How to make sure your electricity bill isn’t too high

Tired of being stung by power bills? Here’s how you can ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

With Australia shivering through winter, many of us may be bracing for some pretty hefty power bills.

However, there is still time to take control, and it extends beyond simply switching off the heater.

TODAY spoke with consumer expert Christopher Zinn who talked us through some of his best tips.

TODAY: Chris, first off, what should we be paying?

ZINN: It depends where you live, and on the size of your household. If you are in a two person household, your average yearly bill should be around $1722. For households with four people it will average $2028, and households with six people average $2634. These are average figures as the prices vary between states and if you have a big power guzzler like a swimming pool heater.

TODAY: Chris, some of us are due for a bill in the next week or so – is there time left to do anything?

ZINN: You are able to switch at any time. There are rarely exit fees, and it is a simple process. Doing nothing can be a costly option the ACCC latest electricity price report backs this up. Savvy and active consumers get the best deals and are subsidised but those who are inert. It might not be fair but for now it’s the system.

TODAY: Do you have any tips to negotiate a better rate?

ZINN: To negotiate a better rate, check the market to know what you should pay. There are comparison websites that can help you. Be confident, and threaten to switch providers if the offer isn’t matched. Know the highest discounts aren’t always the best as it depends just what the discount is off.. At any time when you get your bill you can switch electricity. Switching is quick, simple, and usually foolproof.

TODAY: What do we do if we’ve already been billed and it seems high?

ZINN: If you think bill is unduly high, providers do sometimes make mistakes. Speak to your retailer and they can help with the process. You can order a meter re-read, and if you’re not satisfied with resolution there’s an ombudsman service in each state you can go to. If you’re in hardship and have problems paying the bill you can contact your provider and ask about hardship provisions and government assistance that can be given.

TODAY: So how do we make sure our next bill doesn’t bite?

ZINN: Don’t use more power than you need. The big items are heating/cooling, hot water, and appliances. Lower you thermostat a bit and when buying get better energy star items–they can pay off over time. There are also government sites with hundreds of tips on how to save.

Also in future consumers who reduce their use on very hot or high demand days will get access to savings. The market is changing rapidly. Solar is very popular but government subsidies such as feed-in tariffs are decreasing not increasing. A large array can lead to good savings.

* In highlighting particular offers we are not making specific recommendations as this article does not cover all available products and may not compare all features relevant to you. Any advice provided is general in nature and does not take account of your needs, objectives or financial situation. Individuals should consider their own circumstances, and if in doubt seek appropriate advice, before proceeding.