Save money & the planet by decreasing your energy consumption this winter

July 7, 2021

With the reintroduction of being restricted to our homes, comes the unavoidable increase in electricity usage. Combined with the cold temperature of winter, this creates a double whammy on the increase of energy consumption in your home. An increase in the use of heaters, but also increased use in household electronics is going to influence the amount of energy consumed in your household this winter.

During the original lockdown during April 2020 in Victoria, energy consumption rose by an average of 20% in residential areas, compared to 20191. Depending on the region of Victoria, some areas even had increased energy consumption greater than 30%1. The increased amount of time individuals spent at home combined with the lower temperatures increased the amount of energy required in each household.

Without the added impact of increased homebodies and lockdowns due to a global pandemic, winter will always cause an increase in energy consumption. In winter, on average, Victorian households use 35 kWh (kilowatt per hour) of energy per day2. In summer, this number drops to 23 kWh per day2. This is an average of all household types in Victoria, including households with children, households with only adults, and single adults. Looking only at households with children, they are going to see the biggest impacts in winter on their energy bill, with the highest increase in energy consumption than any other group2. Their average daily consumption will increase in winter to 41.3 kWh, from summer’s consumption of 24.76 kWh2.

The Australian energy council estimates that electricity costs can increase by up to $200 during the winter period3. So, with an increase in costs looming ahead every winter, especially during a pandemic, there are many ways to reduce electricity costs in a household each year.

Everyday Steps to Decrease Costs

Recommendations and data provided by the Australian government and the Australian Energy Council, provide easy ways for everybody to take steps towards decreasing their electricity bills each year.

Dress for the Season

The easiest step to take is to dress for the change in temperatures. By adding warm layers first instead of heading straight for the heater, this can be your first step towards decreasing your energy consumption4. When using the heater, be aware of the temperature it has been set to. Increasing the temperature of the heater above 20℃ can increase energy consumption by 10% with every 1℃ added3. By using the heater only in rooms that are being used, as well as opening blinds and using the warmth of the sun, this can further decrease the amount of energy consumed each winter4,3.

Efficient Use of Appliances

Another way to reduce costs is by using the electronics in the house efficiently. Waiting until the washing machine and dishwasher is full before use, for example, will help to cut down on costs used to run the appliance3. This is once again another opportunity to use the free availability of the sun. By only using the dryer when it is absolutely necessary, and instead opting for drying your clothes on the clothesline, this will again reduce costs3. Waiting for the washing machine and dishwasher to be fully loaded before use will also reduce the amount of energy used in heating up water4.

Hot Water Usage

The hot water we use for showers, washing up, and cleaning our clothes is not usually thought of as being a part of our energy consumption. But, 25% of our energy bill comes from our hot water usage4. To reduce this, the amount of time recommended for a hot shower is 4 minutes4. Every minute after this will start to add unnecessary energy costs4.

These are everyday changes that you can make around the house to reduce the energy costs associated with winter, especially during a time when the Australian population is more likely to be at home. There are also bigger steps you can take around the house to reduce this consumption.

Bigger steps to Reduce Costs

Draught Proofing

One way to reduce costs is to make sure that all heat being produced stays within your home. The method used to prevent hot air from escaping, and to keep the cold air outside, is called draught proofing4. To draught-proof your home, you can install items such as draught-proofing strips or brush tip seals on doors to prevent unwanted movement of air4. A cheaper method to use before you take this bigger step is to use a draught stopper along the bottom of your door when heating rooms. This draught stopper will cover up the space underneath your door, preventing the loss of heat outside. By using these draught-proofing methods in your attempts to reduce costs this winter, it can save you as much as 25% on what you would have paid on heating4.

Windows

Windows are also another cause of major losses to the heat produced within the home, causing up to 40% of the heat produced to escape4. Adding blinds and curtains with insulation and/or a thermal lining will act to trap heat within your home4. Other more expensive options would be to double glaze your windows or add laminating products to the windows you have now4. Choosing either option, or a combination of the two, will help prevent unwanted heat loss.

Insulation

If you are a homeowner who can make changes around the house, looking for ways to reduce heat escape through the roof is a viable option. As much as 45% of the heat produced within your home can escape through the ceiling4. Using insulation in the walls as well can have positive effects on energy consumption during winter and summer4. Adding insulation in the walls has been known to save up to 20% on heating bills, with another 5% also being saved when adding insulation to flooring4. Looking for options to insulate your home can ensure that your home efficiently stays warm this winter.

Energy Efficient Appliances

The use of energy-efficient appliances is important in reducing your costs, and your environmental impact. When purchasing appliances and products, check the energy rating sticker before purchase. Opting for appliances and products with a higher number of energy rating stars will save you costs in the long run3. Energy ratings are determined by the government, which compares appliances against each other of the same size on their energy efficiency5. This rating will give you a number between 1-6 stars5. The sticker on the appliance will also tell you the amount of energy that the appliance will use to run every year5. You can use this energy usage number to determine how much an appliance will cost you to run every year5. This can be calculated by taking the energy usage number and dividing it by four5. This will give you an estimate of the cost every to run that appliance. Because of the energy used to heat water, water ratings are important to consider as well6. These water ratings can be used for appliances such as the dishwasher and washing machine, but also on products such as showerheads. For example, if you purchase a shower head with a 4-star water rating, will not only save you money on your water bills, but also your energy bills, as less hot water will be used6.

Solar Panels

An excellent long-term solution to the increased energy bills of winter is installing solar panels on your house4. This solution is useful in creating energy savings all year round. By installing solar panels, this will use the free energy of the sun to generate electricity. The installation of solar panels has two options, either where the energy is stored into batteries, or it can be connected to the main power grid4. The use of solar panels can also have other benefits, such as being awarded incentives for installing and using your solar panels4. These incentives are known as ‘small scale technology certificates’4. These certificates can be used to cover a part of the cost for the purchase and installation of the solar panels7. As well as this, any excess energy made by your solar panels that you do not use, can be sold on to other electricity suppliers, creating a new form of income for you4.

Switch to Save

The easiest way to make sure that you are paying the best price for the electricity you use is to check the price being charged with the energy provider you are with now, against other providers4. This can easily be done by using EZswitch8. EZswitch is a free service, that will compare energy providers for you, and signing you up to the energy provider that will offer the best deal for your situation8. By uploading a past energy bill, EZswitch will then find the best energy provider for you, and will check your energy costs once a year, switching you over if a better deal is available8.

There are many changes, varying in costs and size, that you can make to lower your energy costs this winter. By taking some of these steps, you can start to see your winter energy costs decreasing, which is important no more than ever, when we are spending even more time in the home.

Sources:

[1] Dr Jill Cainey. Energy Networks Australia. Mapping the impact of COVID-19 on electricity demand.   (July 2020). https://www.energynetworks.com.au/news/energy-insider/2020-energy-insider/mapping-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-electricity-demand/

[2] CSIRO. Typical House Energy Use.   https://ahd.csiro.au/other-data/typical-house-energy-use/

[3] Australian Energy Council. Winter Energy Bills. (2021).  https://www.energycouncil.com.au/media/n00fiwg4/aec-winter-savings-factsheet.pdf

[4] Australian Government. Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. https://www.energy.gov.au/households/household-guides/seasonal-advice/winter

[5]Energy Rating. The Energy Rating Label. https://www.energyrating.gov.au/label

[6] Australian Government. Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. Reduce Your Energy Bills. https://www.energy.gov.au/households/household-guides/reduce-energy-bills

[7] Australian Government. Small-scale technology certificates. (May 2018). http://www.cleanenergyregulator.gov.au/RET/Scheme-participants-and-industry/Agents-and-installers/Small-scale-technology-certificates

[8] ezswitch. Our Services. https://ezswitch.com.au/our-services/