Energy rebates and concessions
Sometimes we need a bit more help than just reducing our energy usage, and switching providers, to keep up with energy bills. In Australia, there are a number of short and long-term energy rebates and concessions for households who might be struggling to pay their energy bills, or have qualifying conditions to receive assistance from the government.
Each state or territory has different energy rebates and concessions, with different eligibility requirements, but most often than not you need to have a qualifying Concessions Card, Health Care Card, or Department of Veterans’ Affairs card to start the process of applying for an energy rebate or concession.
Some common rebates include:
- Energy assistance payments: A one-off payment to help with energy bills when you experience a sudden financial crisis
- Seniors energy rebate: A rebate for seniors or pensioners on a fixed income, with a qualifying Senior Card or Pensioner Concession Card
- Low Income Rebate: For households who are below the minimum income threshold
- Family energy rebate: For families with dependent children or children in school
- Medical energy rebates: Various rebates for Australian residents who have qualifying medical conditions, or require doctor-mandated medical equipment that might increase energy costs.
Reduce your electreicity bill with solar panels in Australia and solar feed-in-tariff
If you’re looking at long-term solutions to reduce your energy bill, you might want to consider a residential solar PV system. While the upfront cost of solar panels might deter some from making the investment, there are many solar rebates available to Australians to help reduce the costs. Not to mention, the amount of solar energy you generate can lower your electricity bill, by not only reducing how much electricity you draw from the grid, but also by earning you money with a solar feed-in-tariff.
A solar feed-in-tariff is a rate charged by your energy provider, to you, for the amount of electricity you generate with your residential solar panels and applying that to your electricity bill. The more solar energy you generate and send, the more you’ll earn with a solar feed-in-tariff. Solar feed-in-tariffs vary widely between energy providers and by state, and choosing the best solar energy plan for your household depends on your lifestyle and energy habits.
|Higher FiT||Bigger total discount|