The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has set their final ‘Default Market Offer’(DMO) price for the 2022-2023 financial year, and it doesn’t look pretty. The AER’s role is to ensure secure, reliable and affordable energy for Australian’s. One of the ways in which they do this is to set a maximum electricity price for energy retailers known as a DMO price. Unfortunately, the price determined for the 2022-2023 financial year is quite staggering. Depending on where you live in Australia, your electricity bills could rise as much as 8.5-18.3%! Likewise, gas prices are increasing and shortfalls in gas supplies are predicted for southern states of Australia, which may lead to further price increases.
With electricity and gas prices set to hike, now is a great time to consider how to cut back on your energy use at home. Increasing your family’s energy efficiency will not only save you precious dollars, but will also decrease your greenhouse gas emissions.
Over the years, my family has implemented several energy-saving measures. Many of them are simple and do not impact on our lifestyle.
Turn the heater down
We have saved hundreds of dollars by turning our heater down to a lower temperature over winter. A few years ago, we moved into our home shortly before winter with a newborn and a two-year old. It has zoned central heating and the unit takes a large amount of energy to operate. We made sure to keep the house warm with the heater running overnight for the kids. In Canberra we frequently experience sub-zero temperatures overnight, so having a heater on overnight is necessary. At the end of winter, we got a rude shock with an electricity bill of $1,440 for the quarter. This was three times more expensive than our winter energy bills from our old house that did not have central heating. By the time next winter came around, we were determined not to receive another hefty bill. We realised that our heater was turned up way too high. We had it set on 22-24 degrees overnight which was lovely and warm. But unnecessary when we were rugged up with doonas and warm pajamas! We changed our mindset and set the heater to 16-18 degrees, depending on the forecast. This keeps the house at a reasonable temperature and takes the chill out of the air, but also uses significantly less energy. We all felt warm enough and slept peacefully (apart from the demands from our night owl bub!). As a result, our energy bill for the winter quarter was only $945, reducing our costs by a third from the previous year.
According to the Australian Government, every degree of extra heating in winter or cooling in summer leads to a 5-10% increase in energy use. Even if you have a low tolerance for the cold, try to turn the heating down by 1-2 degrees from your usual setting and you will be saving yourself money and energy!
Turn down your hot water unit
Heating water takes a lot of energy. A simple method of saving energy is therefore to turn down the temperature of your hot water unit. This results in less energy required to heat the water to the new lower temperature. Set your unit to 60 degrees, the temperature required to kill bacteria, and if your unit allows, set the water delivery temperature to 50 degrees. This means water coming out of your taps will be 50 degrees. We turned our unit down years ago and the temperature is fine.
If you are going away for a long weekend or for a longer holiday, turn off your unit. This will prevent you paying for water to be heated while you are away that you can’t even use.
Cut down on shower time
The longer your shower lasts, the more energy you are using to heat the water. Although it is tempting to stay under the hot water on frosty winter mornings, your bank account will thank you if you cut your shower time. Start gradually by aiming to shower for one minute less and work down from there. Playing a song or using a timer can be a good way to manage your time.
Turn off the heat lamp
Although it is nice having a warm heat lamp in the bathroom, they do use much more energy to run than a standard light globe. If you can’t turn it off completely, try to keep it off while you are under the hot water, and flick it back on after your shower.
Use a cold wash
Washing your clothes in cold water is a simple way to cut back on your energy use. My family has done this for years and the clothes come out just as clean as they do with warm water. We do use warm water to wash nappies for hygiene reasons, but apart from this a cold wash is sufficient. If you are like my family, you will be washing a few loads a day making this switch an effective way to reduce your energy usage.
Avoid the clothes dryer
Clothes dryers are a big energy drain. We do own a clothes dryer, but I could count on one hand the number of times we have used it in the past few years. If weather permits, dry your clothes outside. Obviously, this becomes more challenging in winter. The next preference is to hang your clothes inside by a sunny window or near a heater to utilise the warm air that is already heating your home. If you really need to use the dryer, attempt to let the clothes dry naturally part way, so the time to finish the drying is reduced. This will result in less energy being used.
At my home, you won’t find a power point left on unless the appliance is in use…or my two-year-old has sneakily switched them on around the house! The microwave, kettle, toaster, computer, TV, coffee machine and the rest are always turned off at the switch when not in use. Although they only draw a small amount of power when not actively in use, over a longer period, this can add up to savings on your bills. It is also an easy habit to get into and takes minimal effort. Check out this article by Choice to assess how much money you can save on an annual basis by appliance type.
Use eco modes
Many modern appliances have eco modes. My dishwasher and washing machine are examples of this. Often the wash cycles take longer than the standard cycles. However, if a little extra time saves you energy and therefore money, it is worth a try!
Seal leaky windows and doors
If you can feel a draught coming through your doors or windows, it will take significantly more energy to keep your home warm in winter or cool in summer. There are a few easy and cost-effective solutions that are readily available from your local hardware store:
- Doors: use a door snake or attach a door seal to the bottom of the door.
- Windows: use purpose made adhesive tapes to fill gaps in windows.
Turn off the lights
This is another easy win. If you are not in the room, turn off the light. If you have kids, you may find yourself repeating your request for the lights to be switched off! But eventually it will become a habit for your family.
Use energy saving globes
When we bought our house, one of our first actions was to replace the old less efficient incandescent light bulbs with LED light bulbs. Although there is an upfront cost of purchasing the new bulbs, they use significantly less energy and overtime will save you money. If you think about how many light bulbs you have in your house, you can save quite a bit of energy with this switch. If the cost is too much to change your whole house, start with the lights that are on for the longest time each day. Or you can even replace them as they break. Take your old light globes for recycling at Ikea.
Boil only what you need
I drink a lot of tea! Which means I am boiling the kettle quite frequently. Although my kettle can hold 1.6L of water, I only boil enough water to fill my teacup. Not only does this save you time, but it also saves on energy that would be wasted if I boiled all 1.6L of water every time I made tea.
If you are in the position of owning your own home and are looking at investing your money into energy saving modifications, here are a few ideas:
Curtains and pelmets
Our house initially had pull down blinds in the bedrooms and kitchen. You could literally feel the cold air coming through the sides. We decided to invest in block out blinds and pelmets to replace the blinds in our bedrooms. This modification has certainly made our rooms cozier in winter, and cooler in summer. For the kitchen, we purchased a block out honeycomb blind. This is a more practical style of curtain for a wet area, however, is an energy efficient type of blind.
Our downstairs areas predominantly had block out curtains from the previous owners. Although the curtains are not exactly to our taste, they are good quality and we can’t justify upgrading simply for a more modern look. They don’t have pelmets, so my husband decided to make simple invisible pelmets. He purchased some timber planks, chiseled out grooves to slot over the curtain rails, and slotted them on top of the curtains. You can’t see them when the curtains are closed, and they effectively block the heat from escaping from the top of the curtains. They are also substantially cheaper than buying pelmets from a curtain manufacturer!
Adding insulation to your home is another great method for saving energy. This is especially true for older homes which may have minimal to no insulation. Adding insulation slows the escape of heat from the house in winter, and keeps your house cooler in summer. This means your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a good temperature. Here is a great article around installing insulation.
Double glazing is an effective energy saving method. It works the same way as insulation, by slowing the escape of heat through the glass. We recently took the plunge to install double glazing on some of our downstairs windows. Generally, on a winters day if we left the heater off all day while at work, the inside temperature was around 14 degrees when we arrived home. After installation of double glazing, this has increased to around 16 degrees, making our house much more cozy and enabling the heater to remain off for longer periods.
Installing solar panels really helps to reduce your energy bills. In fact, in summer we make a small amount of money from our panels by sending excess energy back to the grid, even when our feed-in tariff is only 8 cents per KWh. We installed solar panels around 18 months ago and in this time have saved over $2000 from our energy bills.
To make the most out of our solar, we have shifted our energy use to daylight hours as much as possible. For example, we set our dishwasher and washing machine to operate when the sun is shining, we changed the hot water unit timer to heat in the middle of the day and we even do the dishes in the daytime to heat the hot water off the sun. Shifting your pattern of energy use is a good way to maximise your solar energy generation.
A home battery is another modification you can use to store excess solar energy. The stored energy can then be used when the sun isn’t shining to cook your dinner, heat water and heat/cool the house at night. We haven’t taken the plunge and bought a battery yet, but it is on our wish list! Home batteries are a relatively recent development, and further innovation from manufacturers is likely to reduce their high price over the next few years.
There are countless ways in which we can all reduce our energy use at home. It is more prudent than ever to reassess how we use energy, not only to save money with skyrocketing electricity and gas prices, but also to reduce our impacts on climate change. Start your energy saving journey by choosing one or two actions that you think will work for your family. As you have capacity, gradually add more actions to your repertoire. By reducing your energy consumption in any way, you will make your own Local Impact for the planet.
For those interested in additional readings about the current state of the gas and electricity market, you may find the following of interest:
- Australian Energy Market Operator – Quarter 1 2022 report
- ACCC Gas Inquiry 2017-2025 Interim Report
- Default market offer prices 2022-23
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