Australia is known for the hottest summers in the world. Sadly, these summers are not just bound to get even warmer, thanks to climate change – they’re projected to become twice as long as the winter season too.
This year alone, temperatures are expected to break record highs. You’ll need to make the necessary preparations to keep you and your family cool for the summer months. But with electricity costs skyrocketing, how can you stave off the heat without breaking the bank over your electric bill?
There’s a handful of steps you can take to keep this summer cool and comfortable, and at the same time, make your home more energy-efficient.
Understanding Your Electric Bill
To effectively save energy, you need to understand how your electric bill works.
Your energy bill works in two ways. Firstly, you get billed with fixed charges by energy retailers. These fixed charges consist of the flat daily rate required to maintain electricity in your home.
After fixed charges, you also get billed for variable charges, which depend largely on the manner and frequency of how you use power.
Network costs also affect your bill. The network cost reflects the costs of the transmission and distribution networks that include the poles and wires that deliver electricity to your house.
Why Is My Energy Bill So High?
A multitude of factors determines your power consumption and your energy bills. According to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, these factors include:
The local climate
An increase in temperature will most likely lead to an increase in energy demand. As your local climate warms, expect significant increase in power consumption, especially if you’re a household that relies on air conditioning to keep cool.
The type of home you have, its total size, the materials it was built with, and its architectural layout and design all affect how much energy you use. Features that support passive heating and cooling often help reduce electricity usage.
Your appliances play a huge role in your energy bills. Take the number of appliances at home into account. Larger appliances, like the washer and dryer, consume more energy. Check how long you’ve had these appliances too, and whether they’re older or newer models by their respective brands. Newer models may consume less electricity; recent advancements in technology have allowed for better energy-saving or energy-efficient design.
The activities you and your household engage in factor into energy consumption, especially in an era where work and leisure alike rely on computers, plasma TVs, game consoles, and mobile devices. Plenty of housework itself relies on using appliances large and small. Households that own, spend, and do more consume more energy, needless to say. Luxuries – like maintaining a pool – make for even heftier electricity bills.
Thankfully, there are a number of practical and doable actions you can take to reduce your energy use at home. Committing to these measures can add up and save you hundreds of dollars annually.
Working From Home
Up to 32% of Australians have been working from home since COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic. Needless to say, staying home has taken a toll on energy costs for many an Australian household.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to recalibrate your habits and your home itself to be as energy-efficient as possible.
Try to avoid working long hours
Working longer hours leads to higher energy use and higher bills.
Try to limit activities that can impact your productivity, such as constantly checking your social media or excessively checking your emails.
If you need only work on your computer, consider shutting off every non-essential device – say, the TV in the background, or your sound system – so you can focus all your attention on the work at hand.
Ridding your environment of distractions can help you get your work done faster. This, in turn, can save energy and give you more time to do the things that matter.
Unplug devices that are not in use
Unplugging devices prevents them from needlessly consuming energy, a proven phenomenon known as “standby” electricity loss.
Use energy-efficient equipment
If you’re thinking of buying a laptop, choose one with a good energy efficiency rating.
Laptops consume less energy, with some units designed to use five times less energy than desktop computers. You can also optimise your unit’s power settings to make it run on less electricity.
Optimising Household Appliances
Be smart and practical with your appliances to reduce electrical consumption. See to the following:
Use of the right light
Lights can take up to 10% of your monthly electricity bill. You can help reduce their power consumption by:
Utilising natural light as much as possible.
Turn off your lights during the day. Spend more time where you can simply make use of natural light. You can try working next to a window, for example. Apart from saving you electrical costs, natural light has a number of health benefits.
Switching to LED lights or CFL bulbs.
LED and CFL lights use less energy than incandescent and halogen lamps. They also last longer than the latter.
Using only the light you need.
Avoid switching or leaving on lights when you don’t need them. Make sure that you turn off the lights when you leave the room, and make sure the lights are off in any unoccupied room.
Ditch the second fridge
Having a second fridge is a perk that many households enjoy. However, fridges are the largest single contributor to your electric bills, given that they’re kept running all the time.
If you own a second fridge, you may want to reconsider how you use it, and whether or not your household really needs it. Think about ditching that extra fridge if you really have to save money. You can also switch to a smaller fridge that consumes less power.
Use the air con wisely
It’s best to set your air conditioner to no more than 18-20°C. The lower you set the temperature, the harder your air con will have to work, adding to your power bill.
When you’re running your air con, close off rooms that don’t need cooling. This should optimise the air con where you need it or want it to lower ambient temperature. Don’t forget to shut your windows to prevent cool air from escaping.
Have your air con serviced regularly
When the summer heat becomes unbearable, your air conditioning unit becomes your best friend. Be sure to have it serviced regularly to keep it in tip-top shape. If you don’t keep your unit well-maintained, your air con tends to work harder, which means it uses up more energy.
While you’re at it, make use of the timer function. Set your air con to automatically switch off whenever you don’t need it, such as the cooler hours of the night. Use a ceiling fan instead, whenever possible. Ceiling fans can be enough to stay cool with once your air con has lowered room temperature.
Keep appliances in tip-top shape
It’s not just the air con that needs regular upkeep. Identify which appliances, systems, or activities cost you the most. Heating, cooling, and water heaters use up a lot of energy, for instance. There’s plenty of actions you can take to consume less. You can tap professionals to install, upgrade, or service your systems to improve their efficiency, to start with.
This can be quite the investment, but saving money down the road requires investing in the means that allow you to do so, in the first place.
Make use of economy settings and energy ratings
Whenever possible, run your dishwasher and washing machine only when they’re full. When you do use them, choose their economy settings instead of your standard presets.
Energy efficiency also applies to devices like printers and TV sets. Do your due diligence and compare the Energy Rating Label found on many of these items. Opt for those with higher ratings or the most number of stars. You can use the Energy Rating Calculator App to determine an appliance’s energy efficiency.
Dry your clothes the natural way
Clothes dryers offer convenience but they can be expensive to operate, especially if you use them a lot. If you do five loads per week, electricity costs can add up to $80.60. Doing 10 loads per week will bring the total to $161.20 over the summer. Use your clothes dryer sparingly and utilise a bright, hot, sunny day instead to dry your laundry.
Don’t forget to clean your filters
Keep clean filters in your air conditioner, dishwasher, and washing machine. Keeping the filters clean means these appliances use much less electricity.
Keep an eye on your plumbing
A water heater can use up a lot of energy, especially if you have older electrical systems. To keep your water heater from costing you more money over time, hire a professional to install a timer that can regulate its operation, especially during peak hours.
You can also opt to switch to an off-peak tariff for your hot water system. With this in place, your water will only be heated during off-peak periods. This way, you can still get hot water for less.
Double-glaze your windows
Double-glazing your windows can help you lower your energy consumption. Ordinary windows let in excessive heat. Double-glazing can regulate your home’s temperature and it can keep external noise to a minimum.
Optimising Your Home
Your home in itself will dictate how much you’re spending on electricity. Larger homes consume more energy, as do homes with dated architecture that don’t have sustainable design.
You can turn to the two options below to improve how your home consumes energy. Though these options cost more money at first, they’re investments that upgrade your lifestyle and which, in the long run, can save you money on energy costs.
Invest in proper insulation
Your house’s heating and cooling needs account for around 40% of your monthly bill. To keep temperatures comfortable using less electricity, invest in proper insulation for your home.
Insulation is one of the most cost-effective ways to keep your house cool during summer. It can also improve your air con’s efficiency as it keeps cold air indoors. Just be sure to seek out any air leakages in your house and address them immediately.
Aside from switching to energy-efficient appliances, you can opt to use solar-powered alternatives for your home.
Transitioning into a fully solar-powered home can be expensive, but you can start small. Use solar-powered lanterns for your outdoor areas, for instance. They’re often cheap enough, easy to install on your own, and completely wireless and off-grid. You can also look into using a solar hot water system.
Changing Your Lifestyle for the Better
To maximise your household’s energy efficiency, you need to manage how you use your electricity.
Firstly, take a look at your household’s energy usage using your electric bills. Your bills contain pertinent information to help you assess your energy usage at different times of the year.
Keeping track of your household’s peak hours, or when you use the most energy, is also important. This can help you choose the best energy contract for your home. It can also help you change up your patterns of consumption by utilising off-peak hours whenever possible.
Also take into consideration your own habits and preferences when it comes to energy usage. What steps can you take to reduce your electricity consumption? It helps to be mindful of your general lifestyle, to be smarter with housework, to ditch bad habits, and to commit to responsible actions.
A hot summer doesn’t have to spell out outrageous electricity costs. You can enjoy a hot summer day without racking up a hefty bill. Thoughtful planning and a strong resolve to implement these proactive changes can turn your household into a cool, breezy, summery sanctuary.