There's no doubt that energy prices are a hot topic in Australia at the moment. They've been increasing over the last few years, and it seems that the trend is set to continue: electricity prices are estimated to increase by an average of 37.2% nationally from 2010/11 to 2013/14i. So what does this mean for the average household? Quite simply, it means you can expect to spend more on your monthly electricity bills.
|Projected increase in residential electricity prices by state 2010/11 to 2013/14i
By cutting down on your household energy consumption, you can lower the amount owing on your bill. Taking just a few simple steps and adopting new habits can lower your household's energy use and save money in the long run. Plus, you'll be reducing your carbon footprint. Here are some of our top energy-saving tips.
1. Compare energy plans
How much are you paying per kilowatt hour? It might be more than you have to. Compare energy companies to see if you can get a cheaper deal for your household's needs. It's easy to be charmed by free gifts or vouchers, but the best deals will be ones that suit your own energy use patterns and save you money in the long run.
2. Identify power guzzlers
Your household appliances may be energy inefficient and costing you a fortune to use on a daily basis. Replacing these appliances or using them more efficiently or less often can help cut costs.
A simple way to reduce energy use is by replacing any remaining incandescent bulbs with efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) globesii.
When worn out, old appliances can be replaced with those that have energy saving features. Look out for an easy-to-recognise Energy Rating label when choosing between appliances - the more stars, the more efficient it is. Big consumers of electricity include washing machines, clothes dryers, refrigerators, hair dryers, microwaves, irons, dishwashers, air conditioners, electric kettles, vacuums and plasma televisions.
You can reduce the energy used by lights by simply turning them off when leaving a room, and by switching on lights appropriate to the level of light your activity needs. For example, watching television does not require every light in the room to be oniii! A fridge can be used more efficiently by keeping door seals clean and repaired if brokeniv. Dry your laundry on a clothesline on good weather days rather than putting them in the tumble dryer. If you do have to use the clothes dryer, clean the lint screen first to increase efficiencyv. Boil the kettle with only as much water as you need, and only use heating and air conditioners when necessaryiii.
3. Electric hot water
Electric hot water can account for a third of your total power use in a yearvi. If you're on a single (peak) rate tariff, try switching to an off-peak, hard wired electric hot water systemvii. You could also look to decrease your thermostat settings - even decreasing the temperature by 5 degrees could help reduce your overall electricity consumption! A professional should be called in to change your thermostat settings and health experts suggest it should be kept at a minimum of 60 degrees Celsius to prevent bacteria build up in the systemvii.
Washing your clothes with cold water and taking shorter showers can also save you money as a smaller volume of water needs to be heated.
4. Switch to natural gas/ solar powered heating systems
Consider switching to natural gas or solar powered heating systems to heat up water or your entire home. Natural gas is generally cheaper to runviii and produces lower carbon emissions than coal - the major source of electricity in Australiaix. The option to switch to natural gas depends on whether it is available in your area and can be connected to your home.
As an alternative to gas- or coal-powered electricity, solar energy is converted from sunlight through solar panels mounted on your roof. And while installation of solar panels can be a big upfront cost, solar energy is a clean and efficient source of energy that can save you money in the long run. Solar hot water has evolved since its introduction and the newly developed solar hydronics systems can even convert heated water into gentle, radiant heat to be circulated around the housex.
5. Small things add up
Last but not least, innocent yet expensive or wasteful habits can be easily corrected. Standby mode on the TV, DVD player, stereo and computer still uses energy even when you are not using them, so turn these appliances off at the wall when not in use. Over a year, appliances being left plugged in can add up to 10% of your power bill: an easy way to save money is by switching appliances off at the wallxi. Only run the dishwasher when full and use an economy setting when possible.
If you're heating a room or space, use a heater that is an appropriate size for the area and place it away from windows where heat can be lost; it is wasteful and expensive to heat unoccupied roomsxii. You can make the most out of the Sun's natural warmth by opening blinds and curtains during the day, although they should be kept closed if you've got your heater switched on or in the eveningsxiii.
All in all, the best way to save energy and money is to research ways to become more energy efficient. By doing your homework, you can become energy wise: for example, did you know that fridges and freezers use more electricity when they are nearly empty than when they are fullxiv? By passing on tips to other members of your household, you can foster good energy habits for the whole family.
At Allianz, we understand that the home is important to a family. Just as you'd protect your family's finances from increasing energy costs, you need to protect your home and contents from loss or damage with home insurance.
i Australian Energy Market Commission, 2011, Possible Future Retail Electricity Price Movements: 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2014, Final Report, Sydney, http://www.aemc.gov.au/News/Whats-New/Publication-of-trends-in-residential-electricity-prices-over-the-next-three-years-1.html, p.6
ii Switch wise, electricity savings guide, https://www.switchwise.com.au/gas/
iii Ha, T. 2012, ABC Environment, 30 simple ways to beat the carbon tax, 26 June 2012, http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2012/06/26/3532627.htm
iv NSW Government, Save Power, Keep it cold, but not icy, http://www.savepower.nsw.gov.au/households/power-saving-tips/refrigeration/adjust-fridge-temperature-to-suit-load.aspx
v NSW Government, Save Power, Choose nature's clothes dryer, http://www.savepower.nsw.gov.au/households/power-saving-tips/laundry/hang-clothes-on-the-line.aspx
vi NSW Government, Tap into less hot water, http://www.savepower.nsw.gov.au/households/power-saving-tips/hot-water/use-less-hot-water-from-your-taps.aspx
vii Switch wise, electricity savings guide, http://www.switchwise.com.au/electricity/saving-electricity/
viii Switch wise, electricity savings guide, https://www.switchwise.com.au/gas/
ix Jacobs, D., 2011, The Global Market for Liquefied Natural Gas, Reserve Bank of Australia, http://www.rba.gov.au/publications/bulletin/2011/sep/3.html
x Energy matters, Home heating, cooling and hot water - solar hydronics, http://www.energymatters.com.au/renewable-energy/solar-power/hydronics/solar-thermal-home.php
xi NSW Government, Save Power, Reach for the power point, http://www.savepower.nsw.gov.au/households/power-saving-tips/appliances/switch-off-at-the-power-point.aspx
xii NSW Government, Save Power, Take the heat out of your power bill this winter, http://www.savepower.nsw.gov.au/households/power-saving-tips/heating-cooling-and-insulation/heating-your-home-in-winter.aspx
xiii NSW Government, Save Power, Stop throwing money out the window, http://www.savepower.nsw.gov.au/households/power-saving-tips/heating-cooling-and-insulation/fit-thick-and-close-fitting-curtains.aspx
xiv NSW Government, Save Power, Don't run on empty, http://www.savepower.nsw.gov.au/households/power-saving-tips/refrigeration/switch-off-the-second-fridge-when-not-in-use.aspx