How to Save Money On Your Electricity Bill
Fighting the big three
Are you with one of the big three energy polluters; AGL, Energy Australia or Origin? Well here are a few reasons to question why you’re still with them.
This tight knit oligopoly get away scot free with recklessly contributing far more to carbon emissions than any other industry sector in Australia, just by themselves. You would think that the money they saved by sacrificing the atmosphere would get passed on as cheaper bills. Well you would be mistaken, because they also represent by far the least value for consumers. So unless you’re a share holder this is very bad news. In addition to that they spend millions in relentlessly lobbying the Australian Government to reduce corporate tax rates, to slacken environmental protections, to slacken climate regulation and energy mining regulation including the dirtiest methods – coal and coal seem gas.
Now if they are following the law then this is more of a legislative issue then right? Well that is exactly accurate, in a capitalist environment a company optimises profit within the boundaries of the law. But we have an effective tool for fighting back, voting with our wallets. Savy, responsible consumers can sting them hard by choosing a better option. Assuming one exists. Well the good news is that now many do.
So if you’ve had enough of the environmental vandalism or just looking to save a little coin with a cheaper deal what about checking out some hungry up and comers that are highly motivated to take some market share off these big three polluters. Check out some comparison sites to shop around for the cheapest option in your area Energy Watch, iSelect and you compare. For those looking for a 100% renewable provider we recommend Powershop.
The Starks’ may be the popular underdogs but they are mistaken, winter isn’t coming, it’s here! Despite the Aussie thick skinned toughness, which sees many underheating their homes in order to reduce power consumption, we all will nevertheless soon receive those elevated winter month bills.
Why so much in winter? Well there are a whole host of common reasons. Firstly, the history of the country. With an abundance of high quality black coal in our backyards and low efficiency (cheap) coal fired power stations Australia’s historical energy prices have been relatively cheap. The previous abundance of cheap power meant consumption is not something we have had to be aware of. Couple this with a mostly mild winter climate on the coastal fringes. Ask any home owner, the driving factor of housing construction is frequently cost, and it has been found that lower building costs could be achieved by neglecting insulation and thermal dynamics. Now in addition consider the fact that Australia’s housing stock is quite old in many suburban areas. This paints a picture of the state we are in, and that is one of extremely poor thermal efficiency and performance. Many Australian homes are not much better than a “half zipped tent”. Poorly and rarely insulated roofs, thin internal walls, poor seals with large cracks in doors and windows, single pane glass and large homes with many points of thermal leakage.
Besides wanting smaller bills, many residents also want to improve comfort, lessen their environmental impact and boost their home’s value.
So without going back to the architect and redesigning the entire house from the bottom up here are a list of handy pragmatic hints you can apply to your existing home from the top down.
- Compare, compare, compare. Search around for the best deal for you, there are now many comparison websites that can do all the leg work for you, all you need is your last bill or two to get an accurate analysis. We have conveniently provided a few such links for you above. Even if you don’t want to change retailers you can call them up and just threaten (or imply) to switch in order to extract a better deal or a discount. Given the increasingly competitive nature of the power market today this little trick has been working a treat for many of our customers.
- Keep track of your current power usage as you go during the month/quarter. There are many ways to do this. Some companies offer their own custom app, others can send you an automated usage email periodically. Another way to monitor your usage is through a smart electricity meter with an in-home display, this can give you real time feedback, making it easier to determine the real load an appliance is drawing.
- Here’s an easy one. Switch to off-peak hot water, particularly if you have an old style resistive-electric tank.
- Lose the beer fridge. Running a secondary refridgerator adds alot to your baseload, particularly if its left on or is located in a warm room.
- Alot of tv screens run super hot specifically older generation plasmas, switch it out for a newer LCD that use a fraction of the juice. But remember to recycle it responsibly, tv screens do not belong in landfill, if you’re unsure check with your local council/municipality.
- Standard hot water pipes in Australia are thin walled copper, and if you didn’t know copper is great for electrical and thermal conductivity. What does this mean, well, as you use your hot water the pipes themselves will heat up (and expand), and this goes the other way too. To avoid thermal sinking to ground or ambient air it is advised to insulate all exposed hot water pipes including the pressure release valve on your hot water tank, and the tank itself if possible.
- Cut out unused rooms. Close all the doors of any unused rooms so that you are not inadvertently heating them too when you don’t need to be. Perhaps you could go a step farther and close off a hallway or a whole section of your house. You can do this by placing temporary dividers up like hanging curtains or even sheet plastic. It is best to use the double glaze method to maximise the air barrier.
- Checkout your old heaters and air conditioner, clean them thoroughly where required, this will improve the efficiency of these appliances. Gas heating particularly ducted and built-in systems require professional inspection every few years. While your at it inspect your ducts; loose, damaged or degraded ducts will lead to massive thermal loses. Ensure that the return flow is drawing air from the living space as intended.
- Plug up all old-school wall vents if any are present. This ventilation process is no longer required, this was in the time of indoor combustion with poor exhaust gas extraction.
- Eliminate all gaps, cracks and any other imperfect seals. These holes allow heat to escape and cold air to rush in and replace it, creating the well known feeling of a cold draft. You will find them around doors, windows, skirting boards, floorboards and architraves. Remember to close air-conditioning ceiling vents in winter, and ofcourse unused chimneys need to be adequately sealed as well, both at the external roof juncture and internally too.
- A tip for home renovators or new home builders – avoid ceiling mounted downlights. Aim to have as few holes cut into the ceiling as possible, any ceiling hole decreases your insulation letting heat out in winter and heat in during summer. LED’s can conveniently replace them.
- Another straight forward one, change to high efficiency light bulbs. Go with LED (light emitting diode) or CFL (compact fluorescent lamps). Look to banish all halogen and incandescent bulbs as they waste way too much energy in the conversion process rejecting it as heat.
- Insulate your roof, it’s a no brainer. This is a one time capital expenditure and if its done right will transition to profit early through its life cycle by saving you money on heating and cooling throughout the year.
- While your at it do your floors and walls too, particularly if you live in a cooler/warmer climate or have a multi story residence. You will be surprised at how cost effective insulation is when your electricity bill arrives.
- Cover your windows from the inside with curtains, blinds, drapes or whatever you like. In extreme circumstances use plastic film or bubble wrap, this is a make shift double glazing, trapping a large air pocket between the window and the living space air.
- The same applies to the outside of your windows in summer. Reduce the sunlight (infrared and ultraviolet) entering your house by adding foliage or shade sails for example. In extreme circumstances you can add a reflective cover such as thin aluminium foil sheet.
- Consider painting your house with a quality paint that has excellent thermal insulative properties. We guarantee it’s well worth the slight increase in expenditure.
- Ask a Canadian or a northern European and they will undoubtedly tell you that when it comes to windows you’ve got to go double glazed. Double glazing drastically improves the insulative effect of the window by decreasing the thermal conductivity. It does this through the extra glass pane separated by thin air gap, it’s this change in medium that acts as a strong temperature buffer/resistor. For all Australian climate zones, double glazing is the way to go.
- Got a pool or spa/hot tub? The company you bought from and the installation guys will tell that its cheaper to keep it heated to a minimum all year round. And this might be true, if and only if, you use it all year round. Which is almost never the case. So advice here is to have some real talk with yourself and honestly identify the months in which they will be used and run the heater in those months only, keeping it off the other time. Also, always use a pool cover and a hot tub / spa cover. A cover will stop the water cooling down overnight and also minimise the running time for your filter pump.
- So what’s the best method to heat/cool your home? Arguably the winner of the efficiency contest and therefore also price (in the longterm) is a high efficiency heat-pump or equivalent reverse cycle air conditioner (although an open fire might beg to differ, if the wood can be collected processed for free).
- What about water? If your hot water system needs replacing or is close to end of life again consider abandoning traditional electric or gas and go for a heatpump, one that is compatible with solar panel input. So that it can be used with your current solar panels, or any you might get in the future if you don’t have any now. This will improve your solar panel returns by minimising the feed-in tariffs (payment for energy provided back to the grid) and consume all the power yourself, effectively increasing your rate to what the retailers are charging you.
- As for gas. Some people prefer cooking with gas for its natural clean flame cooking and heat concentration, which is fine. However as mentioned above its best to avoid gas for space and water heating. Avoiding gas will insulate you against the surely increasing gas prices, so it’s something to think about.
The Future is decentralised
You know you’re onto a winner when Warren Buffett is backing it. He has invested heavily in decentralised power production, storage and distribution in the USA. And it’s a safe bet that will be the future for energy in Australia too, no matter what the coal lobby and the Liberal government argue. This will decrease transmission loses, increase production efficiency and decrease gross point wastage. Not to mention drastically reduce cost for the consumer and green house emissions.
Rampant development of new technology is underway but for right now the decentralised weapon of choice is still solar.
In Australia these days, you won’t be paid much money for selling your electricity back to the grid. However, it might still pay to install solar if you can consume most of the energy yourself, by running your pool pumps, appliances, space heating and cooling devices, hot water system and even an electric car with solar electricity harvested during the day.
In future, as electricity storage batteries get cheaper, there may be even more economic reasons to have solar panels on your roof.
This article doesn’t list every possible behavioural trick or home improvement. Sadly, some homes will never be fantastic energy performers without significant modification. But hopefully there are a few things on this list that will work for you – even if it’s only a case of finally covering that drafty doorstep, or giving your creaking “beer fridge” a dignified retirement.
Take it one step farther
Looking for more ideas? For the complete document published by the Australian Government go here.
Share This Article