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

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Racing -

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 en­er­gy­ 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.”

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