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Seven tips to reduce Canberra winter energy bills

By Serina Bird Huang (aka Ms Frugal Ears) - 4 June 2017 14

Hot Water Bottle

Canberra. Winter. It is the one thing that residents elsewhere in Australia consistently use against us as a reason not to visit. And yes, it is cold. The best way to overcome the cold is to make your home nice and snug, and I am going to show you some ways to do that without the steep price tag.

I migrated down to Canberra 17 years ago from the warmer climate of Brisvegas. My two flatmates, former Uni friends, decided to leave the heater on all night so as to ensure our apartment resembled the climate to which they had become accustomed. I tried to warn them but they thought I was just a negative doomsayer. Three months later we were whopped with a $600 bill. That was in May before the worst even started.

Since then I have become a little more savvy and attuned to the use of winter energy. I still want to keep my kids and I warm; I may have frugal ears but I don’t want icicles dripping off them. Nor do I currently want to invest in high-cost energy saving infrastructure such as solar PV panels, double glazing, or building a solar passive home from scratch – these are important but not currently within my budget. With energy prices going up by up to 10.9% in the ACT from 1 July 2017, saving energy is even more important for me. So here are some of the tips that I use to keep us snug in winter:

1. The hot water bottle.
When I am home by myself and watching TV on the sofa, or sitting writing articles for The RiotACT I find that a hot water bottle is all that I need to stay warm. Sometimes I drape a small blanket over my lap as well. The key thing is to ensure that you are safe with the hottie – don’t fill right to the top, release excess air to avoid a bubble, and be careful when you pour in the water (yes, I speak from experience on the last one).

2. If the heater is on and you are wearing a T-shirt, the temperature is too high.
Seriously, rug up and put on a jumper or slip into your flannies (Yes, former housemate who had your heater running on all night while declaring you didn’t feel the cold in your light cotton outfit, that also means you). Generally, it is advisable to put your heater on so that it is no higher than 20C – I prefer 19C. And according to ACTEWAGL, if you lower the temperature by 1C, it will save you 10% of your electricity bill. It will make it much easier when you go outside and need to brace the cold. I personally believe that you are much more susceptible to colds if your body is subjected to going from warm to the cold very quickly. Well, that’s my theory and I am sticking to it.

3. Ditch the clothes dryer.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I used one. They reduce the life of your clothes, and they also use up vast amounts of energy – especially when drying bulky water absorbing items like towels. Hang clothes outside on those rare sunny windy days, or else place them on a clothes horse inside in a warm place – over a ducted gas vent if you can. I like to dry my clothes in my bedroom, as I find that the evaporation from the clothes helps to ameliorate the drying effect of living in a Canberra home in winter.

4. Turn your heater off 15 minutes before you leave of a morning.
Once your place has heated to an optimal temperature, it usually stays that way for a while. Why pay money to heat your home when you are not there? If you have a ducted gas system you can easily set it up so that it automatically clicks off thus minimising the possibility of forgetting.

5. Bake with energy in mind.
It takes quite a lot of energy to heat an oven up to an ideal temperature for baking. Bake wisely by cooking more than one thing at once. If you are baking muffins or cupcakes, bake double and freeze them. Or else pop something in while the oven is on. My favourite extra baking standby is to roast pumpkin pieces for use later in soup. Consider other appliances for baking as well. A bread maker is more efficient if all you want to make is bread (or even a cake). A microwave is great for reheating. Finally, a slow cooker is extremely energy efficient and is a great way to cook a Sunday roast chook or roast.

6. Set up EvenPay.
EvenPay is a facility that ACTEWAGL provides that allows you to pay every fortnight rather than receive your bill as a lump sum. This can be a useful budgeting mechanism for many people, and help to avoid the shock of that end of winter bill. It is also one less bill to pay. As a sweetener for setting it up, ACTEWAGL offers cost savings of $40 a year.

7. Close the curtains.
Closing the curtains when it is cold is a really effective way of keeping the warmth inside. Of course, thermal backed curtains are ideal and double glazing is even better. But every little bit helps.

Want to find out more about how to reduce your electricity bill? ACTEWAGL has several online resources to help people save energy.

How do you keep warm in winter? Do you have any tips for reducing your Canberra energy bill?

What’s Your opinion?


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14 Responses to
Seven tips to reduce Canberra winter energy bills
1
bronal 11:45 am
04 Jun 17
#

Close the curtains as soon as the sun begins to set, otherwise your windows will act as reverse radiators and suck heat out of the rooms..

2
bigred 2:34 pm
04 Jun 17
#

All very constructive tips. A few more I do include having door snakes at the base of each external door, installing honeycomb blinds, progressively replacing windows with double glazed type and insulating the wall cavity at the same time and shaming any person who acts like they live in the tropics (ie leaving doors open).

3
Serina Bird Huang (a 6:32 pm
04 Jun 17
#

bronal guilty tonight of not yet closing curtains – about to do that now. Thanks.

4
Serina Bird Huang (a 6:34 pm
04 Jun 17
#

bigred I don’t think I want to know about your tropical shaming methods LOL. But your idea about progressive double glazing is an interesting one. Does it cost much for callout for this, i.e. is it still cost effective to do in stages?

5
Elias Hallaj 6:35 pm
04 Jun 17
#

Great advice Serina! We try and keep or internal temp to 18C in winter and make sure all the kids are wearing socks and hoodies. A couple of the kids have also discovered that a cat sleeping in or nextbto you is just as good as a hot water bottle! Unfortunately we only have two cats, so we still need to fill at least three hot water bottles when it is really cold.

6
Maya123 6:42 pm
04 Jun 17
#

Serina Bird Huang wrote, “Hang clothes outside on those rare sunny windy days, or else place them on a clothes horse inside in a warm place”

Canberra gets lots of sunny winter days. I know, as my house is heated by the sun.

I too never use a clothes drier. Not only does this save money, but I also saved more money by also never buying a clothes drier. A clothes horse (for those rare days when the clothes can’t go outside, or I am feeling lazy) cost much less. The cheap one I bought even colour coordinates with the house 🙂

If you can’t afford double glazing, stick sheets of plastic on the frames, making a gap between it and the window glass; in effect double glazing. If the window frames don’t allow enough gap, make a frame to go over the window. Use honey comb blinds, or curtains with a good separate backing. Install boxed window pelmets, with tops on them. (I have seen pretend pelmets without tops.)

7
Maya123 6:43 pm
04 Jun 17
#

18C is the recommended temperature to set the heater for in winter I believe.

8
JC 8:37 pm
04 Jun 17
#

Maya123 said :

18C is the recommended temperature to set the heater for in winter I believe.

May well be, but at end of day every house is different and every heater system has variations. My old house for example 18 at the thermostat was closer to 15 in the main room we lived in.

Also I believe that many of the newer ducted reverse cycle uses less energy maintaining a temperature than it does to warm from cold. So often it may be better to leave it on, but at a slightly reduced temperature. My new house I leave on 16 when we are not home, and 20 when we are home and downstairs and 18 when we are upstairs.

The reason for the difference is the thermstat is in the return air, so 18 in the return is closer to 15 or 16 downstairs. But 20 is closer to 18 downstairs. A massive problem with double story houses where you cannot simply close the stairs off. Physics is difficult to beat.

9
bigred 8:58 pm
04 Jun 17
#

Serina Bird Huang (aka Ms Frugal Ears) said :

bigred I don’t think I want to know about your tropical shaming methods LOL. But your idea about progressive double glazing is an interesting one. Does it cost much for callout for this, i.e. is it still cost effective to do in stages?

We plan to stay put for some time, so it is more about long term comfort. What we do is each year or so allocate some funds towards reducing the footprint. So got solar hot water, R5 batts, curtains with pelmets, honey comb blindsand so on. Cost effective? Probably not, because as energy costs go up all we seem to have achieved over the last ten years is to pay around the same amount each quarter. But we have a warm inner glow.

10
Maya123 3:17 am
05 Jun 17
#

JC said :

Maya123 said :

18C is the recommended temperature to set the heater for in winter I believe.

May well be, but at end of day every house is different and every heater system has variations. My old house for example 18 at the thermostat was closer to 15 in the main room we lived in.

I usually use a thermometer, and set the room temperature with that as the guide. That’s more accurate.

11
Maya123 3:20 am
05 Jun 17
#

bigred said :

Serina Bird Huang (aka Ms Frugal Ears) said :

bigred I don’t think I want to know about your tropical shaming methods LOL. But your idea about progressive double glazing is an interesting one. Does it cost much for callout for this, i.e. is it still cost effective to do in stages?

We plan to stay put for some time, so it is more about long term comfort. What we do is each year or so allocate some funds towards reducing the footprint. So got solar hot water, R5 batts, curtains with pelmets, honey comb blindsand so on. Cost effective? Probably not, because as energy costs go up all we seem to have achieved over the last ten years is to pay around the same amount each quarter. But we have a warm inner glow.

If you hadn’t done these things your energy costs would have risen, not stayed the same. So it sounds effective.

12
wildturkeycanoe 7:05 am
05 Jun 17
#

“I like to dry my clothes in my bedroom, as I find that the evaporation from the clothes helps to ameliorate the drying effect of living in a Canberra home in winter.”
The bad part about this is the extra condensation that will build up on the windowsills. The more moisture inside the home, the worse the mould build-up will be, so it creates more work for yourself.
Putting plastic on the windows as a cheap double glazing creates this very same problem, due to condensation build up being trapped in that thermal layer and nowhere for it to escape to. That is why double glazing done properly has a vacuum in the gap. We did the plastic trick in a two bedroom apartment that had no insulation in the roof space and only plug in electric heating. It was the coldest winter I have ever experienced and I was constantly sick too. Thankfully the following winter the landlord allowed us to install batts, which made a huge difference.

13
Holden Caulfield 5:34 pm
05 Jun 17
#

I don’t care what anyone says, using a dryer for your towels is a necessity. If I wanted to dry myself with sandpaper I’d buy my “towels” from Bunnings.

Otherwise, good tips. I’m lucky in that the newish first floor apartment I live in has pretty good insulation. I’m yet to have a need to turn the heater on. When that need does arise, it’s usually only for 30 minutes or so.

14
Maya123 7:33 am
06 Jun 17
#

wildturkeycanoe said :

“I like to dry my clothes in my bedroom, as I find that the evaporation from the clothes helps to ameliorate the drying effect of living in a Canberra home in winter.”
The bad part about this is the extra condensation that will build up on the windowsills. The more moisture inside the home, the worse the mould build-up will be, so it creates more work for yourself.
Putting plastic on the windows as a cheap double glazing creates this very same problem, due to condensation build up being trapped in that thermal layer and nowhere for it to escape to. That is why double glazing done properly has a vacuum in the gap. We did the plastic trick in a two bedroom apartment that had no insulation in the roof space and only plug in electric heating. It was the coldest winter I have ever experienced and I was constantly sick too. Thankfully the following winter the landlord allowed us to install batts, which made a huge difference.

I put plastic on windows in my previous place. After years of being on the windows, there was no noticeable mould between the glass and plastic.

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