How to save money on your electricity bill – Australia

I don’t normally write posts like this, but I found out yesterday that I’ve been doing everything wrong in my attempts to save money, and energy. If your electricity bills are as high as mine, read on.

To start, a quick word sketch of our household :

– Solar hot water [with a gas booster]

– Solar panels on north facing roof [in Southern hemisphere solar gain comes from the north, not the south].

– Late model dishwasher and washing machine.

– Very little use of tumble dryer [maybe once a month for those emergency moments].

– Big TV, but with cut off switch when not being watched.

– Gas ducted heating.

As you can see, we should be ahead of the game in terms of electricity consumption. Yet still we get \$500 plus bills. 😦

Well, this is what I’ve been doing wrong :

– I’ve been running the dishwasher during the day to take advantage of my solar panels.

– I’ve been running the washing machine during the day, also to use up the solar power.

Because of these two, misguided strategies, I only get an average of \$100 of credits from the feed-in tariff [this is excess solar power I generate that goes into the electricity grid].

You see, what I did not realize was that my two major appliances [dishwasher and washing machine] use far more electricity than my solar panels can provide. So by running them during the day I am both wasting my solar power, and drawing electricity from the grid during the most expensive, peak period.

A few simple numbers should explain what I mean.

– feed-in tariff = \$0.66 per KWH

– peak tariff = \$0.34 per KWH

– off peak tariff = \$0.19 per KWH

So you see, by running the dishwasher during the day I am not only using up my own solar electricity, I am also using grid  electricity so it is effectively costing me :

0.66 + 0.34 = \$1.00 per KWH

That \$1 is made up of lost money [what I would gain from the solar] plus actual cost [the peak tariff].

So what is the answer? Off-peak, that’s what.

Here in Victoria, Australia, the off-peak period is 11pm to 6am Monday to Friday, and all day and night during the weekends. So with a bit of organization all of us could schedule our most energy hungry appliances to run during off-peak.

How?

Most modern appliances allow you to schedule when you want them to run. My dishwasher only has a one hour delay capacity, but that one hour is enough for me to turn it on at 10pm and have it start up at 11pm – in time to catch the beginning of the weekday off-peak period. My washing machine is even more flexible. And if none of that is possible then there is always the weekend.

Now, for those with solar power, the answer is simple – send as much of your solar gain to the grid as possible. You will earn almost twice what you spend. And here at least, those credits are subtracted from your total bill.

So let’s do a thought experiment. First let’s look at my stupid usage :

Cost of electricity from the grid = \$600

Minus credits from solar power = \$100

Total bill = \$500

Now, let’s say I gain \$100 by going off-peak, and an extra \$50 from my solar feed-in :

Cost of electricity from the grid = \$500

Minus credits from solar power = \$150

Total bill = \$350

I do not yet have any actual figures to play with but the numbers I estimated are pretty conservative so I may even end up saving more money. Whether I do or not, I should still see a huge reduction in my next electricity bill.

Origin Energy [my electricity supplier] is sending me some information on the average cost of running various appliances. Anyone can request this information, but I will share relevant bits in a follow-up post.

Until then, I urge you all to take a look at your own lifestyle and electricity consumption. Even a few small changes could make a difference to that next big bill!

cheers

Meeks

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

18 responses to “How to save money on your electricity bill – Australia”

• going slow in the fast lane | elladee_words

[…] to a suggestion from Meeka, I made a couple of simple changes to the timing of appliance use and checked with our energy […]

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• anneb54

Great tips. Thanks! We don’t have a dishwasher either (my Fella is the Dishwashing Fairy in our house) but do run the washing machine a few times a week during the day. We can easily change to off peak. 🙂

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We have a dishwasher in the city apartment… so I will be running it off peak from now on… ditto for the washing machine.
We’d have to have bottled gas at TA, and we’re 30 kms from town so delivery etc would outweigh the benefits…

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• acflory

Ah I see. 😦 I have friends up in the Dandenongs who have to buy bottled gas for their stove. 😦

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We have gas hot water & cook top in the city apartment. I would love it at TA. The G.O. has a gas bbq, and he does most of the cooking when we are there 🙂
I was thinking about this, sharing the new peak/off peak power info with the G.O. We also have the ‘advantage’ of being out much of the day… so don’t use much power at home… it must be hard to work from home all day as you do and keep the power bill down. I hope you claim some of the cost as a cost of earning a living expense.
I also wondered if you have roof insulation. We installed it during the govt’s free scheme, and it made a big difference to the internal temp of our house. When the roof was replaced we also put an extra whirlybird in the roof to extract the hot air.
Our TA neighbours on the other hand have neither and their house is very hot-very cold.
For me it’s not just a cost thing, It’s an environment thing… solar is the way to go but I think the govt… all the govt should support ongoing R&D as it could be a lot better, and I’m concerned that Chinese made panels are prevalent, and as far as I know the only Australian manufacturer, who was in SA, no longer operates.

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• acflory

Unfortunately my house has cathedral ceilings so I could not get any extra insulation in there. The walls are pretty good, and I have special shutters for both fire protection and heat gain/loss. Still not brilliant though. I love my house but if I ever built another one I’d give the cathedral ceilings a miss. They look lovely but…

I think I saw something about that on TV a while back. Apparently we had solar panel manufacturers here but they were eventually forced out. I think we can thank the coal lobby for that. 😦

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You are clever! Thaks for sharing this. I called my electricity providers and got the off peak detais… I will be sticking them on the fridge. We can’t do solar in our city apartment which we rent from my sister, and for our house at TA, we’re reluctant, as it’s an old house and we just don’t want to mess with the roof. However we are power friednly – no dishwasher, rarely use the dryer, wide verandahs, shady trees, wood fire, ceiling fans… and when the old HWS dies it will become a new solar model 🙂

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• acflory

No dishwasher? Gah… I couldn’t live without mine. The Daughter doesn’t do dishes because we’ve always had one, so I know if mine packed up I’d be the one elbow deep in suds.

If you can get natural gas at TA, you might consider getting a gas booster for your solar HWS. We have piping hot water day and night. I just love it.

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• laurieboris

I’m looking into our usage here. Our company wants to merge with a larger company AND is being threatened with deregulation. So they’re a mess. My husband is a night owl, so we try to run the dishwasher off-peak. I’d like to do a whole audit on the house. Ugh, it makes my head spin around.

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• acflory

Yeah, it’s a bit of a nightmare. We’re nightowls too, pretty much so it’s no great hardship but I know for a lot of people, off-peak is a weekend thing only.

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• metan

I am still waiting for the lazy buggers to send me some info on getting solar panels! With four of us here it will probably makes great difference.

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• acflory

I have to say that even with my stupidity, our consumption has almost halved. But of course the price has gone up since then. Peak was 0.21 back in December 2013. Now it’s 0.34. I know the story about how they have to upgrade their facilities blah blah but I’m still super annoyed.

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• metan

The (I think greedy) changes to the price have been the thing that have kept us from doing it just yet. We are kind of expecting in a few years, when everyone has them and are unable to do anything about it, to get to the point when they change it so much that it is barely worth the effort. 😦 If only I could afford to go completely off the grid! That’d show ’em!

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