High electricity bill

Why is my electricity bill so high?

Fact Checked Fact Checked

This Canstar Blue article has compiled the top 10 reasons why an electricity bill may be higher than expected.

Avoid ‘bill shock’ and take control of electricity use with the following solutions.

Compare energy deals

Here are some sponsored deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Ausgrid energy network in Sydney but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 3911kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area and to see other products in our database that may be available. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some sponsored deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area and to see other products in our database that may be available. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some sponsored deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from our referral partners†. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4613kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area and to see other products in our database that may be available. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some sponsored deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from our referral partners†. These costs are based on the SA Power network in Adelaide but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4011kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area and to see other products in our database that may be available. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

1. Older appliancesEnergy Label

Energy efficient appliances can make a significant impact on annual electricity bills. Fortunately, the Australian government regulates the Energy Rating Label, helping Australians compare home appliance energy consumption for over 30 years. 

According to the Australian government’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, home appliances account for one third of a household’s energy bill. Choosing energy efficient appliances is one of the most effective ways to avoid high electricity bills.

Solution:

  • When possible, update older appliances by following the Energy Rating Label. The more stars, the more energy efficient the appliance is.
  • Use the following formula to calculate an estimated running cost for the appliance:
    • Annual running cost = annual total energy consumption (kWh) x electricity tariff ($ per kWh)

What are some of the more energy-efficient appliances?
Find out with Canstar Blue’s most energy-efficient appliances in Australia.


2. Standby appliances

Standby power consumption, or a ‘phantom load’ is a silent energy consumer. While these devices don’t contribute very much individually, a houseful of phantom loads could result in a much larger annual electricity bill.

Solution:

  • Turn phantom load appliances off at the wall or install a smart power board. The smart power board can cut electricity to a certain device when it senses that it’s on standby mode, but will leave active devices on.

How much is standby power costing you on your electricity bill?
Find out with Canstar Blue’s standby appliance cost analysis.


3. Being at home

Due to the extra appliance use, working from home and holiday periods can result in higher electricity bills. It’s important to factor that extra use in when budgeting for energy bills.


What appliances use the most energy at home?
Find out in Canstar Blue’s home appliance guide.


4. Lighting

According to the Australian government, a typical Australian home contains 37 light bulbs. So while a single light bulb might not use much electricity, 37 incandescent light bulbs will. Due to their reliance on older and inefficient technology, incandescent and halogen light bulbs are notorious for being energy hungry. Newer compact fluorescent (CFL) and light-emitting diode (LED) models use far less energy to create the same amount of light. LED light bulbs use 80% less energy as compared to a halogen bulb, while LED bulbs last twice as long as CFL bulbs.

Solution:

  • Switch out your incandescent or halogen bulbs for CFL or LED ones. LED light bulbs are slightly more expensive upfront but offer superior energy savings. CFL light bulbs are barely more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but they are slightly less efficient than LEDs. Investing a little more on energy efficient light bulbs could trim down future energy bills.

Could your home lighting set-up be chewing through your power bill?
See how much each light bulb type costs to run in Canstar Blue’s home lighting cost guide.


5. Air conditioners and/or heaters

According to Energy Rating’s website, heating and cooling appliances are responsible for approximately 40% of Australian household energy use. Therefore, having the correct appliance to heat or cool a household will result in significant energy savings all year round.

The inefficiency of running an appliance for too long or operating it in a non-insulated or large area will quickly increase energy bills.

Solution:

  • The Australian government recommends setting air conditioner or heating temperature control to 25-27˚C in summer and 18-20˚C in winter. Setting the temperature incorrectly will result in an increased cost of 5-10% for every extra degree used.
  • Combine a fan with an air conditioner in both cool and hot weather. Use the air conditioner to cool or heat the room, then use the fan to circulate that air.
  • Switch fans to rotate clockwise in the cooler months or counterclockwise in the warmer months.

How much is running an air conditioner or heater costing you in the winter?
Canstar Blue compares usage costs of winter heating appliances in its annual heating price analysis.


6. Heating water

Hot water use can account for over 25% of energy usage in an Australian home, according to the Australian government’s YourHome website. Between the kitchen, laundry and bathroom, water heated in the home requires a lot of energy.

Solution:

  • Install low-flow taps and shower heads
  • Take shorter showers
  • Wash clothes in cold water
  • Use the eco setting on the washing machine and dishwasher
  • Have mixer taps in ‘cold’ position
  • Check hot water system for leaks.

7. On/off-peak power use

Tariff rates in peak times can differ by 10c per kWh or more compared to off-peak or shoulder times. Customers could unknowingly be paying more for energy when using appliances during certain times of the day.

Solution:


See what the peak and off-peak usage times are in your area with Canstar Blue’s flexible pricing guide.


8. Energy allowances and meter readings

Some power plans come with an ‘energy allowance’ for which a certain rate is charged. If this is exceeded, customers are charged a higher rate for usage beyond their allowance. Those with a smart meter installed can access live updates on their energy usage, generally every half hour.

Customers without a smart meter will need the distributor to physically check the electricity meter. Inaccessible meters may receive an estimated energy usage instead. A bill estimate is indicated by an ‘E’ next to the meter reading. Many energy retailers take estimated readings and later send settlement figures.

Solution:

  • Install a smart meter. A smart meter records energy use in half-hour blocks, for more accurate reporting. Customers in Victoria should already have a smart meter, as government policy from 2013 stated that electricity providers must rollout smart meters to all homes.

How can I install a smart meter?
Canstar Blue explains smart meter installation and cost.


9. Concessions not applied

Customers who typically receive electricity concessions should always check that the concession was applied. If an electricity bill is higher than it should be, customers should speak with their electricity provider or check their electricity bill for applied credits.

Solution:

  •       If a credit or concession has not been applied, customers need to contact their energy provider and bring it to their attention.

What rebates and concessions are currently available in Australia?
Canstar Blue shows what electricity rebates and concessions are available in Australia.


10. Price changes

Price changes in the energy market are common, especially for those who have a variable rate on their electricity account. These price increases can account for unexpectedly high electricity bills.

Solution:

  •   Customers who wish to know more about their electricity plan can use the Canstar Blue comparison tool to see whether their plan is fixed or variable
    • Using the Canstar Blue tool, customers can also compare current electricity, gas and solar plans to see what the cheapest and best value plans are on the energy market.

What can I do to save money on my power bill?

When it comes to electricity, being diligent pays off. If your bill is higher than expected, stop and think about what has been different over that payment cycle. If you need a hand managing your electricity usage, there are plenty of new smart technologies which help monitor energy usage and reduce standby usage.

If all else fails, give your energy provider a call and ask them if there has been a change to rates or if you’ve lost a particular discount for some reason – if this achieves nothing, then perhaps it’s time to compare energy providers and consider a switch.

Compare electricity prices

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 3911kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4613kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the SA Power network in Adelaide but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4011kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Image credits: energyrating.gov.au, Grusho Anna/Shutterstock.com

Katrina Hasdell
Energy Content Producer
Katrina Hasdell is an Energy Content Producer at Canstar Blue, where she covers Australia’s retail energy market. Katrina is dedicated to providing consumers with easy-to-read information on their energy options so they can get better deals on electricity, solar power and more.

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