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Cut costs by identifying these power 'guzzlers': Simple tips to reduce your bill

Summer power bills are usually the biggest of the year as Aussies crank up the air-con, but what can you do to reduce the sting?

Aussies are reporting huge jumps in their summer power bills compared to this time last year, with many baffled by what’s causing the hike.

Queensland woman Carrey Segerstrom said her power bill had increased significantly, which she initially put down to higher energy costs, until she noticed her monthly “usage” had leaped from 18.57 kWh to 32.98 kWh in her most recent notice.

“My kWh usage seems to have almost doubled from this time last year (both December and January),” she wrote on social media. “A slight increase is understandable but it really shouldn’t have increased this much – any tips on what and how I could check what is potentially causing this? Could an old second-hand fridge be the culprit?”

Woman's hand shown turning on power on an older-style washing machine.
Could your older appliances be to blame for you sky-high power prices? (Source: Getty)

After clarifying she used a smart meter – which is read automatically – and that the bill was based on an actual reading, not an estimate, Segerstrom said she was still in the dark as to the cause of the price hike and felt “something seems dodgy”.

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“I’ve unplugged the fridge and am waiting on the next bill,” she told Yahoo Finance. “My 17-year-old son bought it second-hand for the garage to use for a party. It’s old, but not old-old.”

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After writing about her predicament on social media, Segerstrom’s post was flooded with responses, with one commenter saying his older fridge used “2.4kwh a day”, on average.

“We learned this lesson some years ago,” a woman wrote. “Daughter lived alone and was hardly home, had an old, but great-condition, huge fridge.” She said that after it stopped working and was replaced with a “new, energy-efficient fridge”, her bills were cut by more than half.

“One appliance was sucking up so much power. Similar will be seen with old hot water systems as they age and begin to fail,” she added.

A fourth person said she'd asked her provider to put her on a different, cheaper plan, but was told that, if she switched, she’d be charged peak-hour rates, which were higher.

“I've been trying for five years for them to explain mine,” the woman wrote. “One-person household, fridge and freezer running, no air con, only ceiling fans, no heaters and cook five out of seven nights and mine is up around $550-$600 each quarter.”

Why are power bills currently so high?

Author and journalist Joel Gibson, an expert in money-saving hacks to reduce power bills, told Yahoo Finance: “Summer bills are often the biggest of the year because of air-con, so that might have played a role – especially combined with much higher rates since the price rises of 2022 and 2023.

“But because of quarterly billing cycles, some of us haven't seen our big summer bills yet. They'll arrive any day now.”

Joel Gibson, pictured with his books.
Joel Gibson, author of Kill Bills! and Easy Money, is an expert on energy-saving hacks to help reduce household power bills. (Source: Supplied)

Gibson - author of Kill Bills: The 9 Insider Tricks You Need to Win the War on Household Bills - has explained to Yahoo Finance what the biggest drains on our household power often are and how you can save on your power bill.

The older an appliance, the less efficient it is

“Old freezers and fridges are less efficient as a rule and [are] often half-full, which also makes them cost more to run as the motor must work harder,” Gibson, told Yahoo Finance.

“An old beer fridge can cost $300 a year to run, for example. If you don't need them, turn them off and just fill an esky with ice when you have that party.”

Pools, hot water, air-con and heaters - the big four

Gibson said the "big guzzlers" are heating and cooling, hot water and pools.

“Those four are probably 75 per cent of your bill. If you can heat and cool your home efficiently, that can have a major impact on your bill," he said.

“For example, every degree on the air-con can add around 10 per cent or $100 to your summer bill. Don't dial it right down to 18. If you use a fan simultaneously, the fan will make the air con feel about 4 degrees cooler, which is excellent as fans only cost around 2c per hour to run.”

Turn off appliances when not in use

Turning off appliances that are not being used is key to saving money on power bills.

“This sort of 'vampire power' can make up 10-15 per cent of your bill at times,” Gibson told Yahoo Finance. “So, if you don't use an appliance regularly, turn it off.”

Switch power plans to save money

“If you live in a switching state – the worst plans are hundreds of dollars more expensive,” he said. “Jump on energymadeeasy.gov.au (or compare.energy.vic.gov.au) to see current plans in price order and move to one of the cheapest. Some providers also give you an upfront credit - as much as $300 - to join them.”

When will prices start to drop?

“July is the date when most prices change, but I think we'll see some of the hungrier, smaller retailers dropping prices in the months before,” Gibson said.

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