Hidden energy users in your home

man playing a video game with a PlayStation 4 controller

Danny Baggs

Posted May 31, 2023

If you want to reduce your energy bill, check your household for hidden energy hogs that eat up more than their reasonable share of power and contribute to wasted energy.

Energy bills do not itemise expenses like bank statements or credit card bills. Luckily, there are ways to figure out which appliances, systems and habits contribute to higher energy bills.

Smart power plugs can connect a device to a power point, then transmit the relevant energy usage data for that device to your smartphone. Some energy retailers can even use this smart meter usage data to explain monthly usage and bills to their customers.

If you don't want to invest in several smart power plugs, or install solar power, it’s up to you to figure out which appliances, systems and habits contribute to higher energy bills. Here are all the hidden energy users in your home that you can eliminate.

Simple ways to make your home more energy efficient

Energy hogs in your household to watch out for

Standby mode

When you are finished with your computer or games console for the day, you can choose between ‘standby’ (also called ‘sleep’ or ‘rest mode’) and ‘shut down’.

It can be tempting to select ‘standby’ so that you can access your documents or games at the touch of a button. But keeping gadgets on standby continues to draw power as they perform updates, downloads and charging in the background.

Even ‘shut down’ won’t stop many devices from using any energy. “All appliances or products plugged into a power point will consume some electricity, unless the power point is switched off,” a spokesperson for the Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER) explained. “Appliances running on standby mode like your television, multimedia players or multi power point boards with a light display still consume some electricity.”

These devices need electricity to power LED status lights (e.g. a small red light to indicate the device being ‘off’), sensors needed to receive remote signals (e.g. a television remote control), and other sneaky power pulls. The only way you can guarantee that devices are not wasting energy is to manually switch off the power point.

“To reduce your energy costs, you can think about auditing your home and determining what is essential to run 24/7 and what you can turn on and off yourself,” advised DISER. For example, the Department estimates that properly switching off your games console after use could save up to $193 a year.

man turning on a washing machine

Clothes washers and dryers can consume a lot of energy. Image: Getty

Inefficient household appliances

Check the Energy Rating Labels on your household appliances to determine whether they are energy-efficient or not. The higher their star rating, the more efficient they are. Consider upgrading any poorly-rated appliances or choosing an appliance with the best star rating when you are next purchasing.

Energy Rating Labels can be found on household appliances that use the most electricity, such as:

  • Refrigerators

  • Freezers

  • Clothes washers

  • Clothes dryers

  • Dishwashers

  • Air conditioners (single phase, non-ducted)

  • Televisions

  • Computer monitors

Water heater

If there is one major household appliance that you should upgrade to a more energy-efficient model, it’s your water heater. “Hot water represents around 25% of the energy consumed by most homes,” according to DISER.

Electric hot water systems are the cheapest to buy but the most expensive to run, because they heat water and store it in an insulated tank for ready-to-use hot water. A heat pump, solar or gas hot water system will be more economical long-term because they use much less power to run.

Air conditioner

Air conditioning is typically considered the most expensive appliance to run in your home. Avoid using your air conditioner where possible by closing curtains or drawing blinds on hot, sunny days. When running your air conditioner, close the doors to any rooms you won’t be using. Cleaning your air conditioner unit’s filters every few months will also prevent wasted energy.

open dishwasher

Dishwashers are just one of many household appliances than can consume more than their fair share of energy. Image: Getty

Clothes washer

Modern washing machines are a lot more energy efficient these days, but inefficient usage can waste a lot of power at once. Wait until you have a full load to put on a wash and consider washing on a cold cycle so you don't rack up extra water heating bills. Up to 90% of the energy consumed by washing machines is from heating water for hot washes, making cold washes far more economical for regular loads.

Clothes dryer

Clothes dryers can be useful, but a clothes airer can work just as well without costing you a cent. It also preserves your clothes, as the heat involved in tumble drying can damage delicate fabrics and shrink clothes down a size. DISER reports that “using the clothesline once a week instead of using the dryer could save around $79 a year.”

open fridge

Always keep your fridge door firmly closed to conserve energy. Image: Getty

Secondary fridge

Fridges are particularly large power consumers if they are not highly energy efficient, because they need to remain on 24/7.

Owning a larger capacity fridge than you need, or a secondary fridge that stays mostly empty, uses extra energy to cool unused space. DISER says that “getting rid of the second fridge could save around $172 a year."

Keeping fridges in hot, stuffy spaces (like garages) also requires more power to keep their contents cool.

When purchasing a fridge, buy the model with the highest efficiency ratings that you can comfortably afford. Another easy way to cut down on your fridge’s energy consumption is to defrost it whenever it has ice build-up.

Pool pump

Australia has the highest pool ownership per capita in the world. But running a pool pump for 6-8 hours daily throughout summer, and 4 hours daily in winter, is necessary to keep your pool clean and sanitary. Pool pumps gobble up massive amounts of energy, resulting in a four-figure addition to your annual power bill.

To cut down on costs, you could use a pool cover to cut down on evaporation and debris. If you don’t mind the noise of a running pool pump, you could also set it to run at night, when electricity is generally cheaper.


LED lightbulbs are much more energy-efficient than incandescent lightbulbs. Image: Getty

Incandescent lightbulbs

Did you know that LED lightbulbs consume up to 75% less energy and last 8x longer than traditional fluorescent lightbulbs? Switch to LED bulbs to easily save money without sacrificing brightness or longevity.

Behavioural waste

A simple way to cut down on costs is to curb habits that use energy. Are you guilty of leaving lights on in rooms you’re not using? Do you sometimes fall asleep in front of the TV? Have you stared into an open fridge for minutes on end, deciding what to eat? Would you rather turn on the heater than pull on a jumper? These habits are called ‘behavioural waste’ and can contribute to excess power consumption, resulting in higher electric bills.

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