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Energy bill warning could save you hundreds of dollars: ‘You might miss it’

Hidden on the back of a $400 energy bill was a clue that saved one Aussie hundreds of dollars.

A Queensland mum has issued a warning for Australians trying to keep costs down to check their energy bills after working out there was a $240 discrepancy on hers.

The rural Australian was charged $407.27 on her November electricity bill and was unsure how it was so high considering there was a $275 energy rebate deducted and she was only running “a laptop, a fridge, and a washing machine and some energy-efficient lights”.

Upon giving the bill a closer look, she realised on the back it said the bill was an estimate of her power usage, and not taken off the meter - which shows what she actually used.

Find out if you’re one of millions of Aussies eligible for the government’s energy-relief payments in our explainer here.

Two energy bills showing total amounts due of $407.27 and $166.49 after a woman worked out the first was an estimation.
A Queenslander shocked by the price of her energy bill, worked out the reading was not based off her usage. (Credit: Reddit) (picture alliance via Getty Image)

Have you had a wild energy bill? Contact belinda.grantgeary@yahooinc.com

“On mine, it said it on the other side of the page up in the corner. Always read your bills carefully otherwise you might miss it,” she posted to Reddit.

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An estimation can be taken when an electricity meter is inside your home and the meter reader hired by the energy network to tell your provider how much you use is unable to access it.

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Consumer expert Joel Gibson told Yahoo Finance there were steps you could take to ensure you didn't get a bad estimation and pay for something you’d not even used.

“Sometimes there are good reasons for estimated reads but sometimes it’s hard to understand why they do them,” he said.

“Many retailers will accept a photo taken of the meter with today’s newspaper in it so that’s worth a try.”

This does involve checking the meter yourself. But sometimes they can be hard to read, which could be another reason why the reader couldn’t get the accurate figure.

Another option is to ask your energy company to install a smart meter. They can cost about $200 but Gibson shared how he managed to avoid that.

“They’ll do that sometimes for you free of charge if you give them a hard time. We had one put in for free because we complained to a retailer who was consistently estimating and overestimating our readings,” he said.

“There’s a bit of nonsense around online about smart meters being bad for you but the science says they’re no different to mobile phones or wifi routers.”

If the retailer won’t “be reasonable”, Gibson said refer the issue to your local energy ombudsman.

How can I keep my energy bill down as temperatures rise?

Electricity prices increased by between 20 and 25 per cent on July 1, following decisions by energy regulators for customers on default offers. More than a quarter of Australians are stressed about the cost, according to Finder's Consumer Sentiment Tracker.

Summer and winter are generally the peaks for power bills and, with hotter temperatures forecast, Gibson is warning prices are expected to rise as much as 25 per cent compared to last year.

“Wholesale prices are down, which is good news, but this takes six months to a year to flow through to household bills,” Gibson said.

“So, keeping a lid on the air con costs will be crucial this summer.”

Gibson said 75 per cent of Aussie homes now had air con so it was crucial to know that every degree on the thermostat mattered.

“Just dialling it up from 20C to 21C, for example, can cut your summer cooling bill by 10 per cent over the season and add up to $100 for some bigger systems,” he said.

Research from Vinnies found that, by moving from the most expensive to the cheapest energy plan, Aussies could save between $600 and $1,200, depending on what state they lived in.

Gibson said those looking for a cheaper plan should start at government websites such as energmadeeasy.gov.au or compare.energy.vic.gov.au if they live in Victoria.

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