8 actions to save big on energy bills

Energy and utility bills have soared so Citro asked Carolyn Tate to uncover 8 simple actions and lifestyle tweaks that can deliver Citro members big savings on energy use so they can pay less to keep the lights on.

By Carolyn Tate

If you’re looking for ways to save money at home, you would be wise to look to your energy bill – especially lately. The Australian Energy Regulator announced that residential customers would see a price rise of 20%-25% from 1 July 2023.

According to the Australian Energy Regulator, the annual cost of electricity for an average-income household in New South Wales in the past financial year was between $1891 and $2505. In Queensland, those prices ranged between $1944 and $1951, and in Victoria, it was between $1304 and $1745.

The Federal Government has announced that all households will receive a $300 rebate for the 2024-25 financial year, while eligible small businesses will get $325.

But there are OTHER ways to save on energy too. Read on!

Cost of living rises hit older Australians

The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) found the annual expenditure needed to reach ASFA’s comfortable Retirement Standard rose 1.3% in the March quarter of 2023 to hit $72,663 per year for couples and $51,630 for singles.

This took the annual increase in the retirement standard to 5.5%, about the same as the 5.4% increase in general inflation. ASFA outlined its weekly budget expenditure breakdowns for retirees, which is a helpful guide to work out how much you spend compared to others.

ASFA retirement weekly spending breakdowns

Horizontal Scrolling
Type of household Modest (single) Modest (couple) Comfortable (single) Comfortable (couple)
Housing - ongoing $119.81 $135.28 $140.98 $147.18
Energy $40.12 $53.89 $50.83 $63.04
Food $109.06 $202.18 $141.00 $245.07
Clothing $21.05 $40.01 $28.12 $52.37
goods and services
$39.23 $46.02 $85.35 $105.63
Health $55.52 $107.42 $113.09 $211.89
Transport $109.77 $116.88 $179.38 $194.25
Leisure $111.06 $174.39 $218.53 $328.53
Communications $18.22 $20.53 $22.79 $29.66
Total per week $621.02 $893.10 $976.65 $1374.01
Total per month $2,691 $3,870 $4,232 $5,954
Total per year $32,417 $46,620 $50,981 $71,724

The figures in each case assume that the retiree/s own their own home and relate to expenditure by the household. This can be greater than household income after income tax where there is a drawdown on capital over the period of retirement. All calculations are weekly, unless otherwise stated. Annual figure is 52.2 times the weekly figure.

But there are simple actions you can take around the home that can help you save on your energy bills – and the good news is: they don’t cost a thing. Sometimes it’s just a matter of noticing what you’re currently doing, and making a few small tweaks.

And if a few small tweaks could save you hundreds, they could be worth considering.

Here are a few you can try.

1. Get the energy rebates you're entitled to

Politicians know that rising utility costs are unpopular and most want to win your vote by ensuring energy rebates are available to people savvy enough to jump through the hoops to apply for them. The new rebate in the 2024 Budget that will hand you $300.

Rebates are being paid in all Australian states and territories for pensioners, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card owners, and families receiving family tax benefits part A and B.

Eligible customers in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania may receive up to $500 towards electricity or gas bills. Households in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and the Australian Capital Territory, however, may only be eligible for rebates of up to $350.

Read more about the simple switch that might save you $450 a year.

Citro has also published 16 simple and easy energy-saving tips

2. Maximise your natural lighting

During the day, open up your curtains and blinds to welcome natural light into your living spaces.

Relying on sunlight decreases the need for artificial lighting, which reduces energy consumption.

During the winter months it can also help to keep you warmer, and during the summer months, it can allow the breeze to flow through your home – which means it can also reduce your heating and cooling costs. And if your neighbours can see in, just make sure you’re wearing pants.

3. Turn up your air conditioner by a degree or two – or turn it off

If you’re running your air conditioner in summer until your room resembles the Antarctic, there is a better way: simply turn up your temperature by a degree or two.

Energy NSW reports that for every degree you add to your air conditioning temperature, you can save 10% on the cost of running the unit.

Add that together if you have more than one, and it’s a significant saving, and you probably won’t notice much of a difference.

And if you really want to save some big bucks, turn your air conditioner off and use a fan instead. Compare the Market reports that it costs 605%-1860% more to run a reserve split system compared with a fan.

4. Unplug devices and chargers

Many appliances and chargers draw power even in standby mode, contributing to energy waste.

In fact, Origin Energy estimates standby energy can cost the average household up to $100 a year.

Getting into the habit of unplugging devices and chargers when they’re not in use – or turning them off at the wall – could be an easy saving for you.

5. Reduce the temperature of your hot water

Of course, you know that you can limit your hot water usage by taking shorter showers and washing your clothes in cold water.

But you can also make significant savings by reducing the temperature of the hot water coming out of your taps. ABC reports that about 21% of energy costs are from heating up your water.

Every hot water system is different, but you may be able to turn down your thermostat by opening the access panel at the back and turning the dial to a lower temperature (not too low though, because the heat needs to kill any bacteria in the tank – the Victorian Building Authority advises you don’t go below 60 degrees).

If you’re unsure how to turn the dial down, or your hot water system requires you to remove any panels that have an electrical warning on them, be safe and call a plumber to help you out.

6. Seal any gaps or cracks

Inspect your home for gaps and leaks around windows and doors, and seal them up with a filler such as Selleys No More Gaps, or a caulking gun - making sure you push it right into the gap with a putty knife if you need to.

If you don’t have a sealant product at home already, it will cost you – but at $5 from Bunnings, we’re calling that almost nothing. Properly sealing your gaps and cracks ensures your heating and cooling systems operate efficiently, meaning you’ll use less energy.

7. Use your ‘solar’ clothes dryer

Okay, when we say ‘solar’ clothes dryer, we’re talking about your clothesline.

If you’re in the habit of throwing a load straight in the dryer, you could be costing yourself an average of 82 cents per load, according to Energy Australia.

If you’re doing a couple of loads each week, that’s $85 a year you could save by getting out in the sun, getting a good dose of Vitamin D, and hanging out your washing.

8. Shop around for your energy provider and energy-saving products

Just because your electricity or gas provider was the best choice when you signed up with them doesn’t mean they’re continuing to look out for your everyday budgetary needs.

Take a look at price comparison websites to see if you can find a lower price, or ring up your current provider and ask them if they can offer you a better deal (if you’ve done your research first, you can use this as leverage to see how much your provider wants to keep you).

The Australian Government’s Energy Made Easy is a great site that can help you compare providers in your area.

You will need to take a few proactive steps, like having your meter data, a PDF bill or a paper bill to do a thorough comparison. This information is also handy for you to see how wisely you are using energy and whether there are some easy ways to cut costs.

There are also a range of discounts on the cost to buy and install eligible small-scale energy systems like solar (PV) panels, solar water heaters and heat-pump hot water systems.

The discount is calculated on what’s called “small-scale technology certificates” (STCs). These vary based on the amount of renewable power each system produces or how much electricity consumption it reduces, your climate zone and installation date. Typically, the scheme covers around one-third of the cost, and the discount is organised through an eligible installer.

Home owners who live in regional areas like Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla, Bega, Queanbeyan-Palerang, Yass Valley, Snowy Monaro and Goulburn may be eligible to apply for a sizeable discount off the purchase of a solar inverter/battery system. A condition is joining SolarHubs Virtual Power Plant.

Incorporating these actions into your daily life should add up to savings you’ll really notice on your energy bill. Take note of your latest bill and then pick one activity to get you started.

By the time your next bill comes, you should be enjoying the benefits of a more energy-efficient – and cheaper – home.

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