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Cutting Costs - Avoiding a Huge Power Bill

Contributor:
Nicola Graham
Nicola Graham

To say things aren’t getting any cheaper would be an understatement. Even so, I was still shocked when I got my power bill. A grand total of $175 for 27 days - for two people! When I lived in Australia it was only $220 for three months. I had budgeted $120 for a month, so this bill hits the pocket hard – less money to put towards that big debt I’m trying to pay back.
Power Bill

Of course the next logical thing to do is to look at ways to save (or start planning to move back to Australia!).

One of the biggest contributors to electricity costs for a household is hot water. According to Contact Energy, almost half of our power bill is made up of hot water. They have some good info on saving power here.

If you already use a fireplace to heat your house, a huge saver on electricity costs is a wetback. A wetback uses your fire to heat the hot water. In many cases, with a wetback installed you can turn off your hot water cylinder and rely on the wetback alone. Unfortunately because I rent, this isn’t an option for me. But there is a heap of other ways to save electricity that I’m doing right now. Here’s the tips I’ve discovered.

  • Rinse dishes in cold water – running the hot tap for just two minutes can wash away 20L of hot water. Same goes for vegetables, they can be rinsed under cold water – you’ll just have to cope with cold fingers whilst rinsing them
  • Install a hot cylinder wrap. These cost between $50 and $90 and can cut your power bill by up to $140 a year if your cylinder is a C or D grade. If your cylinder is warm to touch, a wrap would be worth getting
  • Do your washing in cold water – this can save $50 a year
  • Use shorter washes on the dishwasher
  • Investigate purchasing a water saving showerhead. Turn your shower on and if it fills a 2L ice-cream container in less than 10 seconds, it will be worth installing one.

Ok so that’s the water bill sorted. Then there is the business of keeping warm and saving on appliances.

Our flat is so cold that I could almost turn off the refrigerator in winter. I had a beer from the pantry, and it was just as cold as one from the fridge! Ok so turning off the fridge probably isn’t practical, among my investigations I found other ways to save power with appliances.

  • A full fridge is more energy efficient than an emptier one. Use milk cartons filled with water to fill it up when its looking empty
  • Fill the jug with cold water instead of hot
  • Appliances that are on standby (like microwave, TV, computers, stereos and DVD players) should be turned off at the wall. This saves between $75- $180 a year!
  • Most people know this one already – swap to energy efficient light bulbs. About 95% of energy used by a traditional light bulb is wasted as heat; only around 5% generates light.
  • Only use a heated towel rail for a few hours when needed rather than all day


If your house is like mine (ie uninsulated and old), keeping warm in winter can be an expensive business. We have a woodburner fireplace in our lounge (plus a supply of free firewood), which is good but the rest of the house including the office and bedrooms are freezing.

The most economical method of heating is a heat pump. On average, for every $1 of electricity you pay on your heat pump, you get about $4 worth of heat.If that’s not an option for you, and it isn’t for me at this stage, the most efficient type of heating for a room in regards to electric heaters is a night store heater. Dehumidifiers are also good at removing moisture which helps keep the room warm – I definitely noticed the difference in the temperature and air in the room.

Here’s hoping that these tips will help make a difference to my power bill – I’ll keep you posted when the next one comes in.

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