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Fight the power

Rugging up indoors is just one way to keep a cap on power bills in the colder months. Here are some other ways to stop climbing power prices from translating into bigger bills.

About 40 per cent of household energy use is related to heating and cooling (not including hot water). Solar panels and extra insulation can help prevent bill shock, but so can a few changes in behaviour.

  • Let the sun warm rooms during the day then close curtains and blinds at night;
  • Only heat rooms you are using and when the room is warm turn off the heater;
  • Use a door snake;
  • Trade in the electric blanket and use a hot water bottle instead;
  • Set your heating at 18-20 degrees in winter. Every degree above 20 can add 10 per cent to your heating costs;
  • Turn off lights in rooms you’re not using.

About a quarter of our energy bill is related to hot water. Switching to washing clothes in cold water; keeping showers short; and installing a low-flow shower-head all helps. Making sure, too, that the thermostat is 60 degrees Celsius for storage hot water systems and no more than 50 degrees Celsius on instantaneous systems.

Appliances can be a major contributor to our energy costs. Televisions represent the fourth highest use of electricity in our homes while home entertainment products often outstrip the combined use by our washing machine, dryer and dishwasher.

When an appliance is on stand-by it still uses electricity. So switch appliances off at the power outlet or at the wall and pull the plug on mobile phone chargers, microwaves and stereos that are not in use.

The way we cook our winter comfort food impacts our power bills too. An electric oven uses a lot more power than cooking with a microwave, pressure cooker or electric frypan.

If you’re replacing or upgrading appliances pay attention to the energy efficiency star ratings. A 106cm plasma television with ½ a star uses more than five times the electricity used by a 106cm LCD television with six stars, for example.

Lighting accounts for about 10 per cent of the average household electricity bill. It’s possible to curb this cost by choosing energy-efficient bulbs. The free Energy rating app from the Energy Rating website shows you how much you can save by switching from incandescent and halogen bulbs to LED or CFL lighting.

Maybe a cold call or a knock at the door has got you thinking about switching energy suppliers. If you’ve already made a lot of these changes and have been on the same contract for years, it might be time to review your supplier.

It’s also worth giving your supplier and contract the once over if your typical energy usage has changed. Perhaps you have retired and now you’re home more often or at off-peak hours. Or you might now be an empty-nester or welcoming the boomerang kids back again.

The website,, is a good place to start looking for a better deal.