Electricity & Gas Savings Guide
With some of the world's highest power prices, Australian households need to do all we can to save on Electricity & Gas Bills.
How to find the cheapest plan on the market
It’s possible for some households to save up to $1500 just by switching their Electricity & Gas from the worst offers to the best, according to the Australian Energy Regulator.
To compare energy plans, you need to weigh up two things for starters: the discount and the underlying rates.
But you don’t even need to get out the calculator to find the cheapest energy plan around: all you need is a recent bill and about 5 minutes online using a comparison site.
There are two types of comparison sites:
- Commercial sites such as youcompare.com.au*, iselect.com.au, and electricitywizard.com.au that display most offers on the market and DO link through to those offers.
- Government sites such as energymadeeasy.gov.au that display all offers on the market but DO NOT link through to providers to get those offers.
If you’re in NSW, SEQLD or South Australia, follow these steps (and make sure you read Step 5 closely)
- Grab a recent bill that has your usage on it.
- Go to the Government website www.energymadeasy.gov.au or a comparison site such as youcompare.com.au* (If you prefer to speak to a human being, call them on 1300 352 138).
- Look for the ‘Compare Energy Offers’ section
- Enter your details until it shows you a list of plans
- (NB: This bit is important) Both types of site have their pros and cons. The Government site displays the cost of plans WITHOUT discounts included. If you want to know what the DISCOUNTED cost will be (and who doesn’t?), click the box in the top right that says ‘Estimated Bill with all discounts incl. GST’. The commercial sites will often show you ‘promoted’ or ‘featured’ offers first, which may or may not be the cheapest. To see the cheapest, look for a button that says ‘show all offers’ or ‘show offers without Go To Site links’.
If you’re in Victoria, your state government has gone it alone so follow these steps:
- Grab a recent bill that has your usage on it.
- Go to the Government website www.compare.switchon.vic.gov.au or a comparison site such as youcompare.com.au* (If you prefer to speak to a human being, call them on 1300 352 138).
- Look for the ‘Compare Energy Offers’ section
- Enter your details until it shows you a list of plans
- (NB: This bit is important) Both types of site have their pros and cons. The Government site displays the cost of plans WITHOUT discounts included. When it asks “How would you like Victorian Energy Compare to sort your list of results?”, select “Discounted Price” (that’s if you generally pay on time and want to know what the DISCOUNTED cost will be). The commercial sites will show you ‘promoted’ or ‘featured’ offers first, which may or may not be the cheapest. To see the cheapest, look for a button that says ‘show all offers’ or ‘show offers without Go To Site links’.
If you're in WA:
Your state government does not yet allow you to choose between competing Electricity retailers. But you CAN switch your Gas and competition is hotting up between Alinta Energy*, Kleenheat*, Origin Energy* and AGL.
There is no simple comparison site so you’ll need to check out each of their websites to see what their current offer is.
If you're in TAS, the NT or QLD (outside the South-east corner):
You can’t switch providers for Electricity or Gas. Unfortunately, your state government does not yet allow you to choose between competing retailers.
In the meantime, you can try these “81 Tips to Save Energy around the Home”
Why you don’t always need the ABSOLUTE cheapest plan
You can save as much as $1600 by finding a cheaper Electricity & Gas plan in some cases, but you don’t have to spend hours trying to decide which is the ABSOLUTE cheapest.
Here are 5 reasons why you don’t always need the absolute cheapest plan:
- Fact is, there’s usually only about $100-$200 p.a. between the 10 cheapest offers out there, and today’s cheapest will be next week’s 3rd-cheapest because the market changes. As long as you shop around every year or so and pick ONE OF the cheapest, you’ll be saving.
- The cheapest plan is not ALWAYS the best one for you. It might be direct debit, for example, and you don’t always have money in your account. Or it might be a one-year discount, and you prefer an ongoing discount. But follow our Guide to “How to find the cheapest plan on the market” and scroll down the first page of results and you’ll see a few cheap options to choose from.
- You might not even have to switch! If you REALLY like your current provider, follow our Guide to “How to find the cheapest plan on the market”, then call them and tell them about the great offers you’re looking at. Ask them to match it.
- There are also some OFF-MARKET offers out there. Some groups such as One Big Switch* and the motoring clubs in each state (NRMA, RACQ, RACV, RAA, RAC WA etc) negotiate special offers for their members, and you have to get those direct from their website. But note that motoring clubs require an annual subscription fee.
- Even if you do find the ABSOLUTE cheapest plan around, it can be a bit like the search for the perfect wave; there’s always another one coming along.
Here’s the thing: the only mistake you can make is to do nothing at all.
If you do nothing, your discount will gradually deteriorate and your underlying rates will gradually rise, and you’ll end up paying more than you have to – up to $1500 more per year, according to the Australian Energy Regulator!
What to look for in a plan if you’re a Solar customer
Solar customers can still follow the steps in “How to find the cheapest plan on the market”, but for you there is an extra factor to consider, on top of discounts and underlying rates: Feed-in Tariffs.
There are two types of Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs): Government and Retailer FiTs.
Those who got in early enough might still be receiving large Government Feed-in Tariffs, which were offered for a limited time to encourage take-up of solar.
More recent entrants into the solar market (or those whose Govt FiTs have expired) will just be getting Retailer Feed-in Tariffs, which are currently set at the following rates:
|State||Current Rate Paid*|
|SA||11 to 16.3c/kWh (depending on retailer)|
|ACT||6 to 12c/kWh (depending on retailer)|
|NT||Same as consumption rate / grid purchase rate|
|WA||Varies e.g. 7.1c/kWh (Synergy)|
|QLD||6 to 12c/kWh (depending on retailer)|
|NSW||11.9 to 15.0 c/kWh (depending on retailer)|
There’s a good rundown of all the state-based tariffs at the Energy Matters website.
So, what’s the best plan for you?
This is a tough one, because it all depends on what sort of solar household you are.
At home all day, using your solar power? A big Feed-in Tariff may not be as important to you. You’ll probably need a big discount and low rates on the grid power you use at night.
At work all day, selling your solar power into the grid? A big Feed-in Tariff may be more useful to you than other solar households because you’re selling most of your solar power, not using it.
Don’t fall for the “honeymoon strategy”
It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. You join Power Company A on a big discount, only to find a couple of years later that you’ve been moved to an inferior discount.
It’s known as the Honeymoon Strategy:
- give you a very good 1-year offer, then
- move you onto an inferior offer, and
- hope you either don’t notice or couldn’t be bothered moving or negotiating with them.
If you’re prepared to move regularly, you can win and win again from this business model, taking honeymoon after honeymoon and then leaving for the next big discount.
If not, look for a provider with a “lifetime/ongoing” discount model, such as Red Energy, Momentum Energy, Powershop, Click Energy or Dodo.
There’s no right or wrong, really: it’s a matter of finding the right provider for you and then playing the game to win!
The time a discount lasts is known as the “minimum benefit period” or “contract term” in the fine print of your energy plan. Be sure to check it.
You can see the details of every energy plan on the market at the Federal Government website www.energymadeeasy.gov.au
Get all the Rebates you’re entitled to
One cost-saving measure most Governments offer are rebates for vulnerable groups of people. Unfortunately, most of these schemes are under-subscribed!
Government rebates are available on both a national and state level and differ from state to state. Your respective state government body will be able to help you determine if you are eligible, however, rebates are most commonly designed to cater for pensioners, those on a low income, or who hold a valid DVA gold card.
We’ve summarised the main rebate items you might be able to claim in your state:
The Low Income Household Rebate helps NSW households pay their electricity bills and provides $285 a year to eligible customers who hold an electricity account, or $313.50 a year to eligible long-term residents of residential communities and retirement villages.
The Family Energy Rebate of $180 is available to applicants who received the Family Tax Benefit (FTB) from the Department of Human Services (DHS) in the previous financial year and do not hold a DHS Concession Card or Health Care Card.
The Gas Rebate now provides $90 per financial year to eligible customers who hold a natural gas account with a gas retailer of their choice, or $99 per financial year to eligible customers with on-supplied LPG or natural gas and living in residential communities, retirement villages and strata schemes.
The Appliance Replacement Offer gives eligible concession card holders in NSW a 40-50% discount on selected new energy efficient fridges and TVs.
The Energy and Utility Concession and the Water and Sewerage Rebate are now combined into a single Utilities Concession at a maximum rebate of $604 per household.
Queensland pensioners and seniors may now be eligible for the Electricity Rebate, which is currently $341 per year, whilst the Reticulated Natural Gas Rebate is $71 per year.
New measures also include a $50 p.a. Electricity rebate, rebates of up to $300 for eligible energy-efficient appliances, no-interest rooftop solar loans, and a $75 rebate for regional households that register for direct debit and monthly eBilling.
Eligible South Australians on low or fixed incomes can apply for Energy Bill concessions that are indexed each financial year, currently up to $217.90 to cover both electricity and gas payments.
The Cost of Living Concession now amounts to (per eligible household) $202.70 for homeowner-occupiers, $101.40 for homeowner-occupiers who are self-funded retirees with a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and $101.40 for tenants.
The Annual Electricity and Gas Concessions are available to help ease cost of living pressures by providing concession cardholders with a discount of 17.5 per cent off household electricity and gas bills.
Meanwhile, 285,000 Victorian households with the big 3 retailers – AGL, Origin and EnergyAustralia – who get no discount have been promised a partial refund on their power bills worth between $250 and $720 from January 2018. (Speak to your retailer to see if you’re eligible.)
The Energy Assistance Payment (EAP) offers those eligible rebates of $233.95 per year whilst the Hardship Utilities Grant Scheme (HUGS) provides about $538 per year to those who qualify.
80+ Tips to Save Energy around the Home
There are so many ways to save on Electricity and Gas – some small and some that can add up to over $1000 in a year. We’ve pulled together as many as we could come across to show you there’s no end of options.
- Shop around! Some households can save more than $1500 in just a few minutes by shopping around. See 9Saver’s guide on “How to find the cheapest plan on the market“ above.
- Barter with your provider. Sometimes when you’re just about to leave, your electricity retailer will suddenly discover a better offer for you…
- Dial the heater down. Men are most comfortable at about 22 degrees and women at about 24 degrees. So start at 19 or 20 in winter and see if it’s comfortable.
- Dial the air con thermostat up! Start at 22 or 23 and see if it’s comfortable before blasting out the icy-cold air. Every degree adds about $120 to an average bill.
- Did you know? Reverse cycle air conditioners are two to 2.5 times more efficient than electric bar radiators or fan heaters!
- Choose window coverings and double-glazing. This will help keep a consistent temperature and, in turn, help reduce your power bills.
- Avoid “Vampire power”. Save about 10 per cent by turning appliances off at the power point when not using them.
- Count the Stars. A 3-star fridge/freezer can be $900 cheaper than a 1-star appliance over the life of the machine.
- Let food cool before placing it in the fridge or freezer. Hot food decreases the temperature in the refrigerator, forcing it to work harder to keep the air cool.
- Use pots and pans with snug-fitting lids. That way pans will heat up more quickly when covered.
- Don’t overheat your water. Try 50-60 degrees. Every degree there saves about 1 per cent of your water heating cost.
- Join a hardship program. All retailers have them. If you’re struggling, ask them for relief.
- Look into concessions. Most State Governments have a few concessions to help the most needy with their power bills. See ‘Get all the Rebates you’re entitled to’
- Connect to gas. Natural gas can prove to be a cheaper way to heat your home and is well worth investigating.
- Get insulated! Ceiling and floor insulation will keep heat in during winter and out in summer.
- Remember, time is money. Use timers to control heaters. Don’t be slack and leave on heating and cooling appliances if you don’t need them.
- Only heat or cool the spaces in your home you are using, rather than the whole house.
- Draught-proof your home with draught-stoppers, door snakes and window sealing tape.
- Keep your windows and doors closed and draw the curtains at night to help keep the heat in.
- Got a chimney you don’t use? Block it off — Santa will be able to find another way in.
- Put a jumper on! Dress for the season and you won’t need as much heating or cooling in the first place.
- Buy a hot water bottle! They’re super cheap and super handy. Just pop it into your bed an hour before you jump in or wrap it in your PJs for extra warmth!
- Rather not? Invest in an electric blanket — they use less energy than room heaters.
- Run slow-moving ceiling fans in reverse to help push the hot air back down to where it is needed most.
- Ditch the beer fridge. They tend to be older and therefore less energy efficient, and can chew through more than $250 a year.
- Can’t do without it? Then just turn the Beer Fridge on a few hours before your big event.
- Clean the coils on the back or bottom of the fridge.
- Place the fridge in a well-ventilated position and allow sufficient gap at the top and around the sides of the fridge, away from direct sunlight or any source of heat.
- Cook efficiently. Natural gas cooker and microwave ovens are the most efficient.
- Cook large amounts in the oven and freeze them for the week. Using a microwave is more energy efficient and cheaper to run than an oven when reheating food.
- Thaw frozen foods before cooking.
- Replace damaged coils and reflectors. Clean the reflectors for full heating benefit.
- Keep your oven serviced. Keep the seals tight and oven clean to ensure no heat is wasted.
- Simmer saucepans, instead of boiling, where possible. Lower heat will save energy over the long term.
- Clean the filters on the rangehood regularly. Vent the exhaust to outside your home and use the exhaust fan on the lowest speed.
- Use the toaster rather than a grill. It uses much less electricity.
- Stack the dishwasher and don’t run it until it’s completely full.
- Connect the dishwasher to cold water.
- When boiling water, use a kettle instead of a hotplate.
- Electric fan-type ovens are more efficient than conventional ovens.
- Get gas hot water. It uses less power than electrical hot water services.
- Or get solar hot water. It’s also more efficient.
- Shift your usage. Save about $260 a year by using washing machines, dishwashers or heating during off-peak times. Turn them on when you go to bed.
- Fill in or cover over your backyard swimming pool if you never use it! A pool pump can cost anywhere from $600 to $1500 a year to run and a spa costs about $240.
- No way? Then run the pool or spa at night on an off-peak tariff or controlled load meter to minimise cost.
- Use timers on pool pumps to minimise when they run.
- Make sure you have an efficient pool pump.
- Clean pool filters often to maximise your pump’s efficiency.
- Cover it. An insulated cover on pools and spas will save money.
- Solar or gas is cheaper than electricity for heating pools.
- Visit your local movie theatre or shopping mall and use their air con on hot days!
- Generate organic energy! Feeling cold? Do 20 push-ups, sit-ups or star jumps. It’s green and keeps you lean.
- Read to the kids at night using a torch. They’ll love it.
- Bake on cold days to heat up the house. Then have your cake and eat it!
- Take shorter showers. Did you know showering can make up to 60 per cent of your hot water usage?
- Cut two minutes off your shower time by using a shower timer. It can save a family $100 a year on power.
- Take a shower rather than a bath. It’s more hygienic and you’ll save more.
Install a low-flow 3-star showerhead.
- Shower in twos!
- Use cold water where hot water is not necessary.
- Take advantage of government rebates for greenhouse efficient hot water systems.
- Do some research. The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards scheme allows you to compare the water efficiency of different products. Ratings are compulsory for all domestic washing machines, dishwashers, showers and toilets, so opt for high stars.
- Wash clothes in cold water wherever possible.
- Fill it up! Wait until you have a full load before you wash.
- Use energy-saving features on your washing machine. Adjust the wash cycle to match the load’s needs.
- Spin dry before hanging out a load, rather than using the dryer for the whole job.
- Make sure you clean the dryer’s lint filter regularly.
- Or ditch the dryer altogether. It may take a little longer but it sure saves a lot of money!
- Put on panels. The big government concessions are over, but solar panels can still cut your costs if you use energy during daylight hours.
- Install a battery. They’re not cheap (yet), but batteries now allow you to store solar power until you need it.
- Use your appliances during the day if you have solar power, so they run for free.
- Switch off lights in those rooms that aren’t being used. It may seem a very obvious move but it’s something we’ve all been guilty of!
- Opt for energy-efficient CFL or LED light globes over incandescent globes. Some of these bulbs are also dimmable!
- Install motion sensors in the hallways and outside the home, so that lights only come on when movement is detected.
- Opaque or dark lamp shades require larger wattage lamps, so use light translucent shades instead.
- Get cleaning — dust on light fixtures reduces light levels.
- Install solar lighting in the garden.
- Use timeout devices for all non-essential appliances e.g. televisions so that the power is cut to the appliance when it is not being used.
- Give your appliances a staycation! Turn them all off for a day and read a book.
- Use a powerboard with separate switching and turn it off when not in use.
- Watch the weather. Some appliances work more effectively than others depending on climate. Head to www.energyrating.gov.au to compare product types and brands.
- Apply energy-saving settings to computers. For instance, program a blank screen if the computer is not in use — screen savers are energy-wasters.
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