Electric Arguments

James McCay

Apr 21, 2023

How many people in Australia, Canada and the USA argue with their loved ones over electricity bills?

Electricity is a crucial utility vital to the functioning of a modern home. While everyone needs it, the electricity bills that come with it we would surely rather do without. Energy bills can be stressful and strain household budgets, creating a source of tension in the family or household. The energy crisis of 2022 only served to make things worse.

To get a better understanding of how much stress electricity bills are causing households, the energy experts at Compare the Market ran a survey of adults in Australia, Canada and the USA, receiving more than 3,000 responses.

Here’s what we found.

Roughly one in three people have arguments with household members over electricity bills

For most people, electricity bills don’t cause arguments, however, across all three nations in our survey, one third of people admitted to having had arguments regarding their power bills. Canada had the highest proportion of people arguing over electricity bills, with 38.6% of respondents saying they had arguments with household members.

In comparison, the USA had the smallest amount with 27.8% of respondents arguing over power bills, while Australians sat in the middle at 35.4%.

Different age groups were more likely than others to have these arguments. Australians and Americans aged 18-24 were the most likely to say they had arguments with household members over power bills (42.3% and 47.6% respectively), while in Canada it was 25–34-year olds (57.8%).

In contrast, those aged 65 and above were the least likely to report having arguments over electricity bills, and this was true in all countries. Only 17.3% in Australia, 13.5% in Canada and 13.2% of USA respondents in this age group reported arguing over electricity costs.

Additionally, most people across all three nations noted that the ongoing energy crisis from 2022 has made these disagreements more frequent and intense (63.5% in Australia, 63.7% in Canada, and 64.5% in the USA).

When this data is broken down by age, younger generations who did have arguments over energy bills were more likely to say the energy crisis has made these arguments worse in comparison to older generations.

Has the energy crisis made arguments more frequent and/or intense?

Age groupAustraliaCanadaUSA

Who do we argue with the most about electricity bills?

Sparks fly as the majority of people argue with their romantic partner or spouse regarding electricity bills, accounting for roughly half of all respondents across all three countries (53.1% in Australia, 51.5% in Canada and 47.3% in the USA).

In Australia, the next most common group people argue with is their children, followed by their parents. In Canada it was the other way around, with more people arguing with their parents, followed by those who argue with their children. In the USA, people arguing with their parents came in second after romantic partners, with housemates in third.

The chart below breaks down the responses to the question “who do you most commonly argue with over electricity bills?” from all three survey groups.

Interestingly, the proportion of people who said this across each market was almost identical. Australia and the USA had 62.4% say this was the main thing they argue about, followed by 62.1% of Canadians.

The next most common issue was a specific person in the house who uses more (or less) electricity than the others, followed by appliances not being used effectively (such as small loads in the washing machine, using the dryer instead of the clothesline on a sunny day or setting the thermostat too high or low).

Focus of argumentAustraliaCanadaUSA
Devices that are left on unnecessarily62.4%62.1%62.4%
A specific person using more/less electricity than others42.1%44.8%42.3%
Powered appliances not being utilized effectively40.4%39.2%38.0%
How electricity bills are split18.3%22.4%26.2%

Compare the Market’s Head of Energy, Meredith O’Brien, notes that leaving appliances on unnecessarily and failing to turn devices off at the wall can indeed have an impact on your energy bills.

“We know that leaving devices on when you don’t need them will add to your bill,” explains O’Brien. “It might be small in terms of cents per kilowatt-hour, but it all adds up in the end. With current cost of living pressures creating a financial pressure cooker in our homes, it’s understandable that this is going to cause heated arguments. Every cent counts.”

“Not only should you turn devices off when you don’t need to use them, but you should turn them off at the wall as well. Leaving devices on means you could be paying for phantom power, which can account for 10% of your electricity bill.”

O’Brian encourages everyone to take small steps to reduce their electricity usage, and therefore reduce how much you have to pay for power in your bills.

How reviewing your electricity provider can help ease the stress of energy bills

Comparing electricity providers means you could potentially find a better plan with a cheaper price per kWh to switch to. Furthermore, you could find different types of tariffs that suit you and your household better (such as time of use tariffs or block tariffs), depending on your circumstances.

In Australia, residents in some regions can compare plans from a variety of providers to look for a better deal, which could ease the financial impact and stress electricity bills can cause.

Compare the Market commissioned PureProfile to survey 1,006 Australian, 1,004 Canadian and 1,004 American adults in January 2023.