By Lizette Salmon Lizette is a member of Transition Towns Albury Wodonga and the convener of WATCH (Wodonga & Albury Towards Climate Health)
In recent times I’ve heard several nightmare stories about people’s electricity bills.
Obviously electricity retailers have hiked their prices because of infrastructure upgrades but many of the bill increases have occurred because of changes at home, especially in winter.
Let’s start with my friend Lucy who lived in a rental unit in Albury for a year. Last winter she and her new neighbour enjoyed the pleasant warmth of their in-floor electrical heating for the first time. Her neighbour set his thermometer at a balmy 24°C while Lucy kept hers hovering around 19-20°C. One day her neighbour raced over in horror with his whopping $1,800 winter electricity bill and shortly after Lucy was hit with a $1,000 bill. Although less than her neighbour’s, Lucy’s bill was streets ahead of any previous bills. For both householders it was a tough way to find out that electrical floor heating is very costly to run. It was also a timely reminder that setting your heating thermostat at a lower temperature can make a substantial difference to your energy bill. According to the Australian Conservation Foundation a difference of just one degree can reduce energy consumption by up to 10 per cent. Lucy has now moved into a new house with high efficiency gas ducted heating and she’s determined to make up for her previous monster bill by dressing for the weather, keeping the thermostat at 19°C and only heating the rooms she is using.
Another Wodonga family of four also got a dreadful shock when they opened last year’s winter electricity bill. That winter James had started working from home and had set up a small office space in a south-facing room of the house. Since everyone else was out for the day he thought it sensible to heat just that one chilly room with a small fan heater … big mistake. His small, inexpensive purchase doubled their normal winter bill. But James was able to rectify matters by moving his desk to a north-facing room that received natural warmth from the sun and replacing his fan heater with a small gas heater which he only used on overcast days. Bingo, their subsequent winter electricity bill was a patch on the previous one and their gas bill barely went up.
So what is the most efficient and inexpensive way to heat your home? The answer very much depends on your household’s needs, room sizes, access to gas and so on. For further information it’s worth visiting the sites listed below. Remember though, that regardless of your heating system, it’s really important to minimise heat loss through ceiling insulation, close-fitting curtains and blinds and draught-proofing doors and windows.
For more information on portable heaters go to: http://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/resources/documents/Portable_heaters.pdf
For more information on larger, fixed systems go to: http://www.saveenergy.vic.gov.au/common/files/FactSheet_efficient-heating_update_Final.pdf