10 steps to reduce your energy bill (part 1)

Here’s how to save money on your energy bill – from negotiating a better deal to being smarter about your usage.

If you want to know how to cut your energy bill without doing a PhD in Energy Efficiency, we’ve got you covered.

In this three-part series we take you through some of the best tips from the South Australian Government’s new EnergySmart South Australia guide. But first, let’s set the scene.

The causes of high energy prices in Australia are much debated – and the costs being quoted aren’t always accurate. But one thing’s for sure: Australians are paying too much in energy costs.

While it could be because of energy pricing in general and not being able to understand complicated billing systems, it also might be because of your usage and not knowing what will really make a dent in your bill.

But it’s not just about your hip pocket. In Australia, more than one third of our carbon emissions come from electricity consumption. So being more energy efficient equals lower emissions, and that’s good news for everyone.

Here’s the first 3 of 10 steps to reduce your energy bills and help the planet:

Step 1: Negotiate a better energy deal – and use the savings for energy-efficient investments

Often your energy plan offers a great price, but it might expire after a year, which means discounts no longer apply. Without renegotiating to get on a better plan, you end up paying more than you should. Instead of just soldiering on, call some energy retailers and tell them you’re shopping around for a better deal.

If online is more your preference, the Energy Made Easy website is an independent government-funded comparison website where you can plug in the usage from your most recent bill and see how much you’ll save from switching energy retailers.

Look at the total price and don’t be seduced by high discounts that might be based on higher base prices. It’s better to have a lower price with a lower discount than a higher discount allocated to a much, much higher price. For instance:

  Supplier A Supplier B
Price  47c 37c
Discount 18% 10%
Effective price per KWh 38.54c 33.3c

You can use the financial savings and invest them into energy efficiency improvements, saving you even more money and helping the environment even more.

Step 2: Switch off and save

The average household spends more than $250 a year on standby power. A study by Choice Magazine found that leaving a multi-function printer on standby could cost more than $118 a year!

Instead, switch appliances off at the wall – you’ll save on unnecessary power use and that also means fewer emissions. Here’s a few tips:

  • Turn your Wifi off

Many of us go to work and leave our WiFi router on at home the whole day. In fact, leaving your WiFi on 24 hours a day uses 8760 hours of power every year, even though you may only be using it for a few hours a day. Get into the habit of turning it off when you’re not using it – it will usually take less than 5 minutes to turn it back on again. 

  • Reassess your need for a second fridge or freezer

You might have a second fridge that’s useful for Christmas or parties, but leaving it on the whole year can cost you a few hundred dollars so it’s much cheaper to clear it out and turn it off. Just leave the door ajar to prevent mould.

It’s often older fridges that use the most energy – and have the most emissions – so if you do need that second fridge, replacing it with a newer, energy-efficient fridge may actually pay for itself as it’ll be cheaper to run.

  • Get smart with your power board

If your cords or power boards are in hard-to-reach places, there’s now remote-controlled plugs or Wifi-enabled plugs linked to smartphone apps, which can be used to turn the power off remotely.

Alternatively, invest in a ‘smart’ power board that can tell when a device like your computer has been turned off and then shuts down power to all the connected devices around it, such as the printer or Wifi unit.

Step 3: Watch your thermostat

Adjusting your thermostat by just one degree lower in winter or one degree higher in summer can reduce your heating or cooling bills by up to 10 per cent and reduce your carbon emissions.

Set your thermostat according to the season – 24-27 degrees in summer and 18-21 degrees in winter. During winter, pushing the thermostat higher won’t make your house heat up any quicker – it just wastes energy and your hard-earned money.

If you’ve already set the temperature and your house doesn’t seem warm or cool enough, check the location of your thermostat. If it is placed in direct sunlight or near heat-radiating equipment such as refrigerators, it’s likely to provide an inaccurate temperature. Also remember to check the room for draughts or heat escaping through gaps above or underneath doors and windows, and see what other changes you can make.

Some heaters don’t come with a room-temperature thermostat and may overheat the room, costing you money in the process. At about $40 a unit, plug-in electronic thermostats like the HeaterMate work by automatically turning off your heater or air-con when the room has reached a certain temperature. Buying one of these is a small investment but will soon save you money.

Keeping the temperature of your house as low as you are comfortably able to in winter helps save energy, emissions and cash. And let’s face it, we’d rather spend that money enjoying life than paying too much in bills.

Stay tuned for the next instalment – we’ll show you how to cut your lighting bills, use insulation to your advantage, and reduce your heating and cooling costs.

Information produced in this blog is courtesy of the EnergySmart South Australia guide, produced by the South Australian Government, in partnership with energy expert, Founder and Managing Director of DoSomething, Jon Dee.

EnergySmart South Australia will run a series of workshops across the state this year on improving energy efficiency for households and businesses. The first will be held at the Tonsley Innovation Precinct in Adelaide’s south on Thursday, September 7. Head to their website for more information. 

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