Recession Busters 3

Reporter: Helen Wellings

Nobody wants to pay more than they have to for gas, electricity and water. Be energy smart - learn a few tricks - and you can save hundreds of dollars.

The cost of electricity and water is rising, up to 20 per cent every year, a huge slice out of household budgets. Now we're coming up to the colder months, energy bills can be expected to double, and in some cases triple.

The good news is, there are quick and easy ways to cut your bills in half without sacrificing your lifestyle.

Benjamin Freund from GoSwitch, a website dedicated to helping consumers save on their energy bills, says 50 per cent of all households are paying the absolute highest price for electricity and gas.

"Fifty percent of all households are paying the absolute highest price for electricity and gas. The amount that you can save to a large extent depends on your consumption and where you live but the average household can save $200 - $250 dollars a year in about 4 minutes," Ben said.

For instant savings, GoSwitch offers a free independent price comparison website for electricity and gas. The site can show you the three cheapest energy deals for your needs.

Benjamin Freund says within minutes GoSwitch can swap you to a different plan or to another company.

"The system also calculates how much you'll save on each offer in dollars and percentage points and then you can simply click on the offer that you want and the system sends your details to the retailer of your choice and they contact you - it's absolutely free - you can switch as often as you like."

Alex Wilson, the founder of Savings Guide, says cutting down on time in the shower can dramatically reduce the household spend.

"Twenty per cent of the power we use in the household is to do with the shower. In the course of a week one person will use 700 litres, a household of four, 2,800 litres per week. It could cost $260."

So by taking half the time in the shower and using an energy-smart shower-rose, a hot water bill can be halved. Further savings can also be made with an off-peak plan and investing in a rain water tank for long-term benefits.

A leaking tap can also be costly.

"Here's one of the biggest money wasters - you're looking at 20,000 litres per year for one tap - that's $30 -$50 a year for a tap that's leaking," Alex said.

Hot water storage units, constantly heating water, are also very expensive to run.

"The new water heating products will actually heat water on demand for you, so you turn the hot water tap on, it heats water on the spot. The old ones used to keep the hot water in reserve so you are paying for something you are effectively not using," Alex said.

Heating makes up half our winter energy bills, so using energy efficient heaters to warm the rooms you're actually using can also be a smart move. Sealing the cracks in rooms and using draught excluders will also help.

"Make sure the blinds are shut, the curtains are nicely drawn and this box pelmet stops the heat escaping and stops the draughts as well," Alex said.

CEO of Sustainability Victoria, Anita Roper, says savings can also be made by ensuring homes are insulated properly.

"One of the biggest savings we can make, about $300 - $350 per year, is by making sure we have insulated our home correctly. With the commonwealth rebate system that is around it actually allows each home to put that insulation in for free."

"Solar hot water rebates would be another system that I would encourage folks to have a look at. Has a longer payback but over time you are saving $250 a year."

Surprisingly enough, dishwashers are far more economical than lots of wash-ups. Choose the most energy efficient models, connect to cold water and use only when it's full.

Fridges cost $7.50 a week to run, and up to $15 a week for a larger one. The freezer should be minus 18 degrees and the remaining sections three to five degrees. Every degree colder costs 10% more in running expenses by using a thermometer and ensuring your fridge is running at the right temperature you can make savings.

Energy efficient lightbulbs are 70% cheaper than incandescents. Plasmas and video games - they drain the budget. Plasmas are four times more expensive to run than older sets. They can cost you an extra $230 a year if you leave them on. Similarly, Playstation and Xboxes cost $250 a year to run, and desk-top computers $130 a year.

Alex Wilson recommends switching these devices off when you're not using them

"Don't pay for what you're not using."

Related links


Savings Guide