Sidestep rising electricity prices in Australia with these simple 50 tips to reduce your power bills.

With the Australian Energy Commission (AEMC) predicting average national energy prices to increase a further 37 per cent by 2014, many Australians are looking for ways to reduce their power bills.

Productivity Commissioner Philip Weickhardt said the rise in power prices was ‘huge’ and that this could be contributed to power companies building excess networks.

“Electricity bills on average across the national electricity market have risen 50 per cent in real terms over the last five years,” Weickhardt said in an ABC radio program.

Here are 50 ways you can slash your electricity bills:

1. Switch appliances off

While we may switch off appliances, they continue using energy while they are on standby. You can save energy by turning appliances off at the powerpoint when they are not in use. For example, switch off computers, printers, DVD players, microwaves and music sound systems at the powerpoint.

2. Lights off

It can be easy to forget to turn off lights as you move from room to room, especially if you have a larger home. There is no need to have lights or lamps switched on if there is no one in the room. Remind yourself and others in your household to turn lights off when you exit a room, every time.

3. Lighten up

Lightbulbs have come a long way since traditional incandescent globes. According to the Government of South Australia, compact fluorescent lights use approximately a fifth of the energy of traditional bulbs while LED globes use even less than this. Both of these types of bulbs are becoming more affordable as their popularity grows. While they may be slightly more expensive, these varieties last longer than traditional light globes while also using less energy to brighten your home.

4. Look to the sky

It can be easy to overlook the most simple source of light – the sun. If you are looking to light up your home without increasing your energy bills, skylights could be the answer. Skylights will allow natural light into your home without adding to your power bill.

5. Rethink window dressings

Curtains and blinds can make a house a home, but they can also darken a room and make you reach for the light switch instead. You can make use of sheer summer curtains or semi-transparent drapes to let in natural light as opposed to adding to your power bill by turning on house lights.

6. Choose appliances wisely

Saving energy can start from the appliances you choose to purchase. In Australia, appliances such as fridges, dishwashers and televisions come with an energy rating. Products with more stars on their energy rating label are more energy efficient. Considering that appliances such as fridges run all day and night, buying a model that is energy efficient can help you slash the amount of energy you use. Simply upgrading to a newer fridge model could use up to 40 per cent less energy, according to Origin Energy. Origin Energy advises that a fridge’s motor should only run a few hours each day. So if your fridge’s motor is running continuously, it could be time to look for a newer energy-efficient refrigerator.

7. Prune back hedges to let in light

Trees, shrubs and hedges around your home can block out natural light if they are left to grow uncontrolled. This can mean you revert to electrical lighting to brighten your home instead of sunlight. Prune back greenery, especially around north facing windows, to let natural light into your home.

8. Brighten up with a lick of paint

A room painted in a darker shade can encourage us to switch on lights unnecessarily to brighten up a room. Painting the interior of your home a lighter shade can help natural light fill the room and also make your home feel larger whilst cutting down on the need to switch on lamps and lights.

9. Go solar

Switching to solar energy can cut down on your power usage significantly. Adding solar panels to your roof will allow you to harvest your own energy form the sun while allowing you to reap long-term benefits of reduced power bills. If you’re considering the switch to solar to cut your power use, you may also be able to make an up-front saving through the National Solar credits scheme. The Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) that comes with the equipment and the zone in which your home is located will determine the amount you can save.

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10. Stop draughts

Spaces around doors and windows can let currents of cool air into your home which can lead to spending more on energy to heat or cool your home. You can easily use less energy by stopping these draughts. Door snakes will help to keep your home insulated so that you use less power to keep your home warm. More permanent fixtures from a hardware store such as rubber or foam strips around doors and windows or draught seal tape can also be used.

11. Use less air-conditioning

Air-conditioning is a must for some parts of Australia in the hot summer months. However, air-conditioning does use a large amount of energy. The NSW Government’s SavePower website says air-conditioning makes up 40% of all electricity used in summer. And though it may be impossible to bypass using air-conditioning completely, keeping the air-conditioner between 23 and 26 degrees will allow you to keep cool while using less power. Turning down the thermostat below this will mean you are using more energy to unnecessarily cool your home. According to SavePower, raising the temperature of your air-conditioner by just one degree can cut your power use by 10 per cent.

12. Tinted windows

Tinted windows will help you cut down on your energy use by blocking out hot summer sunshine. These can be used with curtains or blinds, or as an alternative to these. Tinted windows can be created by adding a film to existing windows that will reflect the glare and heat of the sun. There are small businesses that specialise in this field.

13. Use fans

Air-conditioning uses more power than upright fans or ceiling fans. Use fans instead of the air-conditioner where and whenever possible to cut your summer power usage.

14. Add shade to your home

Adding more shade to your home through awnings or a roof sail will absorb or reflect the light instead of allowing it to overheat your home. These fixtures will mean a cooler home for you to enjoy and having to use less power in the form of fans and air-conditioning. It will also make outdoor spaces more usable throughout the year.

15. Choose the right heater

Does your home really need central heating? While central heating will warm the entire home, it also uses much more power than space heaters. Electric or gas space heaters will allow you to heat only the rooms in use instead of wasting power on rooms that aren’t in use.

16. Dress for the climate

You can easily cut down on power used to heat and cool your home by dressing more appropriately for the climate. Wearing natural fabrics in summer such as cotton or linen will help you keep cool. In winter, an extra jumper, bed socks, or a pair of ugg boots can help you curb your energy use to only what is necessary.

17. Switch to a front-loading washer

Front-loading washing machines generally use less energy than top-loading washers. If you have space for a front-loading machine, this change could help you use less energy and cut your power bills. They’ve also been said to be gentler on your clothes.

18. Wash clothes in cold water

Washing clothes in cold water instead of hot water can save a significant amount of energy. According to a government energy rating website ‘about 80% of the energy in a warm wash is associated with heating water, cold washing uses less than one quarter of the energy for warm washing’. The energy savings add up if you consider the number of times your household does a load of washing each week.

19. Sun dry when possible

Using the clothes dryer less often can also help reduce your energy consumption. Remember, the hills hoist did a fine job before dryers came along. You can also buy smaller drying racks for balconies or apartment living. In winter months put the rack next to the heater so you get two for one; a warm house and dry clothes.

20. Turn heating off while you sleep

With blankets and doonas, leaving heaters switched on while you sleep is unnecessary and in some instances dangerous. Turning your heating off, or at least turning it down, can save a considerable amount of energy during those eight hours every winter evening.

21. Insulate your home

Insulation can be a long-term solution to keeping your family cooler in summer and also warm in winter. Home insulation can be through batts or bulk insulation in the roof which work by keeping air trapped between its fibres. Insulation can be made up of varying materials, each with their own resistance to heat flow. Materials with a higher R-value will be more insulating, thereby allowing you to cut down your energy use through using less electricity to heat or cool your home.

22. Choose a top-freezer model

If you are looking at buying a new fridge, selecting a model with a freezer at the top can be more energy efficient. According to the government’s Energy Star program, fridges with freezers at the top use the least energy in comparison to other fridge-freezer layouts. In contrast, fridges that have freezers on the size with ‘through-the-door-ice’ use almost 30 per cent more energy than top-mount freezers without door ice-makers. Consider how often you will use this feature and whether you would prefer to save energy by simply using your ice cube trays instead.

23. Steam iron clothes

Hang shirts on the back of your bathroom door next time you shower. The steam from your hot shower will help unwrinkle some of the creases in your clothes. You will spend less energy and time ironing these items, that is if they still need to be ironed at all.

24. Dry hair naturally

Ladies, although we may not use hair dryers everyday, using them does add to our energy consumption. Unless you are pressed for time, you can let your hair dry naturally instead of using a hair dryer. Try it at least one day a week and you might be surprised how much time and energy you save.

25. Solar heating for your pool

Heating your pool can be an expensive exercise. Consider heating your pool with solar energy to not only save money but also use less electricity. Most solar pool heating systems work by directly transferring heat by passing the water through a collector.

26. Solar energy for hot water

A solar heat pump can help your household lower their electricity and gas usage while also cutting carbon emission at the same time. Solar water heating systems can be mounted on the ground or on the roof of a home to save space.

27. Use a hot water bottle

Electric blankets can be swapped for a hot water bottles in winter to keep warm under the covers. There are potential dangers associated with electric blankets anyway. A hot water bottle will not only use less electricity, but you can reuse the water by pouring it on your garden or into a pot plant in the morning.

28. Choose the right fridge

When it comes to a fridge’s energy consumption, bigger isn’t always better. Choose the size of your fridge based on your needs as a refrigerator is more efficient when it is filled, according to Origin Energy. If you have two fridges; one in the garage for drinks and frozen meat, and one in the kitchen, then consider combining the two into one larger fridge.

29. Only open the oven door as necessary

It can be tempting to continuously open and close that oven door to check whether your latest culinary creation is ready. But according to Origin Energy, the temperature of the oven drops by 14 to 20 degrees each time the door is opened. Only check on the food as necessary otherwise you will use more electricity to get your oven back to its original temperature, and your cake might not rise.

30. Give your fridge a holiday

Why not give your fridge or a freezer a holiday while you have one too? Empty out your fridge and freezer and switch it off when you are away for longer periods of time to save energy.

31. Use a timer on your pool filter pump

Pool filter pumps also use a considerable amount of energy. Invest in a timer to turn the pump on and off so you won’t need to leave the pump running longer than necessary.

32. Be wise with your dishwasher

A dishwasher can waste both energy and water if not used efficiently. Wash larger pots and pans by hand in the sink and ensure the dishwasher has a full load before it is used.

33. Only boil water as you need

The more water in a kettle, the more energy it uses to boil. Rethink how much hot water you really need. Are you only making one or two cups of tea? Only fill it up to the level you need. If your household seems to be boiling water all the time it could be more energy-wise and convenient to buy a large thermos so you always have hot water available.

34. Shorter showers

Shorten your showers to curb the energy you use in heating water. It can be helpful to put a small clock in your bathroom or to buy a cheap shower timer to help you get in the habit of having quicker showers.

35. Cut off TV times

Every bit of energy you save is more money in your pocket so limiting the amount of television your family watches can make a difference to your total energy usage. Limiting your television time can also allow you to spend quality time together with your family. Try to switch of your television during dinner time and vote on a ‘no TV night’ once a week. This time can be spent reading or having a family board game competition.

36. Use energy off-peak

Check your power bill and note when off-peak periods for your energy use are. In some instances, using energy during off-peak periods can cost up to half as much as peak periods. For example, if your off-peak period is 10pm to 7am, simply wait till later in the evening to begin using your dishwasher and washing machine. If you have a pool pump, you can also set the timer so it only on during off-peak times. While this won’t reduce the amount of energy you use, you will pay less per kilowatt, which means more money in your pocket.

37. Turn on your hot water system less

One of our Moneyhounders suggested a great tip to save energy on water heating for those with a large hot water system. They suggest switching on the hot water system two or three times a week overnight for those with smaller households. ‘I have mine on twice a week and never run out of hot water. It’s silly to pay to keep boiling water that is not used.’

38. Don’t heat-dry your dishes

Cut down the energy your dishwasher uses by switching off the heat-dry setting. According to an American Energy Comimission, choosing the air-dry setting over heat-drying will save up to 15 to 50 per cent of your dishwasher’s energy use. If your dishwasher doesn’t have an air-dry setting, you can save energy by turning the dishwasher off after its last rinse and open the door to let your crockery dry naturally.

39. Keep your dishwasher away from your fridge

According to the California Energy Commission, a dishwasher’s heat and moisture will make your fridge use more energy to keep your food cool. If possible, arrange your appliances so that your dishwasher is stored away from your fridge. However, if you do have to place your dishwasher and fridge beside one another, place a sheet of foam insulation between them. This will lessen the amount of dishwashing heat that will reach your fridge.

40. Thaw foods naturally

If you thaw frozen foods in your microwave, consider thawing them naturally instead. Although this will take longer, it will use less electricity. If you consider what you’re going to make for dinner before you go to work then you can take it out of the freezer to thaw before you leave the house.

41. Use a water-efficient showerhead

A water-efficient showerhead will reduce the amount of water you use and as a result, the amount of energy used in heating your shower. Some states offer a rebate when you switch to a water-efficient showerhead. In Victoria, it is possible to swap to a new water-efficient showerhead for free in exchange for your existing one. And if you live in NSW, some waver saving device service packages are available from depending on your region and your supplier.

42. Clean your lint collector

While lint collected in your dryer may be small, it can make your dryer less efficient by obstructing the air flow from the heated dryer. This means it will take a longer amount of time and more energy to dry your clothes. Remove the lint before every load and wash the trap with soap and water. A soft-bristle brush can also be used to loosen any remaining lint that is wedged in the screen.

43. Do you really need to preheat your oven?

Not all foods, such as slow-cooking casseroles, need to be cooked in a preheated oven. Only preheat your oven when necessary to save on energy.
44. Install solar backyard lights

Changing your backyard lighting to solar lights means you won’t have to pay for the energy to run them. These can be used as an alternative to lighting pathways or the entrances. There are now a wide range of different solar lights available to choose from your hardware store, and packs of four lights can be as cheap as $10.

45. Clean your air conditioner

A dirty filter in your air conditioner will restrict air flow. As a result, it will take a longer period of time and more power to cool a room. Clean the filter regularly to ensure you use energy wisely when it comes to your air-conditioner.

46. Avoid using electric cleaning appliances

Reconsider the appliances you use to clean your home. A broom and dustpan can quickly be used to clean up your balcony or tiled areas instead of using a leaf-blower or vacuum. Remember, these traditional utensils worked before we relied on electricity.

47. Dim the lights

Use candles instead of lights one or two nights a week to create some romance at the dinner table and save power at the same time. Dimmer switches can also be installed so you only use as much light as you need.

48. Use a gas heater or fireplace

Switch from an electric heater to a gas heater or fireplace to use less electricity and reduce your power bill. Gas heaters also have the benefit of warming rooms quicker than their electric counterparts and gas costs far less than electricity. If you can switch from an electric to a gas hot water heater that will make a big difference to your hip pocket too.

49. Iron efficiently

Adjusting the heat settings on your iron and waiting for it to cool for synthetic or delicate fabrics wastes energy. Instead, first iron clothes that require the highest heat seating then switch off the iron and use the residual heat for items that should be ironed on a cooler setting.

50. Switch to a cheaper provider

An immediate solution to rising power bills is to switch energy providers so you get a better deal. Moneyhound helps you to easily compare electricity and gas providers that service your postcode, by calculating an estimate based on your past bills or household size. If you manage to find a cheaper provider, you just have to fill out one application form and the switch will be organised for you, no fuss. And the best part is our service is completely free. Try it now.

Henry Sapiecha

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