How to lower your electricity bill at home


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It's never been easier to find out how much I'm spending when I turn on my television or a fan or the lights. After being unaware how much it cost for most of my life, there's now information everywhere.

A campaign by tells me that air conditioning a home can cost as much as $1 an hour, which can add up during a hot summer. In contrast a ceiling fan costs about one cent an hour.

I'm told that 8% of the energy from traditional incandescent light bulbs goes out as heat, not light, and switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) will cut my lighting costs by 80%. The government has begun its program of withdrawing incandescent light bulbs from shelves. See

lower your electricity bill

Did you know that an iron can consume as much energy as 24 100-watt light bulbs? Armed with this fact, it's even more important not to have your iron on a higher temperature than necessary.

Television is a huge power eater, says Peter Garrett, minister for the environment.

He launched a new energy rating system to help Australians compare the efficiency of the 2 million televisions they buy every year. In a single day, Garrett says, a large widescreen TV can use more energy than a dishwasher, washing machine and clothes dryer combined.

As the government wants us to go on an electricity diet to cut 14% of all electricity generated in the 2006-07 year by 2020, you can expect much more information. With power bills rising there's no better time to take note of the costs, scrutinise your electricity spending and see where you can cut back.

Watch out for super efficient whitegoods with new energy rating labels with a 10-star energy rating scale for fridges, freezers and air conditioners. Desktop and laptop computers, computer monitors and swimming pool pumps will have new efficiency systems soon. The higher the number of stars, the more energy and money you'll save.

Smart meters, being rolled out by the Victorian government in the next three years, are designed to help households analyse the real-time fine detail of their power use. Smart meters are replacing manually read meters. They have a display that tells households their rate of electricity use and cost every 30 minutes.

The idea is that smart meters include personal computer connections, so that people will be able to access all the information directly from their notebooks and desktops. This allows you to analyse the power usage of every appliance.

For example, you can find out how much power your old refrigerator is using and if it's a huge expensive drain on the power bill, weigh up the cost of replacing it with a more efficient fridge.

Smart meters have been trialled in countries ranging from Sweden to the US. These trials have shown that they can reduce household energy bills by 5 to 10%. With a smart meter, homes are better prepared for solar energy and wind power too.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.