Explore Energy

Did you know your appliances may account for a whopping 30% of your home energy use?1 With household electricity and gas prices having risen considerably over the last 15 years as well,2 you might now be wondering if there’s anything you can do to reign in your energy bills.

Fortunately, there are two fairly simple ways you can cut your energy bill to ribbons: buying the right appliances and using them efficiently. We’ll take you through how to do both of these things now.

energy efficient light bulb

How to pick an energy-efficient appliance

When purchasing a new appliance, the cost is almost always a deciding factor, but bear in mind that the Energy and Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) ratings may be a helpful indicator of an appliance’s ‘hidden’ cost (e.g. its running costs).

Although you may save money upfront on the price of the machine, a lower star rating will indicate lower efficiency; consequently, the cheaper upfront appliances may cost you more in the long run than more energy-efficient appliances.

Think carefully and consider choosing a device with a higher efficiency rating, but be aware it is more expensive than other options.

Energy Rating

Energy Rating is a government scheme for rating the energy efficiency (and therefore running costs) of household appliances in Australia.3 Appliances are sold with a label indicating their Energy Star Rating, which gives an indicator of the appliance’s energy efficiency and usage when compared to similar models.

The comparative energy usage figure cited on the product is usually measured in kilowatt-hours/year, which can give you an idea of how much electricity it will use over a year. The lower the kilowatt-hours/year, the lower your energy usage, which should equate to lower energy bills.

The higher the star rating, the more efficient the appliance. Most will have a star rating between one and six, but some of the more energy-efficient appliances can even be rated out of 10 stars.

The following appliances must be sold with Energy Rating Labels:4

  • air conditioners;
  • clothes dryers;
  • computer monitors;
  • dishwashers;
  • freezers;
  • refrigerators;
  • televisions; and
  • washing machines.

From 2021, pool pumps will also be required to meet the minimum energy performance standards and display a rating label.5

Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS)

You may see two stickers on appliances like dishwashers and washing machines in shops; one will be the Energy Rating sticker while the other will be the WELS sticker, which rates the water efficiency of the appliance.6 Like the Energy Rating Label, WELS ratings are between one and six stars, and more stars equal more water efficiency.

Appliances that are sold with WELS rating stickers include:7

  • dishwashers;
  • flow controllers.
  • showers;
  • taps;
  • toilets;
  • urinals; and
  • washing machines;
Gas Energy Rating

Unlike the Energy Rating and WELS labels, the gas rating scheme is industry-led rather than government-regulated.8 You’ll find these labels on:

  • ducted heating systems;
  • space heaters; and
  • water heaters.

Even though this labelling scheme isn’t implemented by the government, these gas appliances still require the label as part of the product certification.9 Gas rating labels have six stars (the more stars, the more efficient) and also display the product’s estimated annual gas consumption.

How to choose and efficiently use appliances

Televisions

Choosing your appliance:

  • Usually, the bigger the screen, the more power it uses,10 so consider your needs and select the most efficient size.
  • LEDs generally use less energy than plasma screens.
  • Choose a TV that allows you to adjust brightness and contrast settings. Reducing the brightness will reduce the amount of power needed to generate the picture.

Tips for using it efficiently:

  • Turn off televisions at the outlet, since standby mode still draws power.
  • Don’t have a TV on in the background if you aren’t watching it.
  • Turn off non-essential equipment when not in use (e.g. DVD players, Blu-rays, gaming consoles).

couple watching television

Computer monitors

Choosing your appliance:

  • Like televisions, size matters when it comes to computer monitors. The smaller the screen, the more energy-efficient, so choose wisely.11
  • LCD or LED computer monitors are now the norm but are also the most efficient; if you still have an old cathode-ray tube monitor, consider upgrading it.

Tips for using it efficiently: 

  • Power down when not in use; sleep/standby mode still draws energy.
  • Turn off all appliances at the outlet when not in use or when you’re away from the house for extended periods (like holidays) so that you aren’t paying for electricity you’re not using!

computer laptop being used by a couple

Refrigerators and freezers

Choosing an energy-efficient fridge and freezer:

  • Choose the right size fridge/freezer. For a household of one to two people, a fridge between 250 and 285 litres is usually sufficient.12 A fridge with a capacity of 342-450 litres is typically ideal for three to four people, while five or more people would benefit from a 450+ litre capacity.
  • Models with door alarms are great as they alert you if you’ve left the door ajar.
  • Chest freezers are generally more efficient than upright freezers, so if you’re in the market for a separate, energy-efficient freezer, try looking at a chest freezer instead.12

save energy with your fridge and freezer

Source: Australian Government: Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources – Appliances.

Tips for using it efficiently

  • Don’t use an extra fridge or freezer unless necessary. If you have a beer/bar fridge, but it’s only used intermittently, empty it and only plug it in when required.
  • Keep your fridge set between three and five degrees Celsius and your freezer between -15°C and -18°13 Each degree you decrease the temperature, you use up to five per cent more energy!
  • Make sure there’s sufficient airflow in your fridge. Keep items a few centimetres away from the back, sides and top and never place items directly in front of the ventilation system.
  • Try to position your fridge/freezer out of direct sunlight.
  • Let hot items cool before putting them in the fridge/freezer (but don’t leave them out too long, as it’s a health risk).
  • Never stack unfrozen items in the freezer; give them space to freeze and then rearrange as necessary.
  • Maintain door seals and repair/replace as appropriate.

young girl looking in refrigerator freezer

Washing machines

Choosing an energy-efficient washing machine:

  • Make sure any washing machine you choose has the option of a cold-water cycle.
  • The way your machine heats water is also a consideration; consider opting for models that offer both hot- and cold-water inputs (instead of one input with an internal heating element which use large amounts of power).
  • Front loaders generally use less water, detergent and power, so consider opting for one of these over a top loader.1
  • Check for models with ‘load sensing’ technology; these will check the size of the washing load and adjust water amounts, wash cycles and spin times accordingly.
  • If you have an off-peak tariff, look for models with delay start functions so that you can set the washing to come on during off-peak times when power rates are often reduced. Likewise, if you have solar power, a delay start function can time your appliances to run during the day when it’s sunniest.

Tips for using it efficiently: 

  • Wash your clothes in cold water; it can reduce your energy usage from washing clothes by up to 85%!13
  • If available, use the quick wash or economy cycle (there are even washing liquids that are specially formulated for fast/economy wash cycles).
  • Separate your clothes by fabric weights, colours and dirt level. You may only need to wash delicates for a shorter time, so there’s no point tossing them in with heavy, sweaty workout gear.
  • Always wash a full load instead of several smaller loads.

washing machine used by mother and child

Clothes dryers

Choosing an energy-efficient dryer:

  • Consider the different types of dryers. A traditional (vented) dryer is cheaper upfront but is less efficient and may cost more to run, so these are generally suited to those who rarely use a dryer (e.g. small households, those in warmer climates).14 The more heavy-duty dryers (condenser and heat pump) may be expensive at first, but their low running cost and higher energy rating means they’re suited for large households or frequent dryer users.
  • Don’t forget to refer to the Energy Rating Label! And remember that it’s not all about the stars – the label will also tell you the annual energy consumption of the appliance.

Tips for using your appliance efficiently: 

  • Use a clothesline or clothes rack and the sun as often as possible; clothes dryers are huge energy consumers, but the sun is free!
  • Run the clothes dryer on a medium rather than high temperature.
  • Don’t mix heavy clothing with lighter clothing as they have different drying times, and combining them will lengthen your overall drying time.
  • Don’t overload the dryer and don’t over-dry your clothes.
  • Try to partially dry your clothes outside and then pop into the dryer to finish; less time in the dryer means less energy consumed, which means lower bills.
  • Clean your lint filter after every load to ensure maximum airflow and operating efficiency – and to reduce the risk of a fire!

young girl using a washing line

Dishwashers

Choosing an energy-efficient dishwasher:

  • Like washing machines, choose a dishwasher with an economy setting and one that offers dual hot and cold water connections (to capitalise on energy-efficient hot water systems such as solar, gas and off-peak).
  • Try to select a dishwasher with at least a 3.5 star Energy Rating as well as an easily accessible filter for regular maintenance.

Tips for using it efficiently: 

  • Don’t wash half loads; only run your dishwasher when it’s full.
  • Choose your cycle wisely; lower temperature cycles with shorter times are more efficient (the pots and pans cycle usually runs at a very high temperature for a longer time, so don’t select that as a ‘default’).
  • If allowed by your appliance (check the operating manual), open the dishwasher door and let your dishes to air dry instead of going through the drying cycle.
  • Follow all recommendations for dishwasher maintenance and clean filters regularly.

father and son loading dishwasher

Air conditioners

Choosing your appliance:

  • Make sure the size of your system is suitable for the size of your room(s). Units that are too small for an area will constantly run without cycling off, which may be expensive, and units that are too large will waste energy. The right size unit for your space will depend on several factors (like your wall material and insulation), so having a professional help you in choosing is a good idea.15
  • Aim for an air conditioning system rated at four stars or higher. Keep in mind, though, that not every type of air conditioner is required to have an Energy Rating Label (like evaporative and multi-split air conditioners), although some types may voluntarily have it, like ducted units.16
  • Portable air conditioners aren’t as efficient as fixed systems (split or ducted),17 so consider installing fixed air conditioning systems instead.

Tips for using it efficiently:

  • Set the temperature between 18°C and 20°C in winter and 25°C and 27°C in summer; these are the optimum temperature settings for comfort and operating efficiency.18
  • If you have a reverse cycle system, make sure all doors and windows are closed so that you aren’t heating/cooling rooms unnecessarily or letting heat/cool escape.
  • In warmer weather, anticipate the weather and turn on your air conditioning early as it operates more efficiently at moderate temperatures before your house heats up.
  • Where possible, install your air-conditioner compressor unit in a shady spot with good airflow.
  • Maintain your air conditioner regularly and always follow the filter cleaning instructions.

mother and daughter adjusting air conditioning and heating

Ducted gas heating

Choosing an energy-efficient appliance:

  • As well as the gas rating, consider the R-value of the system (indicating the level of insulation on the ductwork).19 You can aim for a system with an R-value of 1.0 or higher.
  • If you can, get a ducted heating system with zoning capabilities. This means you can potentially save money and energy by heating just the areas you need, rather than your whole house.

Tips for using it efficiently:

  • Set the temperature between 18°C and 20°C; every one degree higher than this can add an extra 10% to your energy bill.19
  • Clean the return air grille’s filter once a month during the cold months (when you use your heater most), and service the gas furnace every two years to keep it running efficiently.

lady controlling her ducted gas heating

The final word

Selecting energy-efficient appliances and developing energy-efficient habits can go a long way to helping you reduce your energy usage and keep those power bills in check. To further reduce your energy bills, consider regularly reviewing your energy provider.

Shopping around and comparing your options is a great way to potentially look for a new energy provider. Comparing through our energy comparison service is also fast and free, so why not try it out today?

Sources

1 Australian Government: Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources – Appliances. Last updated September 2020. Accessed October 2020.
2 Australian Energy Regulator – Annual retail markets report 2019-20. Published November 2020. Accessed January 2021.
3 Energy Rating – The Energy Rating Label. Accessed October 2020.
4 Energy Rating – Labelling. Accessed October 2020.
5 Energy Rating – Swimming pool pumps. Accessed January 2021.
6 Water Rating – Water rating label. Last updated November 2017. Accessed October 2020.
7 Water Rating – Products that must be registered. Last updated November 2017. Accessed October 2020.
8 Australian Government: Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources – Energy rating – appliances. Last updated December 2020. Accessed January 2021.
9 Sustainability Victoria – Energy rating labels. Accessed January 2021.
10 NSW Government: Energy Saver – Televisions. Last updated July 2019. Accessed October 2020.
11 Sustainability Victoria – Computers. Accessed October 2020.
12 Energy Rating – Fridges. Accessed October 2020.
13 Australian Government: Your Home – Appliances. By Chris Reidy and Geoff Milne. Last updated June 2020. Accessed October 2020.
14 Energy Rating – Dryers buyers guide. Accessed January 2021.
15 Energy Rating – Size matters. Accessed November 2020.
16 Energy Rating – Air conditioners. Accessed January 2021.
17 Australian Government: Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources – Heating and cooling. Last updated June 2020. Accessed October 2020.
18 Australian Government: Your Home – Heating and cooling. Last updated June 2020. Accessed October 2020.
19 Sustainability Victoria – Understand heating options for your home. Accessed January 2021.

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