How to save on energy bills – household tips
With energy prices skyrocketing, it's no wonder ordinary Australians are feeling the pinch. The Energy and Water Ombudsman for Victoria has revealed that more people than ever are complaining they can't afford their power bills with payment difficulties having tripled in the 5 years since 2009.
Here's our top 10 ways your household can get a good deal and minimise energy bill shock.
1. Shop around
If you live in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria or the Australian Capital Territory you have a choice of energy retailers (the company that manages your account and issues your bill).
If you live in the Northern Territory, Tasmania or Western Australia you probably can't choose your energy supplier or retailer.
You can definitely save money by negotiating with power companies for your business. Here's how to get it done:
- Use government comparison websites over commercial switching services that take commissions from promoting selected energy companies as they may not include all retailers and contracts offered in your area.
- If you live in Victoria, compare prices here.
- Reside in Australian Capital Territory or New South Wales? Retailers to choose from are compared here.
- If you're in Queensland, view your options here.
- Use these prices as a guide to select 3 electricity retailers to approach as not all fees (such as termination fees for your existing contract and account establishment/connection fees) are shown.
- Contact each of the 3 retailers to compare price, discounts offered, fees and their commitment to customer service. Ask “Why are you a good company to deal with?”
- Contact your existing company to see if they can match any better offers you negotiate elsewhere.
2. Check for rebates offered
You might be entitled to a rebate or grant you don't even know exists.
Confirm if you're eligible for low income household, Health Care Card holder, medical energy or pensioner rebates with a simple internet search.
3. Meter reading regularity
One of the major reasons bill shock occurs is when your meter isn't actually read. Without taking the reading of the actual amount of energy used, your household energy consumption is estimated for that bill. If the amount estimated is less than you've actually used, eventually you get billed for the energy you have used but not paid for. This can result in one expensive bill that you're not prepared for.
Take a look at your bill. If you see the words 'estimated meter read' check if your retailer accepts ‘self reads’ to avoid potential bill shock.
4. High bills
If your power bills are on the increase, take a look at how much energy your household is using.
Compare your power usage with the same period last year. Consider if any new appliances, lifestyle changes, family members or visitors may have caused higher consumption.
Compare your household consumption with the the average energy used in similar households in your area. The government has a handy website to compare your usage, click here.
If doubts persist, and you think your bill is still too high, use Handle My Complaint to contact your energy company to have your bill explained and discuss options to reduce it.
5. Seasonal peaks
Your power bills are likely to be higher in summer if you live in a hotter part of Australia or higher in winter if you live in a cooler area of Australia as heating and cooling make up a significant part of power bills.
The good news, power companies can adjust your bills to be roughly the same amount throughout the year so you can better budget for the expense.
Ask you energy retailer for 'bill smoothing' which adjusts your bill to flatten seasonal peaks to provide consistent payment amounts throughout the year.
Skip the on-hold queue and use Handle My Complaint to ask your energy company for bill smoothing.
6. Billing intervals, switch to monthly bills
It can be hard to budget for power bills due every 3 months. The good news is you can ask for your bill to be calculated and sent each month.
Ask for monthly bills to better manage your household budget. Handle My Complaint is a quick and easy way to ask your energy company for monthly bills. Alternatively you can pick up the phone.
7. Payment problems, solutions
About two out of every 10 Australians are unable to pay their electric bill at least once a year because they can't afford it. If you're struggling to pay your electricity bill, you're not alone but there is help available.
Contact the company that sends out your bill and communicate that you are having difficulties paying a bill. Use the words 'financial hardship' and the staff member should discuss your options to repay the amount owing. It's really important that you contact your power company rather than ignoring follow-up requests for payment. If you don't organise a payment plan, you might have your power disconnected.
If you're having problems paying a bill, use Handle My Complaint to request your energy company contact you to discuss options.
8. Consider communication
Every energy company has a customer service department and website so you pay for these services as part of your bill. There are companies providing better service and greater online account access, so it pays to research what's out there.
Chose a retailer who satisfies your needs - online billing or paper statements, access to a call centre or online communication.
9. Payment suspension for complaints
When problems arise, lodge a complaint before the bill is due. If you dispute a bill, you're not expected to pay the bill until the dispute is resolved.
Contact the company that has sent your bill and ask that related outstanding payments be suspended until the complaint has been investigated. Get confirmation in writing that your bill has been put on hold. Continue to make timely payments for subsequent bills if they’re not in dispute.
Lodge your power complaint with Handle My Complaint and we'll request payments for disputed bills be put on hold until the investigation is completed.
10. Keep a record, use it later
It is a lot easier to troubleshoot issues if you keep a record of what's discussed each time you contact a company about your power bill.
During all communication, document names, dates and points discussed.
Do you have any tips on how to save on your energy bill? Let us know here.