Seven tips for helping cut down winter power bills

AUSTRALIA might be having a relatively warm autumn, but many families may experience bill shock in the cooler months when faced with the higher energy bills that winter brings.

Australian households have some of the highest energy costs in the developed world, and every year more Australian families struggle to pay their gas and electricity bills.

Combined electricity and gas bills have already risen by as much as 85 per cent in some states over the last six years.

At the same time, research by energy price comparison website suggests 50 per cent of Australians frequently worry about their ability to pay for essential services. cautions that few Australian families may have a strategy to try to reduce their bills, despite already being under significant financial pressure.

Below are 7 tips by for taking control of your energy bill this winter:

1. Bill smoothing. Some energy retailers offer this option, which involves spreading the estimated total cost of your energy bills for the next year across equal instalments. This means you'll avoid bill shock altogether as you pay the same amount each month.

2. Keep ahead of your bills.  If you can afford it, make sure you always pay your bills by the due date.

3. Apply for an energy rebate. A Family Energy Rebate is a means-tested rebate that gives eligible households a $150 credit on their electricity bills, while the Low Income Household Rebate gives households a $235 credit. The Energy and Water Ombudsman is concerned that many customers who are eligible for a rebate aren't receiving it.

4. Be patient. Cranking up the temperature won't heat a freezing house any faster than setting it at your normal temperature and giving it the time to heat up a room. The heater will take the same amount of time to get to 20 degrees, regardless of what you set the thermostat at. All you're doing by setting it too high is wasting energy.     

5. Turn it down. Many people have their heating on a few degrees higher than necessary. Turning the temperature of your heater or reverse-cycle air conditioner down a few degrees, to 18-20 degrees, can save you significant sums over the year. More often than not, you won't notice the difference.

6. Shut the door. Contain the heat within rooms you are using by closing the doors to any unused rooms. An open door can suck a lot of heat out of a room. Similarly, drafts and cracks will make your heating work much harder, with much of it leaving the house, while you sit shivering inside.

7.  Power down. This is an obvious one, yet is often ignored. Turn off any appliances you're not using - including at the wall.   Keep the plugs turned off, and only switch them on when you need to use them.  The average household pays around $100 in standby power costs a year.

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