How you can save on your power usage


Opening your electricity bill is never fun, especially when it keeps getting bigger year after year. We’ve put together a guide with tips for how you can manage your household energy consumption, find the right provider and contract, and push your electricity costs down.

To help get you started on your energy saving journey, here are our tips to guide you on a path to saving your pennies, especially if you need to spend more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Key factors that affect your energy bill

The first step to managing your energy bill is to understand where the costs are coming from, so you can start working to reduce them.

Here are some of the main factors that affect your bill:

1. Your home’s design.

How big it is and what features it has (gas or electric heating, central heating, etc.) will affect your energy consumption.

2. Energy efficiency of devices.

Appliances can be power-hungry beasts, depending on what you have

3. Your lifestyle.

The times that you’re home as well as what appliances you use and when can have a big effect on your energy bill

4. Energy provider.

Your choice of energy retailer and the contract you sign affect how much you pay

How does your electric bill work?

The number you see printed on your electricity bill is actually composed of a few different costs added together. There are three contributors:

  • Fixed rates. These are the daily fees you pay for being hooked up to the grid, regardless of whether you’re using any power. Your consumption doesn’t affect these.
  • Variable rates. These are a direct result of how and when you consume electricity. Your choice of retailer and the contract you sign will determine how these operate at different times of the day and week.
  • Network costs. These are the costs distributed among all consumers to pay for upgrading and maintaining new and existing power infrastructure.

Changes that you make to your own energy consumption will only affect variable rates. However, if        households as a whole were to use less energy, network costs would drop since there would be less  need for upgrades to support higher peak demand.

How much can you save?

Implementing just a few energy-saving measures can save a family hundreds of dollars off their bills each year.

For example, switching off a games console when not in use could save up to $1931 a year, while installing a super-efficient showerhead could not only save $3151 in water bills but a bunch of electricity too by not having to heat excess water. Small changes add up.

Managing your energy use

Once you have a basic picture of your energy consumption, including when and how you use the most energy, you can go deeper into managing it:

  • Compare patterns of use. Using your energy bills, figure out how your energy consumption has changed with the seasons and how your energy use this year compares to the last. If you’re using more than you used to, or use more in summer or winter, figure out why.
  • Consider time of use. Do you stay at home during the day and go out at night? Are you part of a family that arrives home together and switches everything from the computer to the lights on? Knowing this should help you pick the right type of energy contract. Additionally, switching appliance use to off-peak periods (like running your wash late at night) can help lower costs.
  • Find energy hotspots. Usually, the biggest guzzlers of power in your house will be heating and cooling, followed by standby power, lighting and cooking. Make sure the appliances you use to heat and cool your house are installed correctly and well-maintained, and see if you can get them to run more efficiently with small changes.
  • Use energy-efficient appliances. Appliances make up about 30% of electricity bills. Cheaper appliances may cost you more in the long run with the energy they chew through. Don’t buy big appliances with features you won’t use, and go for ones with the highest energy star rating. Finally, make sure you install and maintain them properly — don’t place your fridge next to a hot oven, for example.
  • Take simple action. There are many little things you can do to save. If you get cold in winter, you may want to invest in thicker sheets instead of turning on a heater or buy a more efficient heater if possible. Blocking holes in your house can also save on heating costs.
Beware of standby power
  • Standby power is the electricity that’s consumed by your appliances that aren’t being used or when they are on ‘standby’.
  • How badly does standby power impact energy use?
  • Standby power accounts for as much as 10% of overall household electricity usage and while most appliances only draw a small amount of energy on standby, the costs add up. Your digital home appliances alone could be costing you as much as $171.27 a year. Luckily, reducing your bill is as easy as flicking a switch.
Embrace off-peak power

Power’s most expensive when everyone else is using it, usually from 7am-10pm daily. Here are two ways to profit off consuming power when no one else is:

  • Off-peak water heater. Since heating water consumes about 25% of a household’s electricity, installing a system which only heats water during off-peak periods and then stores it for use can really cut your bills. Check if this is available with your retailer and water heater.
  • Time-of-use plans. This type of energy tariff charges you less for energy during off-peak periods. So long as you have a smart meter involved and your household consumption patterns support it, this might help you save.
Why is energy getting more expensive?

The network costs mentioned above are the main reason energy prices have continued to rise in the past decade or so.

There are constant upgrades being made to Australia’s power infrastructure, such as replacing and repairing old poles and wires as well as increasing network capacity for a growing population and rising peak energy demands. As these operations continue and expand, electricity bills grow to match them.

How to save energy in different areas of your life

Save energy around the home
  • Insulate — Insulation is almost never a bad thing. A correctly insulated home will maintain warmth in the winter and will remain cool in the summer. Well insulated hot water pipes will reduce heat loss and save money on heating water.
  • Seal the doors — Make sure your door and window gaps are all tight seal. Use a gap filler or draught excluders to block drafts.
  • Hot water system — If you’re going away from the house for more than a week, switch off your hot water system.
  • Set the hot water temperature — Set the heat to between 60℃-65℃. This will avoid burns to small children and reduce your overall power consumption.
  • In fact, seal everything — Seal gaps around skirting boards, ceilings and old air vents, it will all help you keep control of your temperature.
  • Design right — In a well-designed home, eaves will shade summer sun while allowing winter sun in. This will allow you more control over the temperature and feel of your home. If, however, you aren’t lucky enough to have eaves, then external blinds, pergola or deciduous vine could also be used to provide natural shade.
  • Unoccupied rooms — Close vents and ducts to unoccupied rooms while cooling or heating the house.
  • Fan — Use a fan instead of an air conditioner. They are often cheaper.
  • A degree of difference — Increase your A/Cs temperature by 1℃ in summer and drop it by 1℃ in winter. A small change like this can save you up to 10% of your energy consumption.
  • Types of units — There are a variety of air conditioning units that vary in their efficiency and energy consumption, make sure to gather as much information as you can before purchasing a unit. Often inverter units are quieter and more energy efficient.
  • Sizing — Ensure that your A/C unit is appropriately sized. Residents often purchase machines too large for their house; this type of mistake costs more to buy and more from the environment.
  • Leaving home — If you are leaving the house for more than one hour, shut the A/C off until you return.
  • Quality — Air conditioners feature the Energy Rating System, allowing you to choose some of the most energy-efficient products. The energy efficiency star system is tailored for every product and takes into consideration special features of individual products.
  • Pre-cooling — If there’s a hot day coming up, pre-cool your house the night before by letting the cool air in. This reduces the strain on the system, and if your house has got insulation, it will retain the coolness over to the next day.
  • Cleaning — The filters on an A/C unit do require cleaning. You should aim to clean these components every few months. If left uncleaned, A/Cs operating in a dusty house can ice up and stop working.
  • Types of units — There are a variety of air conditioning units that vary in their efficacy and energy consumption.
  • Compressor unit — If the external component of your A/C is in full sunlight all day, make sure to shade it under an awning or with mesh. This helps it work more efficiently and therefore less energy consumption.
  • Shade from the sun — Lined curtains and pelmets will help keep heat in during winter and out on hot summer days. A pelmet will stop draughts that are caused by airflow in between curtains and windows.
  • Upgrade to LED Lighting— Incandescent bulbs or halogen lights are a lot less efficient. LED lighting is much more efficient, uses much less power and has a very long life.
  • Buy energy-efficient lamps — It’s estimated that modern energy-efficient lamps use up to 75% less energy than incandescent ones, and they’ll last up to eight times longer. Hard to argue with those numbers.
  • Turn off lights whenever they’re not in use — This is an easy one. Nothing to buy, nothing to learn, just make sure that whenever you’re not in the room the lights are turned off. And don’t fall for the myth that turning lights on and off is less efficient than leaving them on. When you’re not in the room, turn them off.
  • Get motion sensors for outside lights — A lot of people already have these and there is a good reason, external lighting is usually not needed all the time, and sensors do a great job of making sure that it’s there whenever it is.
  • Go to bed early — Needless to say, most of us stay awake deep into the darkness of the night. And the combined energy usage of the lights that are required to keep our homes, streets and businesses lit is a big part of our collective usage. If you want to save a little energy, then why not go to bed a little earlier? It might help you save money on morning coffee, too.
Save energy in the kitchen
  • Stick it in the microwave — A microwave can cook food up to three times faster than a standard oven, and it does so using up to 70% less electricity.
  • Steam less — If you like to cook things with steam, use the least amount of water required, this will save on water and on energy.
  • Put a lid on it — Whenever possible, cook food with a lid on, this raises the internal temperature and will cook foods quicker.
  • Thaw it — If you’re defrosting something, make sure it’s completely thawed before cooking.
  • The kettle — Try to only boil as much water as you need in a kettle, this will save energy. And if you heat water on the stove, consider an electric kettle, which will also consumes less energy.
  • Avoid the pre-heat — Heating an oven with nothing in it is the definition of wastage, only pre-heat oven if absolutely necessary.
  • Under pressure — Pressure cookers require half the energy that standard ovens use, so consider this an option.
  • Shut that door — Avoid opening the oven door when cooking. Each time you open the door you can reduce the temperature by up to 20 degrees. This also means it takes longer for you to eat.
  • Full load — Make sure that you only ever run the dishwasher with a full load. This is because the dishwasher will always use the same amount of water and electricity, no matter how full it is. You would fill your entire sink with hot water to wash one spoon, so don’t do it with your dishwasher.
  • Skip the drying cycle — If you’ve ever reached into the dishwasher just after the completion of its cycle, you’ll have felt just how hot the dishes get. That is because after washing dishwashers move into a warm air drying phase. This is a very energy intense process and can easily be skipped. Simply turn off your dishwasher after the drying phase, open the door and let the air and gravity do the hard work for you.
  • Go for economy — Certain dishwasher brands come with an eco-setting, which may use a lower water temperature or a shorter cycle. If your dishwasher has this setting, make sure you’re using it if you want to save on the power.
  • Don’t rinse first — Dishwashers are powerful machines, they use very hot water and plenty of power, yet many people still rinse their dishes before they go in. Skip this step, it’s not necessary, and you’ll save time and water.
  • Replace fridge seals when they lose grip — If the door is opening, then the fridge motor will have to work harder to maintain its cool temperature, this will use up far more energy than if the door is kept sealed.
  • Ensure the refrigerator is in a cool place — Refrigerators maintain a consistent temperature, and so the harder they have to fight to keep that temperature down. Keep them cool on the outside to help them cool on the inside.
  • Ensure the back of the refrigerator is well ventilated — This will help the fridge to work at it’s most efficient.
  • Turn appliances off at the wall when not being used — Even when on standby appliances like coffee machines, toasters and kettles keep sapping the energy. Turn them off to minimise your usage.
Save energy in the bathroom
  • Short showers over baths
  • Fix the dripping taps
  • Insulate copper pipes
Save energy in the laundry
  • Cold wash — Up to 90% of the energy used by a washing machine goes into heating up the water. To avoid this huge energy spike, you can wash your clothes in cold water. This is a great option for clothes that are generally dirty and works fine most of the time. For heavily sullied items or whites, though, hot water may be necessary to get out all of the stains. This might mean you’ll have to group heavily soiled items together for a hot wash.
  • Cold rinse — Yes, this tip is quite similar to the last — but — cold rinses can be used for every type of clothing situation, regardless of dirtiness, so activate that.
  • Laundry sink — A dripping tap is akin to pouring money down the drain. It costs money to use water and to heat it, too. A small drip, depending on its frequency, can result in dozens of litres of wasted water, and that’s just from one tap. Hiring a plumber to fix this and other piping problems will save you money in the long run.
  • Front-loader — In general, front-loading washing machines are superior to top loading ones. When washing, front-loaders are more gentle on the clothes, and when drying, they spin more water out. They use less energy and water, up to 70% in some cases, than top-loaders. And they’re cheaper, too!
  • Pipe insulation — Copper pipes can be insulated in rubber tubing to maintain consistent temperatures and thus save power.
Save energy outdoors
  • Solar power is your friend
  • Motion sensors for outdoor lights
  • Use timers for pool filters and pumps
Save energy with your PC
  • Switch device — There are many alternatives to a desktop, these days. There are smartphones, tablets, laptops, and smart TVs even. All of these devices use less energy than a typical desktop. If you need the functionality of a computer but are energy-conscious, try switching over to a laptop instead.
  • Specialised power board — If you use a typical power board, switching it off causes everything connected to go off. This is fine unless you leave your power board switched on because one appliance is being used while half a dozen others aren’t. This might occur if you leave your computer on overnight to perform a task, but have a printer, scanner, and other device plugged in but idle. Smart power boards, on the other hand, can have each PowerPoint switched off separately, and independently to the rest.
  • Automatic shutdowns — You can set your computer to shut down automatically at a particular time. This may be handy if you are prone to forgetting about turning your computer off.
  • Power timers — You can easily purchase power timers: they are cheap (around $10) and easy to use. You plug your device, such as a laptop (or phone), charger into the timer, and then plug the timer into the regular power point. You can set the timer to turn off the flow of power at any point, maybe one or two hours after you begin charging. The benefits are two-fold: i) You are not wasting electricity, and ii) the batteries in your devices will last longer because they are not getting charged for 8-9 hours.
  • Energy settings — Computers often offer various power options for performance, i.e., low power-use, low performance, or high power consumption, high performance. Set your machine to lower settings and see if there is any compromise in functionality.
  • Star rating — Star ratings are an excellent way to find out the efficiency of many appliances, including computers. When purchasing your next machine, keep an out for the characteristic energy stars.
  • Monitor your screen’s brightness — As you may have noticed from your phone’s battery, a lion’s share of energy is used up from illuminating the screen. Try reducing the brightness on your monitor until it is dimmer but still conveniently illuminate.
  • Energy settings — Computers often offer various power options for performance, i.e., low power-use, low performance, or high power consumption, high performance. Set your machine to lower settings and see if there is any compromise in functionality.
  • Switch to a flat panel monitor — Flat panels use less energy than the older CRT ones. If you’re considering purchasing a new computer or switching monitors — take a look at a flat panel.
  • Screen saver — Screen savers don’t save energy. In fact, they could even use up more energy, especially with a new fandangle screensaver such as a digital aquarium or infinite pipe maze. Instead, try switching your monitor to fall asleep quicker.
  • Shut down — Actually turn your computer off when you’re done. You can save your browsing history and documents such that when you reboot they’re ready to go again. If shutting down is impossible, try the hibernation mode.
Save energy at work
  • Switch off lights and devices — This is a nice and easy one. At the end of the day, are you able to go around and switch off all of the lights, computers, monitors, fax machines, printers, and other energy consuming appliances? Individually, these appliances may not add significantly to your bill, but having everyone’s machines on every night can very quickly add up.
  • Laptops over desktops — Laptops use much less energy than desktops, sometimes as much as 90% less. Laptops have the added convenience of being able to be carried around between meetings and desks. Consider investing in work laptops for your employees.
  • Motion detectors — Motion detectors are an easy way to save energy. These should be installed in rooms that are used frequently but not constantly such as bathrooms. Motion will trigger the lights to switch on when needed, saving power when no one is around to require it. There are plenty of motion-detecting solutions on the market, and you can learn more about some of them in our guide to smart lighting.
  • Blinds and windows — In the early morning and later afternoon when the sun is at an angle to heat the office up, try closing the blinds so the air-conditioner doesn’t have to work so hard. On top of that, light-reducing films can be adhered to the windows to further reduce intense sunlight.
  • Service your cooling system — Have your air conditioning or other cooling system looked at and serviced. Have someone clean and replace any parts necessary. This may save you in the long-term.
  • Energy Star rating system — Energy Star produces energy efficiency ratings for many appliances, including computers, copiers, printers, faxes, etc. Products are evaluated by third parties to determine their energy efficiency. They are then labelled accordingly. If a product has the energy star label, then it has been deemed more efficient than many other products of its type. Keep an eye out for it. Many appliances, new and old, have energy efficient modes — train staff to operate these modes.
  • Substitute lights — Yes, this is a simple and fun way to save energy. Different lights provide vastly different atmospheres around the workplace, and also contribute significantly to employee efficiency. Do a little bit of research. When deciding on lights, try and choose ones between 500 and 1,000 lux — the unit of illumination. You also want flicker-free lighting as this can cause eye strain and migraines. The ‘warmth’ of the light also makes a significant difference to workplace efficiency. Fluorescent lights are the most common lights used in office environments, however, they often have colder lights that reduce efficiency.
  • Leaf blowing and other maintenance duties — Wherever possible, minimise wasteful activities such as using leaf blowers or hoses to remove leaf litter and use a broom or manual method instead.
  • Thermostat — It is easy to reduce your energy consumption when it comes to heating or cooling the office. You can turn down the temperature by a degree or two in winter and turn it up a degree or two in summer to suit. Since heating and cooling appliances run for long periods of time, their energy saving potential is large. While you’re at it, bring a door snake, or five, to the office to limit how hard your cooling and heating systems have to work.
  • Office culture — Make your workplace one that cares about the planet. Instill a sense of significance for each change towards efficiency. It will facilitate changes for the better.

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