In August last year my electricity bill came and when I opened it I sat down heavily and almost started crying. $810.99. That’s for one quarter. So, extrapolate that out, and the cost of boiling a cup of coffee and a hot shower for the year was about $3,200. Yup. I tackled the problem with a vengeance and my next bill was about $320.00. Here’s how I did it.
My bills had been high for a while, but it was one of those things that I filed under “Deal With Later”. But when I saw $810.99 in the DUE NOW column, I realised later had arrived. With a bang.
Step 1. How bad is it? Noooooo? Oh yes.
So, I gathered all my electricity bills together to get a real picture of what was going on. I’m meticulous about ignoring my phone and electricity bills until the time comes when I want to do something about them. Then, fortunately, I’m also meticulous about filing them. So I went to the filing cabinet in my home office and pulled them all out. Many were still in the sealed envelope.
I learned my bills had been around $650 for a year or so, then a $700 bill, then the Moby Dick of electricity bills at $810.99.
So things had been steadily getting worse. But why?
Step 2. Get expert advice on reducing your electricity bill
I asked around and everyone was blown away by my bill. My girlfriends, all who had similar sized houses to mine, (no McMansions here, just a modest highset brick house on an average sized block) had bills around $300. None of us have split system airconditioning, or heating, although two of them have gas cooktops, that I don’t have. I have two fridges and I have a flatscreen 50cm TV and an older TV downstairs in the playroom for the kids. People I spoke to didn’t think those things would account for such a high bill. That confirmed what I suspected. Things were awry.
Then I rang the electricity company. Origin, in this case. We had a loooong conversation. I scrawled lots of notes down on my bill, things like tariff 33, tariff 31, off-peak meter, EWR form, and many other scratchings that make no sense to me now, a year on. The call centre couldn’t explain the inordinately high bill either and admitted it seemed high. My bills were actual meter readings, as opposed to estimates. (The electricity company will often estimate your bill based on past readings, if for whatever reason they can’t actually read your meter). The reasons seem to be many and varied as to why they wouldn’t actually be able to read your meter and anecdotal evidence suggests that not being bothered factors high on the list.
There were two good things to come out of this long conversation:
1. Get the Smart Energy consultant to come out and have a look.
2. Origin offered to give me a discount on my rate, reducing the rate I paid from 20.69c/kWh down to 18c/kWh.
Step 3. Don’t put it off. Take steps today to reduce your electricity bill
I am the queen, the high priestess, the doyenne of procrastination. I see no reason to do today what I can put off until tomorrow. But when I decide to take action – and when money is at stake – I charge in full steam ahead. This is important (although don’t rush headlong and blindly into things). Make a plan and execute it swiftly.
I got off the phone and immediately rang the Energy Smart people (the scheme is now closed in Queensland, apparently due to lack of up-take. I think it still runs in other states in Australia). We made an appointment for the consultant to come out next week.
Step 4. Keep an open mind. Stay focused on the goal of reducing your electricity bill
A lovely gentleman, we’ll call him Leo, arrived around 1pm on a warm September day. We dispensed with the niceties and quickly got down to tin tacks.
Leo wandered around our home, checked the water flow in the shower (we have really crappy water pressure, so no need for the low-flow shower head he gave us, but we accepted it anyway – never turn down free stuff!), our hot water system (which is running on solar panels on the roof), and a few other things. He looked at our bill and said if we wanted to save money straight away, ditch the green energy component of our plan which was costing us money. It costs to be idealists and we could no longer afford to support the green energy dream.
Then he plugged in the magic meter. Yes, I called it a magic meter. For it is magic. It has a little base in the meter box attached to the side of the house, that sends out a signal to the digital meter kept in the kitchen.
He switched it on and the readout showed we were burning about 19c/hr. Then Leo sent us scurrying around our house turning off all the lights (yes, unbelievably we had fluorescent lights on in the garage in the middle of the day despite there being plenty of light inside the garage). We turned off all the incidental appliances that weren’t being used that we had on standby. That means we turned TVs off at the wall, the Foxtel box off at the wall, the microwave off at the wall, the computers, the washing machine which has a few tiny LED lights on its display panel, the printer attached to the computer, the DVD players – everything. We even turned the fridges off.
The meter fluttered down to 2c/hr.
Step 5. Stay committed
And from that moment on, we were hooked on the meter. It was a tool that helped focus our thinking and crystalise our attitude toward the way we consume electricity. We set the timer while the kids were in the shower – 5 minutes only. In the past I’d been guilty of letting the shower run as a way to manage the kids while I was preparing dinner. No longer.
Making a cup of tea entailed boiling the kettle, which would send the meter up to 17c-22c/hr. So we became disciplined about only putting the amount of water in the kettle that we needed so as not to let it boil a second longer than necessary. Instead of filling the kettle up to the top and letting it merrily boil away for minutes longer than necessary.
Step 6. Celebrate
Our next bill was about $320. We were ecstatic. We had done nothing at all except turn lights off in a room when we weren’t in it, turned our appliances off at the wall at night and monitored our showers. That’s it really. We didn’t get an electrician in to install an off-peak meter. We didn’t buy expensive solar panels on the roof. We didn’t start reading by candlelight. We made small, manageable, easy changes. We became mindful of our habits.
And we are now around $2000 a year better off.