About this guide
Lifestyle and energy-use patterns change as you move into retirement. Managing energy bills can be challenging. This is particularly true if you’re on a fixed income such as a pension.
This guide explains how to reduce bills by changing your energy use and by choosing the most suitable contract. It includes ways to manage payments and what to do if you’re having difficulties or face being disconnected.
There are resources for homeowners, renters and landlords.
Making some of these changes can save money, energy and water as well as making your home more comfortable.
Ways to save
The following free and low cost ideas are a good way to reduce energy use. See rebates to check if assistance is available. Landlords, renters and homeowners may be eligible for assistance when replacing an appliance. Assistance also includes free advisory services for purchasing and using energy-efficient appliances.
Heating and cooling
Up to 50% of home energy can be used by cooling and/or heating, This depends on the climate zone you live in.
Control your climate
In winter, set your heating between 18°C and 20°C. In summer, set your cooling between 25°C and 27°C.
For every degree you increase heating and cooling you increase energy use between 5% and 10%.
Close off rooms not in use
Shut doors and vents to unused areas. Only heat or cool the rooms you’re using.
Seal gaps and cracks to stop air leaking. This is a cheap way to cut your energy bill by up to 25%. Use a draught stopper to prevent air leaking under doors. Apply weather seals to windows, skirting boards, skylights and cornices. If renting, check with your landlord or property manager before fitting any weather seals.
Improve window efficiency
Prevent heat loss or gain with well-fitted curtains and blinds. They trap a layer of air next to the window. Open curtains in winter to let the sun in during the day. Close them before it gets dark. Close curtains during the hottest part of the day in summer.
Consider transparent film to insulate windows
It reduces heat gain and loss. If renting check with your landlord or property manager.
Catch the breeze
In summer make the most of natural airflow in the cooler parts of the day. Open windows to bring in the breeze and let the hot air out.
Use fans before air conditioning
Fans cost around 2 cents per hour to run. This is much less than air conditioners. Fans can reduce the temperature by 2°C or 3°C. Fans circulate air and can improve the effectiveness of other cooling systems.
Use fans to circulate hot air
Using ceiling fans to push the air downwards in winter improves heating efficiency. Where this option exists, the fan or remote control should indicate the winter setting to reverse airflow.
Heating water accounts for around 15% to 27% of household energy use.
Get the temperature right
The recommended setting for thermostats is 60°C for storage hot water systems. It is no more than 50°C on instantaneous hot water systems.
Give your hot water a holiday
If away for more than a week, turning off your storage hot water system saves money and energy. When turning it back on, allow time for the water to become hot. It needs to get hot enough to kill any bacteria that may have grown. The water must remain above 60°C for at least 35 minutes before you can safely use it. It could take several hours to reach this temperature.
Don’t use the shower to warm up
Aim for a 4 minute shower. Then stand under a heat lamp instead of under the hot water for longer. This uses up to 20 times less energy than staying under the shower.
Install a water-efficient showerhead
Installing a water-efficient 4-star showerhead can save a family of four $315 a year on water bills. This saves on your water bills and your energy bills because less water will need to be heated.
Replacing a hot water system
If your system fails, replacing it with a suitable energy-efficient model can reduce energy use. Research your choices in advance to avoid making a rushed decision.
Appliances account for up to 30% of household energy use.
Compare and estimate running costs
Use the Energy Rating website or the Energy Rating apps for your phone, to compare running costs of appliances. A higher star-rated model may cost a little more upfront, but will reduce energy use and total costs.
Buy energy-efficient appliances
An energy-efficient model will have reduced running costs. The savings can add up to more than any purchase price difference over the life of the product. The Energy Rating Label shows you how efficient a particular appliance is—the more stars the better. A water-efficient dishwasher or washing machine will save energy as well as water. Look at both the energy and water efficiency star rating labels on the machine.
Use appliances efficiently
Washing clothes with cold water can save up to 10 times more energy than a warm wash. By making simple changes you can reduce costs.
Reduce standby power
Many appliances use power when left on, even if not in use. This can account for 3% of household electricity consumption. You can switch off most at the power point. Note: Do not switch off fridges, freezers, security and medical equipment.
Lighting uses around 10% of the average household electricity budget.
Use natural light
If it’s light outside, open the curtains or blinds rather than switching on a light. Lighter coloured furnishings and reflective surfaces also reduce the need for artificial lighting.
Use lights efficiently
Use efficient reading lamps rather than lighting a whole room. Switch lights off when you leave the room and consider sensors for outdoor lights.
Switch to energy-efficient lighting
Replace old-style globes with light emitting diodes (LEDs) which use around 80% less energy. They should also last between 4 and 10 times longer.
Manage energy bills
Dealing with high energy bills can be stressful. There are things you can do to better manage energy payments and make sure you’re getting the best deal for you.
Refer to Find out more at the end of this guide for organisations that can help with energy billing and more.
Offers and contracts
Depending on where you live, you may have a choice of which energy retailer to use. Even if you only have one retailer in your area, there are many energy offers available. Choosing the most suitable offer can be difficult, so understanding how and when you use energy is useful.
Contracts that reward off-peak energy use may result in savings. You will need to move activities such as washing and cooking into the off-peak periods to save. However, this may increase your costs if you need to run heating and cooling systems at peak times. If you choose a contract that doesn’t suit your household or lifestyle you could end up paying more.
Before agreeing to a contract, read the terms and conditions. Asking a friend or family member to review the details can be helpful.
There are laws in place for customer protection on energy matters. The retailer must provide a printed summary of any contract. The energy price fact sheet must include the following:
- all prices and charges
- early termination payments and penalties
- date and duration of the contract
- billing and payment information
- your rights and obligations.
After agreeing, you can change your mind within 10 business days without penalty.
If your energy bill seems wrong, your retailer must review it if requested. If you're still not satisfied, contact the energy ombudsman in your state or territory. An ombudsman is a free and independent dispute resolution service.
To ease financial stress you can have smaller amounts regularly deducted by your retailer rather than receive a large quarterly bill. If receiving a Centrelink payment, the Centrepay service is available so you can make regular payments towards your energy bills.
If you can’t pay your bill on time, contact your retailer. Their number is on your bill. This is important so you can find out your options. Their hardship policy outlines what they can do. You may be able to delay payments or pay your bill off in smaller amounts.
If you receive a disconnection notice from your retailer, contact them immediately to discuss your options. You should not be disconnected during a protected period, such as a weekend or public holiday. People registered as depending on a life-support system have further protections from disconnection.
Sustainability improvements will increase comfort and reduce energy use. They can also benefit the owner by increasing the property’s value and reducing maintenance needs. Check with your landlord or manager before making any significant changes. Put any requests in writing and keep a record.
Rebates and assistance
Renters and owners may be eligible for rebates and assistance with sustainability improvements.
Repairs and maintenance may be tax deductible for the owner. They can check the Australian Tax Office’s Rental properties guidance.
Find out more
The Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line provides information and support to senior Australians, their families and carers. Call 1800 171 866 Monday to Friday (except public holidays) from 8.30am to 6pm.
The National Relay Service (NRS) provides a phone solution for people who are deaf or have a speech impairment. Call 1800 555 660 or go to Accesshub for more information.
Energy and water ombudsman
ACT Energy and water ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal - Call 02 6207 7740
NSW Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW - Call 1800 246 545
NT Ombudsman NT - Call 1800 806 380
Qld Energy & Water Ombudsman - Call 1800 662 837
SA Energy & Water Ombudsman SA - Call 1800 665 565
Tas Ombudsman Tasmania - Call 1800 001 170
Tas Energy Ombudsman Tasmania - Call 1800 001 170
Vic Energy and Water Ombudsman - Call 1800 500 509
WA Energy and Water Ombudsman - Call 1800 754 004
Government consumer and fair trading agencies
Real estate ACCC - Call 1300 302 502
ACT Fair Trading ACT Government - Call 13 22 81
NSW Fair Trading NSW Government - Call 13 32 20
NT Consumer Affairs - Call 1800 019 319
Qld Consumer rights, complaints and scams Queensland Government - Call 13 74 68
SA Consumer and Business Services Government of South Australia - Call 13 18 82
Tas Consumer, Building and Occupational Services Tasmanian Government - Call 1300 654 499
Vic Consumer Affairs Government of Victoria - Call 1300 558 181 or Koori Helpline 1300 661 511
WA Consumer Protection Government of Western Australia - Call 1300 304 054
Information for renters and landlords
ACT Residential tenancies ACT Government - Call 13 22 81
NSW Renting a home NSW Government Call 13 32 20
NT Residential Tenancies Northern Territory Consumer Affairs - Call 1800 019 319
Qld Renting Residential Tenancies Authority - Call 1300 366 311
SA Renting Government of South Australia - Call 13 18 82
Tas Renting Tasmanian Government - Call 1300 654 499
Vic Renting Government of Victoria - Call 1300 558 181 or Koori Helpline 1300 661 511
WA Renting a home Government of Western Australia - Call 1300 304 054
Tenants’ unions and advocacy groups
ACT Renting Advice Tenants’ Union ACT Inc - Call 02 6247 2011
NSW Information, Advice and Advocacy Tenants NSW
NT Tenants’ Advice Service Darwin Community Legal Service - Call 1800 812 953
Qld Information for tenants Tenants Queensland - Call 1300 744 263
SA Homelessness and Tenancy Support Services Anglicare SA - Call 08 8305 9200
Tas Tenants’ Union of Tasmania - Call 1300 652 641
Vic Tenants Victoria - Call 03 9416 2577
WA Tenancy WA - Call 08 9221 0088 (metro) or 1800 621 888 (regional)
Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Australian Government - Call 1800 550 552
Be Connected Australian Government (free courses on the internet) - Call 1300 795 897
Better Health Channel State Government of Victoria - Call 1300 606 024
Energy Made Easy Australian Government - Call 1300 585 165
Home Care Packages Australian Government - Call 1800 836 799
Life stages Australian Government - Call 1800 022 222
Money Smart Australian Securities and Investment Commission - Call 1300 300 630
My Aged Care Australian Government - Call 1800 200 422
National Seniors Australia - Call 1300 765 050
No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) Good Shepherd Microfinance - Call 13 64 57
Over 55s Australian Securities & Investment Commission - Call 1300 300 630