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Everything You Need to Know about Your Energy Bill

 

As you are most likely aware, Australian energy prices have risen dramatically over the past five years. For some households, prices have risen a staggering 110%, and families are often left shocked once the bill comes through the mail. As a result, many people are taking steps to lowering their energy usage by turning off appliances and switching to energy-efficient products.

While this can dramatically improve your energy savings, another simple way to reduce costs is to better understand your energy bill.

Understanding your bill

Understanding your energy bill puts you in better stead for monitoring how much energy you use. Often sent quarterly via email or post, your energy bill should include information such as:

  • Your name, address, and the date it was sent.
  • How much you need to pay and when payment is due.
  • Your meter number (ensure this matches the number on your outside meter. Mistakes do happen).
  • The billing period.
  • Meter readings.
  • Your retailer’s price for gas (MJ) or electricity (kWh).
  • The supply charge (fixed fee).
  • Any other fees, charges, or credits applicable.
  • Contact details for your energy retailer and a customer reference number.

Essentially, your electricity and natural gas bill covers the costs of wholesale electricity and natural gas, transportation through the networks, the building and maintaining of energy networks, and retail services. It may also cover the costs of programs to save energy or support the development of renewable energy. While you may be tempted just to look at how much you have to pay and when by, it’s important to look at the other details too.

This is especially important if you feel your bill seems too high or out of the ordinary. Think carefully about how this may have occurred - have there been any changes in the household?  Are your meter details right? Are you on the right plan, and are your discounts being applied?

Small changes can make a difference your overall bill, and can be the reason for a sudden increase. Changes such as weather, faulty appliances, visitors, new appliances, and renovations can all play a part in rising costs.

If you are ever unsure of the price on your bill, ask your retailer.

Peak rates and off-peak rates

Peak rates refer to the time when Australia’s electricity networks are put under strain with high consumer usage. This is generally the most expensive time to run appliances.

Off-peak refers to lower, discounted electricity prices designed to encourage usage during less-popular times. Off-peak times vary depending on your location and meter type but typically they are at night and/or weekends.

As well as peak and off-peak pricing, there is also times referred to as “shoulder times”. Shoulder times cover a large part of the weekend and generally cover weekday mornings. Shoulder prices are set somewhere in between peak and off-peak pricing.

While times vary from retailer and location, typical times are:

Weekdays

7am to 2pm - Shoulder

2pm to 8pm - Peak

8pm to 10pm - Shoulder

10pm to 7am - Off-Peak

Weekends

7am to 10pm - Shoulder

10pm to 7am - Off peak

To make the most of the varying rates, consider running appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines at night.

Keeping track of energy usage

Understanding KW - Electric appliances are measured in kilowatt hours (kWh), and knowing the estimated consumption is important when choosing products. As a general rule, any appliance certified by Energy Star will be more energy efficient than a non certified appliance, but you can estimate annual usage yourself using a simple calculation:

(Wattage x Hours Used Per Day) ÷ 1000 = Daily kWh consumption

Using this formula, you can then calculate your estimated costs by timing the kWh by your local utility’s rate.

For example, the estimated usage of your personal computer and monitor may be: 

270 Watts x 4 hours x 365 days ÷ 1000 = 394 kWh

394 kWh x 11 cents = $43.34 yearly consumption

You can usually find the wattage of most appliances stamped on the bottom or on its nameplate. The wattage listed is the maximum power drawn by the appliance. If you are unsure, speak to the manufacturer. When looking at Energy Star appliances, the more stars it has means the appliance is more energy efficient.

Typical wattages are:

Coffee maker: 900-1200

Clothes dryer: 1800-5000

Dishwasher: 1200-2400

Hair dryer: 1200-1875

Portable heater: 750-1100

Refrigerator: 725

Flat screen TV: 120

Vacuum Cleaner: 1000-1440

Water heater (40 gallon): 4500-5500

 

Where your usage lies - If you were to break up household consumption, your energy usage would probably look something like this:

Kitchen 25.5%

Cleaning and maintenance 27.8%

Leisure activities 28.9%

Lighting and miscellaneous appliances 17.8 %

Going shopping - When going shopping for a new appliance, always do your research. Finding the right appliance can make a big difference in savings. If you carry with you a smart phone, there are apps available that will let you compare models on the spot.

Monitoring consumption - If you’re living in Victoria, you’ll be lucky enough to receive a new smart meter as part of a major upgrade of Victoria’s electricity infrastructure, which will make monitoring your energy usage easy. Smart meters provide data that enable customers to make choices about how much energy they use by allowing them to access accurate real-time information about their electricity consumption.

If you’re not one of the lucky ones getting a smart meter, you can still keep track of your consumption using a regular meter. When reading an electricity meter, you should always end up with a five-digit number that indicates how much energy you have used. When reading a gas meter, you should always end up with a four-digit number.

Estimating your next bill

if you don’t want to wait until the bill arrives to find out how much energy you’re using, you can use the above techniques, times and formulas to make a rough estimate. Estimates in energy bills are nothing new, and quite often a retailer will send a bill estimate if they are unable to reach the meter.

While this is fine, you want to make sure that a proper reading is taken at least once every year.

To know whether or not you have an estimated bill, look for the words “estimated reading” or the letter E next to the reading. This amount would have been calculated using your last bill. While this is an estimate, you will always end up paying that ‘actual’ usage amount once an actual meter reading has been done. Anything extra you have paid will be taken from your next bill, and anything owing will be added. To ensure an actual meter reading can be taken, you need to provide safe, unhindered access to the meters on your premises.

Why understanding your bill is important

The importance of understanding your energy bill should not be overlooked, and will better equip you for making changes around the home. If your bill states that much of your usage is done in peak times, try and find ways to change the times you switch on appliances. If your bill dramatically rises during the summer months, try reducing the thermostat on your air conditioner. If your bill is continuously higher than the national average for your number of occupants, look at ways to reduce your overall usage or talk to your provider to ensure you are on the right plan.

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