New energy advice trial helps Victorians cut power costs

Living Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 09 July 2020

Reduce your power bills by taking part in RACV’s new Energy Advice Trial.

A free trial service offered by RACV in partnership with the Australian Energy Foundation aims to help Victorians lower their power bills. The Energy Advice Trial, available free to RACV members until 31 July, comes as many households face soaring energy costs this winter, thanks to the extra demand on power-guzzling heaters, computers, printers and other devices needed for working from home. 

Thermostat in a house


RACV’s general manager energy, Jesco d’Alquen, says that with almost half of Victoria’s workforce working from home for several months, many households could be unwittingly racking up big power bills. “You don’t see the results of your power usage on the spot and people may not realise the impact until they get a bill,” he says. 

RACV’s Energy Advice Trial offers members a free consultation – over the phone, by online chat or via email – with an expert providing individual advice on eight key areas for potential energy saving: draught-proofing, insulation, heating, hot-water use and systems, windows, lighting, solar panels and batteries, and electricity bills. If required, qualified suppliers for energy solutions can also be provided. 

Jesco says heating and cooling are the biggest power users in the home, accounting for up to 40 per cent of household energy bills, but that there are inexpensive ways to shave heating costs in winter. 

He says draught-proofing your home should be a priority and can be as simple as using door snakes, floor rugs or weather seals around doors and windows. 

He recommends avoiding using gas heaters because gas prices are high and these units also use electricity to power the fan. Overall, reverse-cycle, split-system heating is cheaper and Jesco suggests setting these units at 18 to 20 degrees to keep running costs down. 

For non-solar-powered homes, he says power-guzzling appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines and dryers should be set to run late at night to make the most of off-peak periods. 

It’s the reverse for solar-powered homes. Run the big appliances in the middle of the day when the sun is shining and generating solar power, he says. People with solar power should also check that their inverter unit, which converts energy from the sun into useable household power, is working properly. 

A really simple tip to reduce your energy bills is checking that you’re on the cheapest rate suitable for your household, says Alison Rowe, chief executive officer of the Australian Energy Foundation. 

She says the foundation’s experts will guide RACV members through this as part of the Energy Advice Trial. 

Most Victorian households are consuming substantially more energy than in the same period last year. For example, she says, energy company Jemena reported a 27 per cent jump in customer energy usage in the second week of June compared with the same time last year. 

She says on average, Victorians spend $15.60 a week per person on power, but warns this is likely to increase during the working from home period. 

To avoid bill shock, Alison says the foundation can help people request an early bill outside of normal monthly or quarterly bills, so householders know what to expect. 

For a free consultation on how to cut your power bills, click here.

Gas cooking
Window seal tape


Eight ways to help slash your power bills this winter


The Australian Energy Foundation says households can take steps in eight key areas to reduce energy consumption: 

Draught-proofing 

  • 15 to 25 per cent of heat loss in winter is due to draughts.
  • Draught-proofing is the most cost-effective home retrofit, involving inexpensive materials and measures.  
  • Use weather seal around doors and windows, use a door snake or door seal at the bottom of doors and use floor rugs to reduce draughts along timber floors.  

Insulation

  • About 80 per cent of Australian homes have inadequate insulation or ineffective insulation that has moved out of place. For example, a five per cent gap in ceiling insulation can reduce the effectiveness of insulation by 50 per cent. This can happen when insulation is accidently moved by contractors, such as electricians.
  • Properly insulated homes typically halve their power bills compared with a home without insulation.
  • The cost of installing insulation pays for itself in five to six years. 

Heating  

  • The average home uses 40 per cent of its energy on heating and cooling, so focus on this. A reverse-cycle split-system is the cheapest way to heat your home.
  • Set your split-system to 18 to 20 degrees Celsius. You’ll hardly notice a couple of degrees warmer or cooler than this, but your heater will. Every degree higher can add 10 per cent to its winter running costs.
  • Use electric blankets. If you’re just relaxing on the couch or bed and don’t need to heat an entire room, cosy up under an electric blanket – they’re deliciously snuggly and only cost three cents an hour to run. 

Hot water 

  • The average home uses 23 per cent of its energy on hot water.
  • Take showers instead of baths. A four to six-minute shower halves energy costs. Even if you take a relatively long eight to 10-minute shower, it uses 75 to 150 litres less water than the average bath.
  • Wash laundry in cold water. Many delicate fabrics need cold washes anyway, so do the rest of your laundry with them and save 80 per cent of the energy needed for a typical warm water load. 

Windows 

  • Ten to 20 per cent of heat loss in winter is through windows.
  • Keep heat from escaping through your windows with heavy curtains and pelmets or, in a pinch, try bubble wrap.
  • Use weather seal around your windows. 

Lighting 

  • Lighting typically uses seven per cent of a household’s energy.
  • LEDs use 75 per cent less energy than halogens and last five to 10 times longer. LEDs can cost slightly more to buy, but energy savings cover the initial higher cost in less than a year.
  • The lightbulb saver app from the federal government helps you choose the best lights, while the Victorian government has generous rebates.

Solar panels and battery storage 

  • Going solar lowers your energy bills and has a short payback period of five to seven years, with multiple financing options.
  • For the typical customer, your free, sun-generated energy will replace 30 to 60 per cent of electricity bills.
  • The state government’s Solar Victoria has rebates of up to $1888 for solar panels and rebates up to $4174 for batteries

Electricity bills 

  • It’s important to shop around for the best tariff every year. If you haven’t switched your plan for a while, you could end up saving quite a bit.
  • Compare your energy bills quickly and easily at the state government website Victorian Energy Compare
  • The state government’s default rate, designed to provide a fair price, is not always the lowest. Check with energy providers for the best deal. 


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