By Grant J Everett
Unless you like cold beans and icy showers in the dark, your home needs energy. And while electricity and gas prices are rising significantly over time, there’s a lot we can do to slash how much we use, leading to lower bills. Using less energy also helps with climate change, making it a wallet-friendly way to help the planet. It can be as easy as using your clothesline more often than your dryer.
Our energy expenditure depends on many factors, and while every household is different, most of our energy use will be spread between heating water, warming and cooling your home, on appliances like fridges and washing machines and televisions, cooking, and for lighting.
Air conditioners, televisions, computers and fridges and freezers are use a huge amount of power, and their age and power efficiency plays a major role in how much. It’s best to turn appliances off at the wall once you’ve finished with them. Note that plugged-in items on standby are still using power, such as blank screens, printers, speakers and mobile phone chargers. Buying smart power boards will give you more control.
Install appliances so they can run at an optimum. Fridges, for example, shouldn’t be placed next to ovens, as they’ll need to work harder to stay cool. Proper care is also important, so cool food before refrigerating it, and repair busted seals so cold air doesn’t leak out.
When the time comes to replace any major electrical appliances, energy-efficient models are a worthwhile investment. As appliances take up around a third of our energy bills, taking their running costs into account will save a considerable amount of money over time. To compare efficiency, check the number of stars on the appliance’s rating. Also, avoid the lure of upgrading to appliances that are too big.
Note that gas appliances are not regulated for energy efficiency by the Australian government.
Hot water can be the biggest energy drain in our homes. Wallet-friendly options include solar hot water systems, heat pump water heaters, and off-peak storage hot water systems. Install water-efficient showerheads (which pay for themselves quickly), take shorter showers, wash your clothes in cold water, and only run full loads when using a washing machine or a dishwasher. On top of this, use cheaper “off-peak” power between 10pm and 7am.
Hot and cold
Every degree of temperature control guzzles heaps of energy. In Winter, you can keep cozy on a budget by closing all internal doors and only heating the rooms you are using with an energy-efficient heater. Use warmer bedding and seal draughts with tape. As heat leaks out of your windows in Winter, open curtains to let the daytime sun in, and close them before sunset.
In Summer, close your curtains during the day, and open the curtains and windows at night for the cool breeze.
Make every kilowatt count
Energy bills spell out how much power you use at set times. Comparing your bills will form a picture of your energy consumption in different seasons, allowing you to see where your money is going. Energy prices also vary from provider to provider, so be sure to compare them. If you’ve been on the same contract for some time, ask them if you can get a better price.
You can set up regular payments towards your bill, making it easier to budget on a fixed income, or pay monthly instead of quarterly. Check there’s no increase in your rate with this option, though. Also, if you’re on the pension, you are eligible for a special rate.
EnergyMadeEasy.gov.au is a free guide that compares energy contracts and estimates costs.
There should be discounts for prompt payment, so always pay on time.