There are a number of things you can do to cut back on your energy usage at home. Learn more about measuring and managing your home power usage here first.
Switch off, don’t stand by
TVs, game consoles, dishwashers, microwaves, phone chargers, computers, printers – pretty much any appliance you can think of – are all soaking up electrical power as long as they’re plugged in and switched on at the wall, even when they’re not in use. That means you’re paying for, well, nothing.
If you know you won’t remember to switch them off at the wall, pick up a smart power board to stop standby electricity usage for you.
Let there be LED light
Technology has come a long way since Edison invented the light bulb – but if your lights haven’t, it might be time to make a change. Old-school halogen light bulbs and incandescent tubes consume more electricity than LED bulbs, and they also burn out faster.
With halogen lamps set to be phased out in Australia by late 2021, now’s the time to invest in LED bulbs, especially “smart” ones that automatically dim or turn off when they’re not in use.
Get smart(er appliances)
You don’t need to rush out and replace all of your household appliances at once, but when they reach the end of their natural lifespans, you should consider an energy-efficient replacement. (You can measure how efficient an appliance is by looking at its energy star rating.) Remember, the sticker price can be deceptive – even if the less efficient option seems to save you money right now, it’ll cost you more in the long run by using more power.
Check out the settings on the appliances you already own, too – many of them probably have an eco-setting you can use to help you save on electricity consumption. You can also make ‘dumb’ appliances smarter and more efficient by investing in smart switches that can be controlled with an app.
You can also reduce the power consumed by appliances with some smart placement. For instance, don’t put a fridge next to an oven if you can help it, because it’ll need to work harder to stay cool. Similarly, let hot food cool down before you put it in the fridge, and repair loose seals on your fridge door so the cold air doesn’t leak out.
Every appliance you buy is likely to come with instructions to help you position and use them correctly, so you may as well give them a read.
Control your climate
Heating and cooling are notorious energy guzzlers. If you need a heater in winter, set your thermostat to between 18°C and 20°C, and in summer, set your air conditioner between 25°C and 27°C – every degree above (in winter) and below (in summer) can add between 5 and 10 per cent to your running costs.
Consider, too, that the harder an air conditioner has to work, the more power it will use. When you’ve got the air con on, close your windows, curtains and doors so you’re only cooling the rooms you’re using. At night, try giving the air con a break and opening curtains and windows to let cool breezes in.
Insulation is another great way to reduce your heating and cooling costs – installing insulation in the ceiling, walls and floors of your home will reduce the amount of heat flowing in and out, helping you stay cool in summer and warm in winter without racking up a big electricity bill.
Throw cold water on your washing
Warm water is more effective than cold water for washing clothes, but it’s not always necessary and it consumes more power. For day-to-day laundry, cold water should do the trick. Oh, and make sure you’re taking advantage of any eco-settings on your washing machine to cut down on power consumption, too.
When it comes time to dry your clothes, leave your dryer switched off and take advantage of Australia’s abundant sunshine and humidity by drying your clothes in the open air.
Avoid the peak
If you have a smart meter, you can look into a contract that will cost you less for energy if you use it outside peak times. Essentially, you’ll pay lower supply and usage charges, but incur a “demand charge” for your energy usage in peak time periods (usually between 4pm and 8pm, but the exact times will depend on your individual retailers).
This sort of arrangement isn’t ideal for everybody, but it’s perfect if you’re paying for electricity for things that don’t need to run during peak times, like pools. Look at your household’s timetables and talk to your energy retailer to see if a time-of-use pricing arrangement, also known as a demand-based tariff, could work for you.
If you’ve been with the same energy retailer for years, it might be worth shopping around for a better deal. Energy companies are constantly changing their offers and prices, and even if you got the best possible deal when you first signed up with your current provider, it’s worth taking a look to see if you can do better now.
The Australian Energy Regulator’s Energy Made Easy service provides tools and calculators to help you compare all of the electricity and gas contracts available from energy retailers, estimate your costs under each contract, and find the one that works best for your household.
While the AER can’t switch you over, they can give you the contact details you’ll need to change contracts, and they provide a checklist of everything you’ll need to take into account when you make the switch.
If you take these steps, you’ll soon be on the path to reducing your power bill – and taking back some power for yourself.