Becoming energy smart means investing in solar power, fixing hot water leaks, and using efficient devices in your home office. Insulation cuts air conditioning costs, while turning off lights and adjusting your thermostat save energy. Negotiate for a better energy deal to maximise savings and reduce your carbon footprint.
Step 1: Negotiate a better energy deal
This is the quickest way to save money on your energy bills. Many South Australians are paying more for their energy than they need to. The first step is to call several energy retailers to see who will offer you the best deal. Using this comparison tool might also help you to save hundreds of dollars a year.
If you’ve previously called an energy retailer and received a better deal, it’s a good idea to call and check that you’re still getting that discount. That offer could have ended and your deal might have gone back to a more expensive rate.
When calling up energy retailers, strengthen your negotiating position by telling them that you’re shopping around for the best deal. If your energy retailer has you on the wrong tariff, you can end up paying charges that you don’t need to pay. Always check that you’re being billed correctly.
Financial savings from switching energy retailers can be invested into energy efficiency improvements, such as solar power, which will save you even more money.
The Government of South Australia offers a number of concessions that can assist eligible households with their energy costs. This includes the:
- Energy concession
- Medical heating and cooling concession
- Emergency electricity payment scheme
- Cost of Living concession
Step 2: Switch off and save
The average household spends over $250 a year on standby power. That’s why you need to switch things off at the power point. Rather than reaching down behind every piece of equipment, you can turn things off with plug-timers, smartphone apps, and remote-controlled power boards and switches. It can also be done with professionally installed isolation switches.
The savings can be significant. A large fridge can cost hundreds of dollars each year to run. If you have a second fridge, turn it off when it’s not needed. It is also safe to completely switch off your WiFi unit as it automatically reconnects with the internet when you turn it back on. Most WiFi units take only 1-3 minutes to reconnect.
Step 3: Watch your thermostat
Watching your thermostat levels is so important that it gets its own step! When you walk into a building and find it to be too hot or too cold, it’s because the thermostat is set incorrectly.
During winter, when you increase your thermostat by one degree, you increase your heating costs by up to 10%. In summer, when you lower it by one degree, you increase your cooling costs by up to 10%. Lots of homes and businesses set their thermostats many degrees higher or lower than they should be, getting bigger bills as a result.
In winter your thermostat should be between 18-21C. In summer your thermostat should be set between 24-27C. If being too cold or too hot could affect your health, set your thermostat at a level you feel comfortable with.
Your thermostat might not read the room temperature correctly if it is in direct sunlight or near heat radiating equipment such as refrigerators.
You can install a lock cover over your thermostat to stop people from changing the temperature. They’re available from hardware shops for about $20.
Step 4: Cut your lighting bills
Energy efficient light globes can save a lot of money. In fact, the phase out of incandescent light bulbs has saved Australian households billions of dollars.
Reducing your lighting bill is easy. Saving dollars is as simple as:
- Turning off lights
- Maximising the use of daylight
- Switching to more energy efficient lighting
- Removing lights from overlit areas
- Installing skylights and light tubes
Halogen downlights can get as hot as 370C which makes them a fire risk. LED alternatives generate substantially less heat, so they’re safer and can reduce air conditioning costs. LED downlights last for up to 50,000 hours and significantly reduce the amount of times you or a tradesperson has to go up a ladder to replace your lighting. They also reduce energy use by up to 83%.
Step 5: Get comfortable with insulation
Insulation keeps the heat in during winter and keeps excessive heat out during summer. It’s a very cost effective way to reduce your energy bills. By properly insulating and draught-proofing your premises, you can reduce your heating and cooling bills by up to 40%.
During winter, draughts can be responsible for up to 25% of heat loss from your building. Your home can lose up to 40% of its heat through windows, leading to an increase in heating costs. It can also gain up to 87% of its heat through windows, leading to an increase in cooling costs. Insulation and draught-proofing can reduce winter heating costs by up to 70%.
Step 6: Lower your heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) costs
Newer heating and cooling systems can be 20-40% more efficient than older ones – even more if the old system has not been well maintained.
Before you upgrade your heating or cooling system, compare the running costs of new air conditioners. You can do this with the Energy Rating calculator. Every extra star on an air conditioner can reduce your running costs by up to 10%.
Step 7: Cut your IT and home office costs
More of us have home offices than ever before and we’re also using a greater number of computers, tablets and smartphones. By 2020 it’s estimated that Australians will be using 40 million computers.
A sleeping computer will save you money as it uses as little as 10% of full power. Screen savers can prevent your computer from entering sleep mode. To save money, you should disable all the screen savers on your computers. Reducing the brightness of your monitors can reduce the energy used and save you money.
Think before you print! Going paperless saves on printer energy costs. It saves on postage, paper and printer cartridge costs as well.
Step 8: Reduce equipment energy costs
The equipment in our homes and small businesses has a big impact on the energy bills that we receive. The average Australian household saves between $90-$190 a year as a result of appliance energy efficiency.
If you use a clothes dryer on a daily basis, a heat pump dryer may cost more upfront, but over its lifetime it could save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars in your energy bills.
Before you buy any equipment, visit EnergyRating.gov.au to check out the energy running costs.
Step 9: Reduce hot water costs
Heating water accounts for 23% of the energy used in the average home. If your hot water system is electric, make sure it’s heating your water during off-peak periods when it’s cheaper. If you have an old electric water heater, switching to solar hot water and heat pump hot water systems can reduce your hot water costs by up to 75%.
Hot water is often unnecessarily overheated, costing you money. Storage hot water systems need to be set to at least 60C in order to stop bacteria breeding, but there is no need to go any higher than 65C. Instant hot water systems can be set up to 50C.
Replacing an inefficient showerhead can save you up to 18 litres of hot water every minute.
The Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (WELS) can tell you which products are more water efficient than others. Devices receive a rating to a maximum of six stars.
Step 10: Save money with solar
Installing a solar power system is a great way to reduce your energy bills. Since 2008, the cost of solar PV modules has fallen by 80%. Solar PV panels now generate electricity on more than 1.7 million Australian rooftops.
When you buy a solar PV system, you can expect a payback period of 5-7 years. As the panels should last for 25 years, when your payback period is over they should continue reducing your power bills for at least another 18-20 years.
You can receive funds for the excess solar energy that you export to the grid. These feed-in payments are usually available through your electricity retailer.
Rather than exporting excess solar power to the grid, new battery storage systems allow you to store your solar power on-site and use it in your own home or business.
Find out more about solar battery storage