Understanding your power: household electricity use, bills and savings
Before starting costly or tricky household appliance upgrades or retrofits, households should learn to read and interpret their electricity bill
A clear picture of where, when and how you use gas and electricity can help you find ways to change or minimise your use to save money, energy and emissions
You can chat to your energy retailer to check the default electricity price offer and whether you can get a better deal with another provider
How to read your bill
Your energy bill contains information such as billing days and period, total charges and the next meter read date, but it will also show you usage charges, a summary chart and compare your usage to other similar households.
Calling in a professional to undertake a home energy audit can also help identify where energy is being used and how. This can be done yourself, and means logging and assessing the facilities, infrastructure, layout and building fabric before changing appliances or use of the equipment you already own.
Where does your energy go?
A typical Australian household spends around $1600-$2000 on energy every year. It’s helpful to know which parts of your home use the most energy so you can see where you may be able to make the most savings.
Everyone uses energy differently, but it roughly breaks down like this:
How you can manage your energy use
Looking at energy use from one year to the next helps explain how you use power in different seasons. If your use is higher in winter or summer, investigate the reasons why and options for reducing it.
2. Move away from peak times
Some states will have different tariffs for peak and off-peak usage so best to check out your electricity bill. Some contracts will reward energy use outside the peak times (usually 10pm until 7am). Running your washing machine late at night is one example of changes you can make. If you have solar, best to use your energy while the sun shines. This includes major appliances and heat pumps.
3. Consider the times of day when you use the most energy
When you use the most energy will help determine the right energy contract. Are you home during the day or does your family arrive home together and turn on heating/cooling and appliances? How can you change some patterns and reduce the load at peak times?
4. Where to find help
Head to the websites of most retailers and you’ll find a guide that will explain how your monthly bill is calculated, your unique National Meter Identifier (NMI), how much electricity this account uses, and what usage charges, tariffs and rates are included.
Your bill will also contain a “load profile” graph that explains how the energy consumption of a house, or individual appliance, varies throughout the day. Utilities often charge customers different rates for electricity based on how much they use. Energy bills will also provide information on your estimated greenhouse emissions, concessions and information on solar generation if relevant.
Likewise, your gas bill has unique features which may need some explanation. Like an electricity bill, it contains the period covered, the tariff which relates to the type of meter at your premises, which then determines the plans or products available and the rates at which you are charged for your gas usage. For gas appliances, the average gas power consumption is shown in MJ per hour.
You can also control how you pay your utilities and whether you use direct debit. Many providers give you the opportunity to monitor your usage through real-time apps and advise when your next meter read will be.
5. How to compare your electricity use
Energy Made Easy provides online calculators for you to compare electricity and gas contracts and find the best option for your household. You can also check your utility bill rate against the Default Electricity Price Offer that sets the benchmark for utility prices each year. If you are not happy with the rate, query your utility provider about their charges that may be above the safety net price set by the regulator.
You can also use online tools to work out how much energy each of your appliances are likely to be using. The Energy Rating Calculator shows expected energy usage and estimated running cost of many appliances. These tools can help you:
- Input the brand and model of the appliance;
- Check the annual energy usage, and the expected running cost;
- If your electricity price is different from the calculator amount, multiply the kWh price on your bill by the energy usage to get an expected running cost.