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Cold showers, battery power: Extreme measures these Aussies have taken to save on power bills

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Source: Getty Images
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Source: Getty Images

Australian households have been on rollercoaster ride with energy prices over the past decade, forcing some of us to take extreme measures to reduce our winter power bills.

Since 2009, electricity prices have increased by 75 per cent on average, while gas prices are up 65 per cent on average, largely due to supply chain costs including poles and wires upgrades, the introduction of green schemes and changes in generations costs.

For the average household, this means that energy prices have basically risen from $1,000 a year up to as much as $3,000 across all states and territories between 2009 and 2018. The variation in price typically reflects the climate and heating and cooling needs.

In past 12 months, energy prices have started to soften due to increased regulatory interventions but overall costs are still high.

“Prices may go up again from here or they may fall, depending on whether the various state and territory governments can agree on a coordinated energy policy to ultimately benefit consumers,” said Gavin Dufty spokesperson of the St Vincent de Paul Society.

How to save on power bills - extreme measures

Brisbane woman Simone Heston says the price pressure has been too much for her $60,000 annual salary and she’s taken drastic steps to halve her usual $500 a quarter power bill.

“I made the decision that when our two gas bottles, which were servicing our house ran out, that I wouldn’t replace them,” she said.

“That’s meant taking cold showers during Winter and not using the gas stove for cooking.

“I also avoided turning on the lights at night and just ran a battery powered lantern from Bunnings.

“It’s been a very emotional sacrifice but one that has allowed me to cut our latest bill to just under $250 for the quarter,” she said.

Tanyika Fraser is one of a number of Mums who have taken to social media to share energy efficient stories that are helping families to reduce their bills.

“We’ve installed solar powered lights in the toilet because our kids are forever leaving the light on,” she said.

“The solar power light isn’t as bright and because you can set it to auto it will turn off in the day, hence allowing us to save a little on energy bills,” she said.

Installing energy efficient lighting, washing your clothes in cold water and switching off appliances at the wall are some of the most popular ways to reduce your energy bills.

How to save on power bills - switch providers

Standby appliances can cost a typical household over $100 per year in wasted electricity, according to Canstar.

A TV in standby mode costs around 0.02 cents to 0.1 cents per hour, which is not nearly as much as some other appliances

But Canstar Blue Editor, Simon Downes says the best way to do it is to switch providers for a better deal.

“No one should have to go without water or heating or cooling because they’re concerned about high energy bills,” he says.

“If you find yourself in a situation where you’re worried about that next big energy bill, talk to your retailer and explain you’re struggling.”

“All energy retailers must now have hardship programs to allow customers to pay what they owe over time, so the worst thing you can do is bury your head in the sand and hope the problem goes away.”

How to save on power bills - top three tips

Downes has three tips of advice for those struggling to pay energy bills.

1. Don’t ignore the letters in the mail or email inbox – that’s when you end up getting the power cut off.

2. Pick up the phone and talk to your energy retailer about the situation and try to come to some sort of arrangement.

3. Make sure you’re paying a reasonable underlying price for power before turning off the cooling or heating.

“I cringe at some of the advice people are often given in the media when it comes to reducing power costs.

“The best thing you can do to spend less on power is to get a better power deal. It’s really that simple.

“Once you’re on a good deal, you can then start to look at the areas where you can cut back on usage – such as only using the heating or cooling when you really need to, and use it in an efficient way like not setting the temperature too high for heating or too cold for cooling,” said M Downes.

Bianca Hartge-Hazelman is a women’s money columnist and the founder of Financy and the Financy Women’s Index.

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