What are you going to pay for power this summer?

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Summer – it’s the best time of year if you love your sun, beaches, barbecues and late nights on the deck. But it’s also the time when you’re most likely to feel the heat of shock energy bills. So, how much can you expect to be charged the next time that bill drops into your mail box?

To offer a guide, Canstar Blue has looked at typical electricity bills across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and the ACT, as well as the typical running costs of various cooling appliances. This is not an exact science, but we should at least be able to offer a rough guide as to what you could end up paying for electricity if you’ve been trying to keep your cool with air conditioning, ceiling fans or portable fans this summer.

Let’s start with looking at the running costs of cooling appliances. The following table shows the hourly running costs of air conditioners and different types of fans, plus the accumulative costs of using them for four hours every day, over 90 days of summer. A million different factors will impact exactly how much these appliances will cost you (energy-efficiency, speed/temperature settings and what you pay for power, for example), so treat this as a very general guide only.

Cooling running costs for air conditioners and fans

Cooling type Hourly running cost Cost over 3 months
Ducted whole house air con $2.45 $882
Portable air conditioner 45c $162
Split-system air conditioner 25c $90
Ceiling fan 2c $7.20
Pedestal fan 2c $7.20
Desk fan 1c $3.60

Cost calculations based on electricity usage charge of 35c/kWh. 3 month costs based on four-hour usage per day over 90 days.

While the running costs of fans are very modest, keep in mind that these costs are for one fan only. If you have multiple fans running, the costs will clearly add up. Likewise, if you use any of these appliances for more than four hours a day, you can expect higher costs.

The main takeout from this is that, if you’re lucky enough to have ducted air conditioning, you’ll have to use it very wisely to avoid some serious bill shock.

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Typical power bills

So, what are you actually going to pay for electricity this summer? To offer a guide, here are typical quarterly power bills for households across Australia. These costs are an average of the cheapest published deals on our database from the biggest retailers in each area – AGL, Origin, EnergyAustralia and ActewAGL – at the time of writing. These costs are based on typical energy usage for three-person households at selected postcodes in each state. Use our comparison tool below for specific quotes in your area.

  • VIC: $297
  • QLD: $337
  • ACT: $355
  • NSW: $384
  • SA: $548

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What will your summer power bill look like?

This will depend on where you live, what you pay for power, and of course how you’ve been cooling your home. The typical power bills above do not factor in seasonality (i.e. summer cooling costs), so what will summer bills actually look like? To get an idea, we can add the estimated cooling costs from above onto these estimated bills.

  • E.g. If you live in NSW and have just bought a portable air conditioner, your summer power bill could jump from around $384 to $546 ($384 + $162).
  • If you’ve just installed ducted air conditioning for summer and been blasting it for hours a day, you can expect some serious bill shock coming soon.

Based on the typical quarterly power bill in your state, let’s speculate on what your summer bill may be depending on which type of air conditioner or fans you have been using.

Summer Electricity Bills in Victoria

Our figures above show the average quarterly electricity bill in Victoria is $297, but what about after you factor in cooling costs?

Cooling type Cost over 3 months Summer power bill
Ducted whole house air conditioner $882 $1,179
Portable air conditioner $162 $459
Split-system air conditioner $90 $387
Ceiling fan $7.20 $304.20
Pedestal fan $7.20 $304.20
Desk fan $3.60 $300.60

Cost calculations based on electricity usage charge of 35c/kWh. Summer power bill based on four-hour usage per day over 90 days.

Summer Electricity Bills in Queensland

Queenslanders pay an average of $337 a quarter on electricity, our research found. But what will that summer power bill look like?

Cooling type Cost over 3 months Summer power bill
Ducted whole house air conditioner $882 $1,219
Portable air conditioner $162 $499
Split-system air conditioner $90 $427
Ceiling fan $7.20 $344.20
Pedestal fan $7.20 $344.20
Desk fan $3.60 $340.60

Cost calculations based on electricity usage charge of 35c/kWh. Summer power bill based on four-hour usage per day over 90 days.

Summer Electricity Bills in ACT

Average quarterly electricity bills in the ACT are about $355. But we know cooling costs can make a big difference to summer bills.

Cooling type Cost over 3 months Summer power bill
Ducted whole house air conditioner $882 $1,237
Portable air conditioner $162 $517
Split-system air conditioner $90 $445
Ceiling fan $7.20 $362.20
Pedestal fan $7.20 $362.20
Desk fan $3.60 $358.60

Cost calculations based on electricity usage charge of 35c/kWh. Summer power bill based on four-hour usage per day over 90 days.

Summer Electricity Bills in NSW

In NSW, the average quarterly electricity bill is $384. How will this change depending on your cooling appliances?

Cooling type Cost over 3 months Summer power bill
Ducted whole house air conditioner $882 $1,266
Portable air conditioner $162 $546
Split-system air conditioner $90 $474
Ceiling fan $7.20 $391.20
Pedestal fan $7.20 $391.20
Desk fan $3.60 $387.60

Cost calculations based on electricity usage charge of 35c/kWh. Summer power bill based on four-hour usage per day over 90 days.

Summer Electricity Bills in South Australia

South Australians pay a high price for power at the best of times, but what about during the summer months. The average quarterly bill is about $548, so what does it look like after cooling?

Cooling type Cost over 3 months Summer power bill
Ducted whole house air conditioner $882 $1,430
Portable air conditioner $162 $710
Split-system air conditioner $90 $638
Ceiling fan $7.20 $555.20
Pedestal fan $7.20 $555.20
Desk fan $3.60 $551.60

Cost calculations based on electricity usage charge of 35c/kWh. Summer power bill based on four-hour usage per day over 90 days.

While the above summer bill estimates offer a basic guide to what you could expect to pay, we should repeat that there are countless variables that will impact precisely what you will personally pay. Not least the fact that power prices differ between states and can vary hugely between the cheapest and most experience plans.

So, how can you keep cooling costs low during summer?

As we’ve discovered, the way you cool your home in summer can determine whether or not you suffer that dreaded bill shock. You need to be conscious of your cooling costs and remember that you’ll have to pay for it at some point. Here are some simple yet effective tips for keeping costs under control:

  • Only use air conditioning when you really need to. Keep curtains and blinds closed during the day to keep the heat at bay as best as possible.
  • If you have ducted air conditioning with zoning, make sure you turn off the rooms you don’t need to cool.
  • Whatever type of air con you have, set it to the highest temperature you can comfortably stand. Running costs can increase by an extra 2c per hour for every degree cooler your air con is set.
  • Portable air conditioners are generally expensive to run and aren’t the most effective cooling appliances. When used, make sure you close all windows and doors and try to keep the benefit to the one room you are using at the time.
  • The running costs of ceiling fans and portable fans are fairly modest, but the costs will still add up if you use several of them. Turn all fans off when they are not being used – otherwise you’re simply throwing money away.

As mentioned above, the price you pay for power can also have a big impact on your bills. If you’re paying too much for power, you’re already paying too much for cooling. Regularly compare providers and plans to make sure you’re getting a competitive price.

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