Australians are spending far more time than usual at home during the pandemic and, as a result, many are worried about soaring energy bills.
New research has found 40 per cent of us are concerned about higher energy costs, especially during the lockdown periods, while three-quarters of us have stayed at home for much longer periods than in 2019.
“I think people are now getting quite stressed about bills,” says financial advisor Helen Baker. “So many are working from home and home-schooling and using lots more devices that it’s clear that there’s a lot of pressure on energy bills.
“So, more than at any other time, it’s important that people really think about their energy use and take some simple steps to cut back.”
In the study by PureProfile of 1050 Australians, commissioned by wearable blanket company The Oodie, 42 per cent of people revealed they are spending more than $300 each quarter on energy, while 20 per cent said they are spending more than $400.
Across the states, 48 per cent of NSW residents said their energy bills were more than $300 per quarter, compared with 37 per cent of Victorian residents and 21 per cent of WA residents.
Fortunately, there are simple ways to reduce energy usage and slash power bills both now and in the future.
Short-term energy saving tips
1. Layer up and use heating wisely.
Gas and electric heaters can account for up to 26 per cent of household energy use, so turn them off when a room is warm, or set the aircon temperature a few degrees lower, Baker advises. Also, consider layering on more clothing before turning the heating on.
2. Be aware of ‘vampire energy’ consumption.
Even when appliances are not in use, they continue to consume electricity. Phone chargers are particularly bad, consuming 0.26 watts every hour they are left idle, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, while fully charged phones that are still connected can account for more than 2 watts per hour. Best to switch off all devices at the power point – and potentially save more than $200 a year.
Vampire energy – How much power your appliances consume
|Appliance/mode||Average power consumption (W)|
|Mobile phone charger|
|Power supply only||0.26|
|Fully on, charged||29.48|
|Fully on, charging||44.28|
|Power supply only||4.42|
|On, not playing||33.99|
|Garage door opener|
|Ready, door closed||3.08|
|Ready, door open||25.79|
Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
3. Turn off lights when you’re not in the room.
Energy expert Bernie Kelly of tech platform bidmysolar says his research has discovered that Sydneysiders are Australia’s biggest energy-guzzlers and 35 per cent keep lights on in other parts of the house when they’re in other rooms.
4. Cut down on hot water.
Take shorter showers and wash clothes in cold water – a hot water cycle on the washing machine uses 50-85 per cent more energy than cold water
5. Dry clothes on a line.
Clothes driers take up huge amounts of energy, while sunshine and wind are free.
6. Use energy out of peak times.
Under some contracts, energy can cost you less if you use it outside the peak times – usually from 10pm to 7am, says the NSW government’s Energy Saver website. Put everything – such as washing machines, dishwashers and pool pumps – on timers to make everything work more efficiently, and cheaply, off-peak, advises Kelly.
7. Close doors and windows to keep heat in.
Using door snakes and rugs and closing the curtains or putting down blinds earlier at night can cut out draughts and make a room feel warmer, says Baker.
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Medium-term energy saving tips
8. Carry out an audit on your power use.
It might surprise you how much power you’re using when you don’t need to, says Kelly. If lighting is taking a lot of power, and cash, replace all your lights with LED, halogen or lower-voltage models.
9. Check older appliances.
They consume more energy than newer models and so it might be worthwhile replacing them with better energy-star-rated ones. For example, Baker says, a TV with a seven-star label of 213 kilowatt-hours a year on a rate of 28.55 cents can cost about $61 a year to run, while a three-star label could set households back $148 annually. Fridges and freezers can also be run on temperatures slightly warmer than usual when the weather is cool.
10. Power down appliances when travelling.
If you’re able to travel, take the opportunity to clean out your fridge and freezer and turn them off before going on holiday, says Kelly. “They can chew up a lot of power and you don’t need to use them.”
11. Shop around for a better deal.
Compare energy providers every year to see if there are more affordable options in the market. “Comparison sites are a quick and easy – and mostly free – way to shop around for a cheaper energy provider,” says Baker. “There are also often incentives to take advantage of when moving from one provider to another.”
Long-term energy saving tips
12. Invest in solar.
There are a lot of Federal Government solar incentives on offer at the moment, and solar itself is getting cheaper and cheaper, says Chris Williams of Natural Solar. “You can see a return on your investment as quickly as two to three years, while the average is four to five,” he says. “There are also sizeable rebates on batteries in Victoria and South Australia so you can store and use solar power at other times of the day, and interest-free loans in NSW. The goal is to get your electricity bills as close to zero as possible.”
13. Check windows and doors.
If they don’t fit well or are of lower glazing quality, it might be worthwhile considering replacing your windows and doors. Windowline, for instance, says it chooses its products for durability, wind load, thermal efficiency and acoustic performance.
14. Be thrifty when buying new appliances.
Choose those that suit your needs and use the lowest number of watts or megajoules, advises the NSW government. And avoid upgrading to bigger products or those with more features you may never use