Better energy

5 Ways You Can Avoid Power Bill Shock

Smiling woman pouring water from electric kettle into cup

Whether we've set the GPS to direct us in traffic or we're ordering the kids' lunches via a smartphone app, technology has become a central feature of everyday life. There are also plenty of ways technology can help consumers reduce their energy consumption. 

Here are five simple ways smart technology can help you lower your energy bill and avoid bill shock.

Monitor your overall energy usage

Your quarterly electricity bill might show your electricity usage but monitoring power consumption minute by minute is a much more effective way to understand and reduce waste. “While meter readers only visit every few months, a power meter connected to the mains cable behind your switchboard gives you a radio-linked, in-home display of your current power consumption,” says software developer and regular technology commentator on ABC Radio National, Peter Marks.  

This helps you determine whether you need to change your habits or switch to alternative tariffs. Used in conjunction with technology such as WattCost that monitors, records and analyses your usage and then recommends ways to cut back on feedback sent to your smartphone, you could find substantial savings on your energy bills.

Sign up to My Account easily and track your usage. Monitoring your overall use also helps you determine whether you're on the right energy plan, and make the switch if necessary.

Keep an eye on appliances

Once you have a sense of overall power use, the next step is to put the microscope on individual appliances. “A simple in-line power-usage meter can be purchased at a hardware store and used to hunt down big energy consumers,” Marks says. Then you can look at where you can cut back. Electric kettles, fridges, stoves and tumble dryers will stand out as big power users, he says. This means these appliances also have high power prices. He suggests only boiling the water you need to reduce boil time, consider investing in a smaller toaster oven for heating small meals and keeping the clothes dryer well-ventilated for efficiency.

Want to cut the power bill? Only boiling the water you need and keeping the clothes dryer well ventilated will help

Get the right gadgets

Once you've identified the big energy-sucking appliances, you may want to consider selling and replacing them with new, more energy-efficient ones (such as gadgets using solar power) that will help you cut back on your power bills over time. Smart technology can help you choose these appliances. The federal government's Energy Rating Calculator app enables consumers to compare white goods according to efficiency in dollars rather than kilowatt hours so you can then calculate the savings. 

Automate your home

Even if you don't have the latest systems, devices such as the Belkin WeMo allow you to control everything in your home that is connected to electricity. You plug this device into the wall then plug whatever electronic device you want to control into it, including television, stereo, lamps, heater and fan. Via a mobile device and Wi-Fi connectivity, you can then switch them on or off remotely or set them to come on at required times. The WeMo also helps if you've forgotten to turn something off after you've left the house. Home automation can get quite sophisticated and expensive, however, so check with your energy retailer first and do your sums.

Scrutinise your solar energy

If you have solar electricity without a battery it's worth watching the power generation to identify the time of day it peaks then maximise your energy usage at that time, says Marks. Smart technology can help with this. “Modern inverters with smart meters hook up to your home internet and can be monitored from a smartphone app or browser,” says Marks.

While moving into the new age of smart meters and smartphone-operated devices might sound a little sci-fi for some, it's worth contemplating whether this new energy future is not only better for the planet but could also be great for the hip pocket.