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How to cut your power bill when healthcare costs are rising

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Healthcare is costly, so saving money on utility bills where possible is a big help.

A good place to start is your power bill. You may struggle to make sense of it or understand what can be done to help you cut costs.

Cancer Council NSW financial counsellor Lynette Brailey recommends starting with the basics.

slash power bill energy costs

Find an old energy bill and check that your personal details are correct - the spelling of your name and ensure your address matches the billing address.

Then check your usage - this is a graph that explains the KWH - which is the amount of energy you use measured in kilowatt-hours. It should also compare usage of between two to four other properties in your area, and shows the average daily cost and usage compared with the corresponding billing period from last year.

Next, find the electricity supplier details and the energy plan you are on. You might enter the details in a comparison site to see if it is worth moving to a different provider or billing arrangement.

Finally, check if the plan is billing you for an estimate or an actual read - did your supplier read your electricity meter or did they make an estimate?

You might be paying more if your supplier didn't check your actual usage and you may have used less. If this is the case you can contact them and ask them to read the meter.

According to Energy NSW, If you think your meter reading is incorrect and your bill is high, you can ask for a special meter read from your electricity provider. The provider is allowed to charge a fee for this service.

Timing your use

Before deciding to move to a different billing arrangement, it's important to look at your household's usage patterns to see whether you can benefit from off-peak or time-of-use pricing, says Brailey.

For example, in peak periods you pay more per hour. Working out how you can restrict some of your electricity use to shoulder and off-peak usage periods can reduce your bill.

For instance, compare a peak consumption rate of 0.539 per KWH consumption to the off-peak rate (after 8pm) of only 0.172. If your household can manage to use more electricity during the off-peak times it could save you money.

Typically, peak periods are 6am, when we are getting ready for work or school, until 8-9am. The shoulder rate kicks in at this point and then back to peak from 4-8pm. After 8pm (even 10pm in some cases) off-peak begins.

To save money consider showering before going to bed rather than in the morning or run the dishwasher, washing machine or dryer overnight.

To benefit from shoulder and off-peak pricing, you need to have off-peak hot water or time-of-use pricing. For time of use pricing you also need to install a smart meter (contact your energy provider to see if this is an option for you). According to the government's energy website, energysaver.nsw.gov.au, hot water makes up 25% of household energy consumption in the average home.

Five quick tips for using energy wisely

1. As the weather turns colder, consider how you can cut your heating costs. For example, before turning on heaters or air-conditioners make sure your rooms are well insulated. That is, check that the warm air isn't escaping through open doors and windows. Closing blinds and curtains also keeps a room better insulated, and if there are gaps under doors - think about using a draft stopper.

Think about putting on an extra jumper, using a throw rug on the couch, and wearing socks in the colder weather instead of turning on the heater or air-conditioner.

2. Make sure you turn off appliances at the wall. This can account for more than 10% of household electricity use. Even your phone charger is using power when your phone isn't plugged in.

3. Swap all lightbulbs for energy-efficient bulbs.

4. Check seals on fridges and ovens - to make sure they are working properly - and you are not wasting heating or cooling power.

5. Wait until you have a full load in your washing machine or dishwasher before running a cycle.

This article is part of a collaboration between Cancer Council NSW and Money magazine to explore the key financial issues impacting Australians affected by cancer. To view more articles on this topic, click here

If you are a lawyer, financial adviser, accountant or HR professional interested in volunteering through Cancer Council's Pro Bono Program, please contact the team at probono@cancercouncil.org.au. If you have any questions or concerns about cancer, please call Cancer Council's 13 11 20 Information and Support Service. If you would like to donate to help Cancer Council's services offering support to cancer patients in need, head to cancercouncil.com.au/support20.

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Julia Newbould is the managing editor of Money magazine. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.
Comments
kira kezia-pearl
May 5, 2021 4.40pm

Confusing -what does healthcare have to do with your power bill? Could have been any cost in the title.

Money magazine
Verified
May 5, 2021 4.44pm

Hi Kira,

This article is the latest in a series we're putting together with Cancer Council NSW to provide finance and budgeting tips for those affected by cancer.

Of course, the tips above apply to anyone keen to cut their energy bills.

- Money team

Nicholas Benson
May 5, 2021 5.41pm

The only off peak rates most people get are on their hot water heater and other controlled loads so when you use other appliances doesn't matter.

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