How to avoid a scorcher of a power bill

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Summer electricity bills have an alarming tendency to skyrocket, as everyone reaches for the air conditioning remote for round-the-clock-comfort. Add to that the dozens of electrical appliances, entertainment centres, power tools and gadgets we all use – many of which automatically gobble power, even when they are supposedly turned off – and you’re on the fast track to racking up a big debt.

For most of us, a major part of our household expenditure is our power bill so it makes sense to start here when looking at ways to minimise this escalating cost. Despite what you may think, there are some things you can do to keep your cool and retain your sanity when bill time comes around.

It goes without saying that ways to encourage personal temperature comfort include wearing loose, natural fibre clothing and using your home’s cross-ventilation breezes as much as you can.

Cooling and heating

Account for up to 50% of our power usage so it makes sense to hone in on this aspect of our home usage. Closing doors to unused rooms will reduce the area you need to cool or heat. Keeping curtains and outside window shades closed will also help maintain a consistent temperature inside. Cleaning and servicing your air conditioner keeps it running at optimum efficiency. And when you’re not home, turn it off, or at least have it on a timer so it’s not running continuously.

Switch appliances off at the wall

TVs, DVD players, computers, stereos and game consoles still use energy in standby mode. When not in use, switch these appliances off at the wall. Better still, use a power board that supplies electricity to multiple appliances at the same time. Then you can switch off all appliances using the one switch.

Look at your lighting

Change your old light globes to compact fluorescent ones which use a lot less energy. Use lamps or spotlights instead of main lights. Having lights on different circuits means you can turn lighting on and off, as needed.

Use appliances efficiently

For instance, thaw food in the fridge first to reduce cooking time. Microwaves use less energy than ovens. When using an oven, avoid continuously opening the door. Use the dishwasher on economy cycle for everyday washing and only run the dishwasher when it is full. This helps save water too.

Check your fridge and freezer

Ideally you should set your fridge temperature to 4-5 degrees and your freezer temperature between -15 and -18 degrees celsius. Keeping fridges and freezers in a cool, well-ventilated spot away from the oven and the sun will save electricity, as will ensuring the seals don’t leak and the appliances are working at their maximum.

Laundry tips

As with dishwashers, only run the washing machine on full load and use the cold water setting. It’s obvious but using a clothesline instead of a dryer is the best thing you can do. However, for those who cannot hang their washing out in the sun to dry, make it a rule to spin the clothes thoroughly before putting them in the dryer and keep the lint filter clean.

The way hot water is used in the bathroom

The bathroom is another area of potential power saving. Set the hot water temperature to 50 degrees celsius. Installing water-saving showerheads will reduce the amount of hot water and energy used. Switch off appliances such as hairdryers, electric toothbrushes and radios at the wall.

Consider insulation and solar power

Some “problem” rooms of your home may benefit from added insulation. Or consider going solar in a minor or major way, according to your goals and budget.


The steps you take to avoid bill shock this summer will depend if you are renting or buying. Whatever situation you are in, there are things you can do to keep your electricity bill in check without blowing your cool.

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