When the temperature drops and the days become shorter, power bills tend to soar. It’s not just heating our homes that causes the rapid rise in power payouts – there’s the added cost of using clothes driers, an extended need for lighting, more hours spent indoors meaning longer hours spent wrapped up in front of the TV or computer, and the changes to what and how we cook during the winter months.
Staying on top of your power bill can get stressful – some household power bills more than double during our coldest months. Did yours?
Being prepared for the added costs ahead of time is a great idea. So while you may be thinking “Phew, the worst is over” what about next winter? What can you do to make sure next winter doesn’t strain your budget?
It’s all about finding the cracks the winter draughts are blowing your hard earned money through, and staying ahead of the chill to keep your budget on track.
Big Ticket Items
These are items that need to be planned for in advance and involve an upfront cost to install but pay for themselves with reduced household heating costs in the medium to longer term.
- Insulation – if your home is insulated already you’re one step ahead. If not, there are a number of options for insulating – even just getting the floors and ceiling insulated will make a massive difference. You may even be eligible for a subsidy! Make sure your hot water cylinder is well wrapped too. Your hot water cupboard should be dry but not overly warm – if too much heat is escaping from your cylinder, it’ll be working overtime to heat your water.
- Energy efficient appliances – these can make a big difference to your power bill, particularly the type of heating that you use. A small fan heater uses a surprisingly high amount of power and are quite expensive to run. Look at installing a heat pump or other energy efficient form of heating. When you next need to get a new appliance (of any description) make sure it is energy efficient – look for the stars!
- Energy efficient hot water heating – approximately a third of your power bill is on hot water! Look at other solutions such as solar, heat pumps for water or on demand gas hot water heating.
Day to day tips
If the budget won’t allow you to purchase any of the big ticket items above you can still save on power costs in other small ways.
- Layer up – clothes, bedding, window dressing and draught stoppers. The less cold you let in, the less you’ll have to eliminate with heaters, heat pumps, and dehumidifiers.
- Cook smarter – bake in the evenings (the oven will double as heating, but do NOT use your oven as an actual heater), make friends with your slow cooker (much more power efficient than a conventional oven), and batch cook when you can (two lasagnes at once, one for dinner, one for the freezer to be reheated).
- Use the sun – it’s much harder in winter, but air dry your laundry as often as you can. Most dryers cost around $1 / average load while the sun (or wind) will do the same for free. Even getting larger items (towels, bedding, coats etc) partially dried on the line during the day and finishing off in the dryer will save you valuable dollars. Keep your home well ventilated and air it out on sunny days to keep help keep it dry – damp homes are cold homes.
- Save energy – energy saving light bulbs, hot water bottles over electric blankets. Turn off heated towel rails when not in use, switch off the summer beer fridge and turn appliances off at the wall when not in use.
- Go easy on hot water – this is where the bulk of power costs are made. Have shorter showers (and keep baths as a treat) – a 15min shower costs around $1. In a 4 person household that means around $120 is spent on showers. Rinse dishes with cold water, fill the sink when scrubbing pots instead of doing dishes under a running tap, and consider doing all dishes by hand (even the most power savvy dishwashers and very power inefficient).
Consider the way you pay for your power too. Some power companies have pay systems set up where they estimate the annual power consumption of your household and split the cost equally each month. It means you’ll pay a little more than usual over summer to make room for the extra winter consumption.
There are many ways to stay warm without leaving your bank account out in the cold – just don’t leave it until winter to prepare.