Never before has the subject of electricity been so hot.
With prices soaring to historical highs, householders like Roger and Jeanette Dargaville were shocked at the rapid rise when they arrived home four years ago after a nine year stint abroad.
"Our first bill when we got back was about $400 and it's just been going up ever since. Our last bill was $1200, so it is quite staggering," Roger said.More stories from Today Tonight
The Dargavilles live a thoroughly modern city life in a three bedroom, two bathroom, two storey warehouse-style apartment with daughters Ruby aged six, Audrey - aged seventeen months, and Alice their au pair.
With no gas or solar available, electric cooking appliances and hot water are expensive. Plus their home is now overshadowed on the north side.
"We have to have the lighting on all the time and heating," Jeanette said.
Hoping to knock twenty to 30 per cent off their power bills, they decided to take part in a 'power house' experiment. Using supplier Origin Energy's portal, Roger monitored the family's energy consumption over four days.
Origin's Dean Van Gerrevink explained that "Origin as your retailer gets the data from your smart meter. You can see your usage hour by hour during the day, and you can see overnight the standby power that's running."
Energy auditor Petar Basanovic from Water and Energy Savers was recruited to suggest some changes. "The halogen globes run about 50 watts each," Basanovic said. So it was goodbye to 28 energy gobbling halogens.
Next was a turn of a screw on the hot water service. "It's on 75 degrees at the moment, but if we turn it down to 60 it will save you a few bucks," Basanovic advised.
They also added in two future switches - "it just plugs in where you have a standby appliance such as your printers or computers - press the button and it turns the power off."
And if ever there was an excuse to buy a big TV, this is it: LG's award winning 47" seven star 3D smart TV - running it for ten hours every day will only cost Roger and Jeanette $69 a year.
"We're enjoying the new down lights - they're working very well, and we haven't noticed much difference with having the thermostat on the water turned down. The new TV's fantastic," Roger said.
The results of the energy test left Roger and Jeanette astonished. Roger's records showed a total of 104 kilowatt hours used, for a total of $26.94 in the first week. Post changes in week two the family used just 65 kwh - costing $16.76.
"We saw a 40 per cent decrease in energy, in electrical energy use - I was really impressed," Roger said.
Average savings per day were $2.55, which means an approximate annual saving of $931. As for quality of life, "there's no change really, it's exactly the same, so it just goes to show - check these things," Jeanette said.
Of course the new TV does retail for $1,699 and we did spend $1,280 on the light globes, standby devices and labour. However "within a year or two it has paid for itself," Roger said.
If it's too expensive - don't despair: eligible households can benefit from Government schemes including the Home Power Savings Program in New South Wales and Victoria's Energy Efficiency Target scheme. But the Queensland Government is axing its popular Climate Smart Home Service.
According to Victoria's Energy Minister Michael O'Brien "a lot of the prices from electricity come through the cost of the poles and wires and that's up to Governments to try to make the rules fairer."
O'Brien welcomes the introduction of voluntary, flexible pricing for Victorian consumers mid next year.
"If you move to flexible pricing you pay a little bit more for electricity during peak times, for those 30 hours a week, but for all other times you're likely to pay considerably less," he added.
It's not available in Queensland, but has apparently worked in New South Wales, with supplier Energy Australia reporting 70 per cent of their customers had lower bills using time of use tariffs.
"I think we should explore the time of use option, I think that would be really good for us," O'Brien said.
Cheapest peak power will be from 10pm to 7am and the so-called shoulder period from 7am to 3pm, and 9pm till 10pm. Peak period - and the most expensive time - will be from 3pm to 9pm, when electricity is in highest demand.
There's a breather on the weekend with no peak rate, only an overnight off peak and daytime shoulder rate.Top tips for saving energy and your hip pocket:
- Firstly, shop around - switching providers saves an average twelve per cent, or ask your current supplier for a better deal;
- Switching off appliances at the wall can save up to $15 a year per appliance;
- Decreasing thermostats on heaters saves fifteen per cent;
- Buy energy saving lights and energy efficient appliances - the more stars the better.
- Origin Energy - www.originenergy.com.au
- Department of Primary Industries Victoria - www.dpi.vic.gov.au
- Water and Energy Savers - www.water.net.au
- Victorian Energy Efficiency Target - www.veet.vic.gov.au
- Home Power Savings Program - www.environment.nsw.gov.au
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