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El Nino energy hacks: How to stay cool as temperatures and bills rise

It's a myth that reverse-cycle air conditioners are expensive to run.

An El Niño weather system is set to heat up pressure on energy bills across Australia in the coming months.

It has already been an unseasonably warm spring, with parts of the country baking in mid-30C heat on some days. Moving into summer, it looks set to get very hot and dry, and households will need to prepare to pay more for electricity to stay cool, which can account for up to 40 per cent of our bills.

From fans, to portable heaters and air conditioners; Aussies are confused about how to stay comfortable without being slapped with an enormous bill, especially as the financial blow of 25 per cent energy price hikes start to trickle in.

A fan and an air conditioner ready for a fight with a background showing bill prices are rising.
Aussies are starting to wonder how to stay cool without being slapped with a huge energy bill. (Credit: Yahoo Finance Australia)

Any relief from downward-trending wholesale electricity prices won’t come until July next year at the earliest, when energy regulators set new benchmark pricing.

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But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom if you make some changes around the home.

Also read:

Consider your air-conditioning costs and habits

Do you have a reverse-cycle air conditioner at home you’ve been too afraid to use because it’ll cause your bills to blow up?

It’s in fact a myth that just because they’re big in size, they’re more expensive to run.

Reverse-cycle air cons are the cheapest way to both heat and cool your home, thanks to their energy efficiency. You can look up your model online to see how energy efficient it is for peace of mind. The more star ratings it has, the cheaper it is to run.

But, regardless of what type of air conditioning you have, the following tips can help you stay cool this summer and keep your costs down:

  • Make sure to clean your air conditioner filters regularly – at least once a year. Clogged filters due to dust, mould or pollen can lower the efficiency of the appliance.

  • Given each extra degree can add 5-10 per cent to your energy bill, you’ll want to consider raising the temperature when you have the air con switched on.

  • Reducing the number of hours you use your air conditioner per day can also help you cut back on costs. For example, dropping your use from five hours to four hours per day during summer can knock 25 per cent off the cost to cool your home.

  • Make sure all doors and windows are closed so that your air con isn’t working harder than necessary to keep your rooms cool.

Tip: If the heat makes it too uncomfortable to sleep at night, consider setting a one or two-hour timer if the feature is available. This way you won’t have the air con running all night.

Portable air conditioner vs fan

Portable air conditioners have the advantage of being easier and cheaper to install than split systems, but they are generally more expensive to run. Consider using portable systems only when you really need to.

Or instead, take advantage of a pedestal fan. They’re generally cheaper to run (around 2-3 cents per hour) and much cheaper to buy.

Hack your home and make some lifestyle changes

Even for those with an air conditioner, the cost of living has put such a strain on household finances that many may not want to use them.

Regardless of your situation, do consider the following because the heat can negatively impact your health:

  • Leave the windows open if there’s a breeze (especially at night) but, on really hot days, keep your blinds or curtains closed to help keep the heat out.

  • During winter, you layer up. Over the summer, it’s the opposite. Wear breathable material that’s a loose fit, which will help keep your body temperature down.

  • Seal gaps around windows and doors so the cool air is trapped inside. This is important for when you’re running the air conditioner as well.

  • Turn off “vampire appliances” by the wall because standby mode also uses power. These include coffee machines, microwaves and TVs. This can save you around $100 a year, if not more.

Compare energy plans to make sure you’re on the best deal

If you haven’t compared energy plans in the past six-12 months, you should do this straight away. That’s because if you’ve been with your provider for more than a year and have never negotiated a new plan, then you might not be on the cheapest available offer.

While you negotiate with your provider, at the same time, compare its rates to other providers – it’s likely you may be able to save more with another supplier.

Tip: Also ask your energy provider if you’re eligible for any rebates or concessions that can help lower your bills.

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Yahoo Australia