Shop around and turn off appliances: ways to beat Australia’s energy price hikes
Looking for the best deal and saving energy around the home can help keep power bills under control
Australians are being hit with a double whammy: climate change is worsening extremes in weather and the price of energy is soaring. The combination is bad news if you are looking to crank up the air conditioner over a weekend of heatwaves in eastern Australia. In fact, households in most states can expect power bills to rise by as much as 23.7% from 1 July and gas shortages are anticipated.
Mariam Gabaji, a Finder energy expert, is expecting “a couple more years” of price hikes for renters and homeowners before the market eases.
But in the meantime, there are ways to beat the price rises by reducing your energy consumption and bills.
Get the best deal
Almost a third of Australians don’t believe they are getting good value from their energy plans – but only 13% have switched providers. Gabaji warns that staying loyal to an energy provider can cost up to $168 a year.
“The old days of setting and forgetting your energy are long gone,” she says. “You might not notice the jump in bills in the first quarter, but it will add up by the end of the year.”
Anticipated energy price hikes on 1 July will be based on standing offers for consumers who have not changed their plans in at least 12 months, Gabaji says. She suggests reviewing your contract or calling your retailer to check whether your deal is on a standing contract or is a market offer.
All energy retailers are obliged to make a standing offer available to customers. It is usually more expensive than a market offer, which will differ with discounts and deals between retailers. Market offers will usually be fixed term and require exit fees.
“Contact your retailer to see which deal they can offer you that is better than what you are on,” Gabaji says.
When comparing energy plans, Gabaji says to use each electricity retailer’s yearly estimate as a reference price. She suggests aiming for an electricity plan that is 10% less than the reference price benchmark set by the government.
When it comes to gas, Gabaji suggests looking for a guaranteed discount that can last beyond 12 months.
“The best thing you can do when you’re comparing your options, is to go back to them and tell them you have a better offer elsewhere,” Gabaji says. “They may be able to bring down their price.
“Often in the middle of switching, they may come back to offer you a better deal to stay.”
If you can’t pay your energy bills, Asic Moneysmart’s Andrew Dadswell suggests contacting your service provider “straight away”. Ask about other options, such as making payments in instalments, allowing you to delay a payment or reassessing the best plan.
“You can also ask your energy provider about paying bills in smaller amounts more often,” he says. “You may be able to pay fortnightly or monthly, to avoid the shock of a large bill.”
Save energy around the home
Gabaji suggests incorporating small daily changes around the house – starting with switching off standby appliances at the plug.
“Turn off your clothes dryer, dishwasher, microwave, anything that uses a remote to be turned on,”’ she says. “They are usually waiting for a signal from you to be turned on, which uses power.”
Dadswell calls these “vampire appliances”. Gaming consoles, televisions and phone chargers can easily stay turned off at the wall when not in use, he says.
Next, insulate rooms to trap heat inside without relying on electric heaters and air conditioners. Gabaji recommends “doing it yourself” by using weatherproof tape.
Be selective with the rooms you heat or cool, “rather than the whole house”, Dadswell says. “Look at using appliances like your dryer outside peak times. Also consider checking your air con.”
Gabaji says cleaning dust buildup out of an air conditioner’s airways will mean “it isn’t working as hard” and will consume less energy.
And if shopping around for new appliances, Gabaji urges to check the energy rating stickers. “The higher the stars, the more energy efficient.”
In general, “opt for energy efficiency where possible”, she says. “It might cost more right now but will pay off in the long run.”