Every year as winter rolls around, the energy bills creep up. Add to that isolation restrictions and more Aussies have found themselves stuck at home than ever before — often running Zoom meetings and homeschooling all week long. Heating and cooling are the biggest bullies when it comes to energy bills. Even outside of pandemic times, they account for a whopping 40% of the tally. Before you go taking out a second mortgage to make ends meet, we’ve got some tips on flattening the curve on energy costs to take the eek! out of isolation bills.
1 Pick a plan that pays off. It always pays to shop around for a better deal when it comes to electricity and gas providers, as they can differ dramatically. Many providers offer special rates for new customers, so shop around for the best deal. There are loads of sites to compare, such as Energy Watch. Or talk to your current provider to let them know you’re shopping around and see if they have a better deal for their loyal customers to help save on energy costs.
2 Dress up! It’s common sense — unless you’re a teenager — to dress for the weather. Don’t turn the heat up to 30 and walk around in shorts and t-shirts like you’re on a tropical holiday. Now’s the time to don your winter woollies. Heck, it’s iso! Stay snuggled in your dressing gown and uggs all day if you feel like it.
3 Cut the cold with curtains and rugs. If you crank up the heat without closing the curtains or rolling down the blinds, you’re throwing money out the window. Literally. It’s estimated that around 40% of heat escapes through the glass. Additionally, rolling out a few rugs helps trap the heat from escaping through the floor. Rugs are also nice and soft underfoot and buffer the bite of chilly tiles, stone or timber floorboards.
4 It’s great to insulate. The best way to keep energy costs down is decent insulation. A properly insulated home results in 70% less energy needed for heating and cooling. The extra expense may not be an option right now, but it’s something to keep in mind for the future.
5 Don’t get draughted. Icy draughts are very sneaky about finding every single nook and cranny in your home to creep in through. Do a spot check over all the window frames and seal up as many gusty gaps as possible. Invest in door snake to block the breezes under doors — or make your own snakes with the kids!
6 Get handy with your heating. Setting your temperature too high can be a huge drain on your energy bill. Experts recommend setting your heating to a comfy 20–22 degrees, which is room temperature. If portable heaters are required for smaller spaces, like bedrooms, get one with a timer and set it for just an hour or two in the evening to take the chill off, then keep the doors closed to keep the heat in. If you’re looking for a new heating solution, experts say that split-systems are the most energy efficient.
7 Let it flow. Many ceiling fans have a reverse mode switch for winter use. As heat rises, the fan will push the heat back down into the sweet spot — your living spaces. Using your fan and heater together will keep your rooms toasty. Be mindful not to block the flow of air from the heater with, for instance, a big armchair or the dog’s bed. Let the heat circulate around the room as much as possible.
8 Outsmart your appliances. Consider how you use your electricity. Did you know that it’s 80% more efficient to reheat a single serve of food in the microwave than in the oven? Does your hubby really need to boil an entire kettle every time he makes a single cuppa? And the fridge isn’t cool about saving energy if it has broken seals, it’s been overfilled or you stack piping-hot leftovers straight onto the shelves. Likewise, old appliances may be sucking up excessive amounts of water and power, so weigh that up against the cost of updating.
9 Please standby. Check how many items are on ‘standby’ but rarely get used — turn the power off at the wall until you actually need it. Consider using a powerboard so you only have to turn off one switch to say goodnight to your TV, table lamp and gaming console.
10 Old-school energy. Fill the washing machine before running a load and avoid the tumble dryer by hanging your clothes on the line or a clotheshorse in front of the heater. If you have to use the dryer, hang the clothes inside overnight and finish them off in the dryer in the morning. You can also save on electric blanket costs with a good old-fashioned hot water bottle. The following day, pour the cold water on your indoor plants — everybody wins.
If you’re having trouble paying your bills due to COVID-19 job loss or cutbacks, some providers are allowing for extensions — check with your provider if you need to set up a payment plan or refer to the Energy and Water Ombudsman.
If you’re working from home, you may be able to use a percentage of your heating, cooling and lighting bills as a tax deduction, as well as expenses related to running a home office. Check what you can claim on the Australian Taxation Office site.
Being mindful of your energy consumption every day will help keep your bills down. Turn off lighting, heating, cooling and TVs when not in use and train the kids at a young age to keep on top of this or you’ll discover every lightbulb and television blazing in the house and not a kid in sight. We have loads of toasty solutions in-store and online, such as reverse-switch ceiling fans, rugs and heating options. And don’t miss our guide to making your home more eco-friendly, which will also help to keep bills down.
Got any power-saving hacks? Please share them below!