Keeping cool without a summer bill blowout
The heat is on but, with a little effort, there’s no need to get burnt by your energy bill, writes Anthony Keane
HOUSEHOLDS are bracing for big electricity bills after heatwaves scorched the nation this summer.
But the bills themselves – whether received traditionally by paper or electronically – can contain some hidden savings for those who understand them.
Buyologists founder Mike Chalmers said many people didn’t check their power bills for a variety of reasons.
“Some people don’t understand them, some people don’t care, and some people don’t think they can change them anyway,” he said. “But you do have options – maybe with your existing supplier or potentially a new supplier.”
Firstly, know the rate you pay for energy usage, which is typically between 25 cents per kilowatt hour and 44c/kWh, depending on where you live. Mr Chalmers said to go to energymadeeasy.gov.au for price comparisons.
Check all costs, not just usage charges, because extra expenses can include payment processing fees, credit card processing fees, late payment fees and paper statement fees.
Don’t be sucked in by headline discounts.
“A lot of people see they’re getting a discount and are happy, but don’t realise that their base rates are higher,” Mr Chalmers said.
He suggested checking for retailer errors by comparing your usage with previous bills.
“I found a $15,000 error in one of my client’s bills, where they had been incorrectly billed for years,” Mr Chalmers said.
Big savings can come from harnessing pay-on-time discounts offered by many providers. EZswitch chief executive Philip Oakman said these discounts could range between 5 per cent and 42 per cent off your bill.
“A recent ACCC report criticised heavily the conditional discounts offered by retailers, especially pay-ontime discounts,” he said.
“The same report revealed that 27 per cent of residential bill payers miss the payment deadline. If you are on an energy plan with a 30-40 per cent discount, that’s a huge difference to your bill if you don’t pay by the due date.”
Mr Oakman said electricity bills had two categories of charges: energy use and a daily supply charge. “The latter is straightforward,” he said.
“You are charged a fixed rate every day for access to the electricity.
“It’s the usage charges where things start to get complex.”
Some bills have a single rate, while some are charged by time of use, with up to three separate usage rates: peak, off-peak and shoulder.
If you know these rates, you can structure your use of appliances around the cheapest times of the day.
People with solar panels get some money back through their solar feed-in tariff, which can range from 6c to 60c, depending on their state and when their system was installed.
“Any solar power that is produced by solar panels is first used by the household,” Mr Oakman said.
“Excess electricity generated by the solar panels is exported to the electricity grid.”