Got time for an energy overhaul during COVID-19 physical distancing?
Do these 10 things and avoid an energy bill shock!
We’re all mostly at home for the time being (except our front-line & essential workers – thank you all!), meaning we’re using our own electricity all day long, every day. We’re also heading into winter. The temperatures will soon drop if they haven’t already where you live, and the temptation to run the heater all day will be high.
Do these 10 things and you’ll avoid cranking up your energy bills to unmanageable levels.
1. Load shift your energy use
Whether you have solar panels or not - it’s a great time to think about HOW you use your energy.
Now that you’re at home you can shift your energy use - especially the use of larger appliances like your dishwasher, dryer and washing machine - to the times during the day when the sun is shining and your panels are producing the most renewable energy. This also means you’re using free energy from the sun, avoiding the cost of drawing more expensive prices from the grid.
If you don’t have solar, think in the opposite way and run your usage during off-peak hours (mostly during the later hours of the evening). You may be able to set the timer on your appliances like dishwasher and washing machine, so they run and switch off through the night.
On another note, if you have solar, consider cleaning your panels (safely, of course, hose from the ground if you can reach, or engage a professional).
Lastly, whether you have solar or not also think about the type of tariff you are on. Depending on your situation and meter setup a “flat rate” or “time of day” tariff may be better.
2. Run your heating low and slow
If it’s a really cold day, turn your heating or reverse cycle air-con on earlier and on lower heating temperatures, rather than running it hard at the end of the day, on high temperatures. If you have a programmable unit, even better. Set your thermostat at a reasonable temperature setting at which you still feel comfortable. For most people, this is around 24 degrees. In winter each degree lower on the thermostat setting will save on your energy bill.
3. Understand your energy use
Knowledge is power. We recommend reading up on how to use energy effectively and efficiently and on decarbonising your lifestyle; and, taking some measures that you may not have had time to previously.
- Switch out of gas to an all-electric home powered by ethical electricity (either 100% renewable or renewable energy plus carbon offset).
- Get on the front-foot and monitor your energy use at home. There are plenty of software options available that will give you all the data you need to make improvements across the board.
- Ask your energy retailer to go through your bill with you so you can understand when your household is using the most power, which appliances are nudging your energy use (and your bill) skyward and the best time to use energy-hungry appliances. Enova’s friendly team is happy to troubleshoot your current bill with you.
4. Turn everything off
It’s likely multiple devices are being used at once now, with workers and students all online at home.
Leaving the house for exercise, or spending time in the home veggie garden is great for getting everyone outside during the day, for at least a while.
But when you do, it’s easy to leave the TV or computer left on! Turn everything off and spend some time recharging yourselves outside with nature. And soon you’ll have homegrown food too!
Also, get into the habit of turning everything (not the fridge!) off at the wall at night.
5. Beware- bored / procrastination habits!
What do we do when we’re procrastinating or feeling bored? We go to the fridge to look inside for the hundredth time that day. We put the kettle on for yet another cuppa. We wander around the house looking for inspiration. Some pro tips – opening and closing the fridge repeatedly, unnecessarily, will add to your electricity use and ramp up your bill. Filling the kettle to the top to boil, for just one cup, will too. And so will leaving lights on all over the house. Only open the fridge when you really need to, fill your kettle to boil with just enough water for your cup and turn lights off in rooms you’re not using.
6. Clean your major appliances
Clean out your fridge, to get a good balance of not too full vs not too empty and clean the seals while you're at it. Clean your air conditioner’s filters. Clean your vacuum’s filter & bag. Clean lint and muck out of the washing machine and dryer. Anything else you can clean? Go for it. Clean appliances run much more efficiently!
7. Hot Water
Hot water is the largest component (around 30 per cent) of electricity bills. Minimise expense by having an electrician set your hot water thermostat to maximum 65 (and no lower than 60) degrees Celsius.
If your hot water system is due for an upgrade, consider a solar hot water system.
If you’ve already got a solar hot water system, make sure you only turn on your hot water booster when needed – that is, when you notice that your hot water temperature is starting to drop below acceptable. This might happen on cloudy days or if too many people have had hot showers in one evening. Keeping your booster on when your water is being heated by the sun means you are drawing power from the grid when you don’t need to.
8. Time for an upgrade? Buy appliances with a good energy rating
When it comes to big-ticket appliances, the more stars the better. In most cases, larger models can be more efficient and will have more stars; but, larger models will have a higher rate of energy consumption overall, potentially offsetting any energy efficiency gains. So it pays to look at what size really is best for your household.
When looking at heaters beware of the cheaper options that may run more expensively and be missing automatic temperature controls. The money you save up-front with the cheap options may be less than you pay overtime in your energy bills!
Fridges and freezers work around the clock and the amount of energy they use quickly adds up. According to Choice, all new fridges sold in Australia must meet Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS). Look for a model that uses a hydrocarbon, such as butane or pentane, as the refrigerant and/or blowing agent for the insulation foam.
Check whether you’re eligible in NSW for the appliance replacement offer, which is a government subsidised program to asst people replace their fridge or TV to a more energy-efficient one: https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/apply-appliance-replacement-offer
Replace your incandescent and halogen light bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). By updating to LED lights, you could save up to 93% every year on the lighting portion of your energy bill. LED lights are the most energy-efficient and longest lasting lights available and they do not contain any mercury, harmful gasses or toxins.
There are programs available at State and Federal level to help both households and businesses switch to LED lighting. Type ‘rebate + LED lighting’ into your search engine to see if your state offers a program like this. Avoid installing downlights too. Not only do they use a lot of energy, they also penetrate the ceiling and insulation, causing heat loss.
Not so easy but worth thinking about, because insulating your ceiling will mean you keep 35% more heat indoors. Insulation can be installed in most buildings, so you can either retrofit ceiling insulation to older-style houses or install it in new ones. This is not a DIY job though, make sure you have an expert handle the installation. If you already have batts maybe they could do with a top-up (be safe!).
Putting up some heavy curtains will also help keep the warmth in during winter (and the heat out in summer) and investing in a rug if you have a bare floor will also save you winter heating costs.
Energy efficiency is also about our environment
The issue of household energy efficiency is not just about your bill. It also feeds into another key element of Australia’s household energy use. Greenhouse gas emissions.
Australian households generate a lot of greenhouse gases. Each household is responsible for more than 18 tonnes per household each year, representing one-fifth of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. This contributes to climate change and global warming. Depending on where you live and your lifestyle, annual greenhouse gas emissions can vary from as low as 3 tonnes up to 30 tonnes or more.
Share your tips
If you’ve got an energy-saving tip you’d like to share, please, get in touch. Every little bit helps. We have loads more on our website as well. You can find them at Energy Efficiency in the home.