Electricity bills: Time to get wired

Written and accurate as at: 10 March 2017

A recent study by the Australian Energy Regulator found that in 2014 the average household electricity usage in Australia was 5,817 kilowatt-hour (kWh) per year.

Taking into account electricity rates at the time, this roughly equated to an average electricity bill of $1,690 per annum (or $423 per quarter).

In this article, we charter our way through the ‘household-electricity-sphere’ to help you become a little more energy-savvy in the future.

It’s probably safe to say that at some point in your life you’ve opened your electricity bill and have been a little surprised with the total amount due – and, not in a good way.

However, before running around and turning off every appliance in your home, think about the things that may have impacted your bill.


Seven higher bill considerations

1. A longer billing cycle. Sometimes the number of days in a billing cycle can differ from the next, which can increase your total amount due. You need to compare apples to apples.

2. Meter reading estimate. Often utility providers take an estimate of your electricity meter, which can be based on the same time the year prior or your previous billing cycle. If you believe this estimate is not a true reflection of your usage during this period, then have a chat with your utility provider about getting an actual reading of your meter. 

3. Energy plan expired. When entering into a contract with your utility provider you will often find that the plan you settle on (and, its discounts) has a 12 month expiry date after which you may be placed on a ‘standard’ (often higher priced) plan until you choose a new discounted plan.

4. Energy prices*. Sometimes utility prices increase, due to such factors as wholesale costs, network charges and retail margin, which can add to the overall running cost of each appliance that you utilise in your household. 

5. Weather can have a major influence on your energy use. Air conditioning pushes up your energy use in summer, whilst winter may see you enter into ‘hibernation-mode’ by staying indoors and increasing your use of the lights, TV, computer, clothes dryer or heater.

6. New appliances. The purchase of a new appliance can add to your energy usage and depending on its energy efficiency star rating, and your usage habits, this impact can be big or small. 

7. Temporary guests in your household. With more people under the one roof, even for a short period, your energy costs can rise as the use of household appliances increase.


The phantom in the room

Phantom load, also known as standby power, refers to the energy drawn down by an appliance when it’s not in use. According to the Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science, ‘Phantom load is responsible for 5.9 percent of Australia’s total residential electricity consumption and costs the average household almost $100 per year’.

Some of the main culprits are multifunction printers ($29.56 per quarter), wireless VOIP routers ($6.35 per quarter), and speaker docks ($4.75 per quarter). Whilst the usage costs are not incredibly high, it is important to note that they do add up so by turning off unused appliances at the power point may save you money!


Those electricity-hungry smartphones, tablets, and laptops – or are they?

With the advent of smartphones, tablets, and laptops, and their increasing use in your daily lives, it probably seems that you are frequently reaching for the charger due to their relatively poor battery life. However, never fear as they apparently require small amounts of electricity to charge up. For example, the electricity costs attributed to fully recharging every day for 12 months your: iPhone is 50c per year; iPad is $2.70 per year; and, laptop is $13 per year.


The sum of all parts

Often when looking at your electricity bill, you probably don’t think about the ‘sum of all the parts’, especially the big ticket appliances, that have come together to produce the total amount due on your statement. Did you know that the average Australian home contains 67 household appliances?







Air conditioner

Lounge/Dining – 5 kW

7 hours per day

$0.38 per hour

Small ducted – 12kWh

$0.93 per hour


Small room – 1500 W

7-12 hours per day

$0.40 per hour

Lounge room – 2400 W

$0.65 per hour

Clothes  dryer

Timer type 5kg

1 load per week

$1.24 per load


12 place setting  – normal load

3 times per week

$0.28 per load

Hot Water Electric

Electric peak power

7 kWh per day

$1.89 per day

Electric off-peak 1. power

$1.16 per day

Electric off-peak 2. power

$1.16 per day

Hot Water Solar

Solar – electric booster

2.8 kWh per day

$0.76 per day


CFL globes – 6 x 20 W

3 hours per day

$0.03 per hour

Halogen spots – 12 x 50 W

$0.16 per hour

LED spots – 12 x 6.5 W

$0.02 per hour


Family size – 400 litres

Compressor running time approximately 30%

$0.35 per day

Large size – 600+ litres

$0.66 per day


40″ LCD

5 hours per day

$0.04 per hour

42″ Plasma

$0.08 per hour

Washing machine

Top load warm wash 5.5kg

5 loads per week

$0.46 per load

Front load warm wash 5.5kg

$0.19 per load

*Based on average running costs across numerous states and a territory of Australia – ACT, NSW, VIC, QLD and NT.

Source: Origin. Energy Efficiency Tips: Understand Your Energy Usage (Household Appliances). Retrieved from: https://www.originenergy.com.au/for-home/my-account/usage/energy-efficiency-tips.html


By taking the time to better understand the individual cost of each appliance (as well as their energy rating and optimal energy saving usage) that you utilise in your household, you can begin to see where your energy consumption habits lie and potentially work towards being more efficient with your overall usage. And, if you can reduce your energy consumption (without causing discomfort for you and other household members), consider the impact of the surplus income can have on your capacity to invest at a young age, plan for retirement earlier, and reduce debt faster.

And, if you are still looking for more information on how to be energy-savvy then check out our download, ‘Save Money, Save the Environment, Live Better‘ for some helpful tips on reducing your energy use, saving water and recycling your food.


*The Australian Energy Market Commission has noted that residential electricity bills across Australia are expected to rise over the next two years due to increases in wholesale costs and network costs. Depending on your state, this increase may range from as little as 0.6% (Tasmania) to a whopping 9.3% (ACT).