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2019’s warmer winter may still hurt your hip pocket

By James McCay | 13 Jun 2019
5 min read

Winter is here, and despite predicted warmer-than-average temperatures, Aussies may still feel the season’s chill – and spend big to stay comfortable.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) climate outlooks for June to August (released 16 May 2019) predicts winter will be drier than average for most of the country with low rainfall along Australia’s western and eastern areas.

Central Australia, Tasmania, South Australia, parts of Victoria, Canberra and New South Wales each has a chance of higher-than-average winter temperatures.1

Those who don’t like the cold shouldn’t get too excited at the prospect of a slightly warmer day, though; BOM also notes that you might feel colder than it actually is due to wind chill cutting through the body’s natural insulation.2

Even with these slightly warmer temperatures predicted, Aussies might still feel the pinch this season when it comes to their electricity bill.

a kangaroo in the snow

How could winter impact your electricity bill?

Australia’s Department of the Environment and Energy notes that heating (and cooling) account for as much as 50% of all the energy used in the home!3

And, during winter, many areas in Australia often have a higher electricity bill than in summertime as we crank up the heating and use more energy to stay warm.

The tables below show how much electricity a four-person household used in 2017 throughout summer and winter for certain areas in Australia.4

We also show how much this usage may cost you if you were paying a single rate tariff^ per kilowatt-hour. Keep in mind that the below prices represent example usage costs only, and not the total bill price.

LocationsAverage tariffSummer example usage (kWh) and costWinter example usage (kWh) and costDifference
Adelaide and surrounds39.34 c/kWh1,412 – $555.481,751 – $688.84+$133.36
Melbourne and surrounds27.12 c/kWh1,304 – $353.651,738 – $471.35+$117.70
Sydney and surrounds30.28 c/kWh1,580 – $478.422,565 – $776.68+$298.26
Brisbane and surrounds26.55 c/kWh1,868 – $495.951,583 – $420.29-$75.66
Canberra and surrounds23.43 c/kWh1,292 – $302.72 (1,740 with underfloor heating – $302.72)2,114 – $495.31 (4,509 with underfloor heating – $1,056.46)+$192.59 (+$753.74)

Source: Locations and electricity usage in summer and winter from Energy Consumption Benchmarks: Electricity and Gas for Residential Customers. ACIL Allen Consulting. 2018.

^ The average tariff is calculated from single rate electricity tariffs available to each city on Compare the Market’s comparison service and are correct as of 4 June 2019, but are subject to change.

N.B. The electricity plans and tariffs you have access to are based on location, and you may find that the average single rate tariff in your area is higher or lower than the one used in the table above. Additionally, depending on your energy plan and which periods of the year you’re charged for, your bills might include usage from both the summer and winter months.

Apart from Brisbane, four-person households in de-regulated capital city markets* (where customers can choose their electricity company) used more power, on average, in winter than in summer. This trend continued across regional areas in these states, apart from Queensland.

*Excluding Western Australia, North Queensland and the Northern Territory, which are only served by one state/territory-owned energy company. Tasmanian residents can choose from various energy retailers but the prices are capped.

Tips for staying warm this winter

people lying down next to the fireplace under a blanket

To help avoid the cold and electricity bill shock, try out these top five tips:

  1. Rug up: Layering up in your winter woollies can help keep you warm and help you avoid turning to your heater for comfort. Grab extra blankets for the bed or the couch to help you stay toasty. If you have a fireplace, now is the time to use it and snuggle up near the fire.
  2. Mind the lights: Nights are longer in winter than the summertime; this means you might be running your lights for longer than you do in summer. Beyond swapping old bulbs for more efficient lights like LEDs, it might pay to go to bed earlier to try and limit the number of lights switched on in the home.
  3. Insulate the house: If you’re living in a chilly area, it might be beneficial to have your house insulated. Depending on your home, you might be able to have insulation installed in the floor, walls or ceiling – though you’ll need to check with a professional. The South Australian Government states you could lose as much as 60% of your heating through un-insulated walls and ceilings.5
  4. Watch the windows: While windows can help warm the house by letting the sun shine through, they can also allow heat to escape. To help prevent this, close the window to avoid an influx of cold air draining heat out of the building. Covering the windows with curtains or blinds at sunset can also help keep heat in and cold out. If you want to take your windows to the next level, you could consider double glazed windows which are insulated and can help keep the heat in – for a price.
  5. Resist using the heater: If you have a ducted heating system in the house or the ability to control where the heating is turned on, only use it in the rooms you need. Minimising heater usage can help you save money on your electricity bill. If you do need to use a thermostat or heating system, you could save up to 10% of your energy usage for every degree you lower the temperature.6

If you’d like more tips on how to save energy, you can visit our energy saving guide for an extensive list of suggestions.

[1] Climate outlooks – monthly and seasonal: Temperature – Maximum temperature medians (1990-2012) for July. Bureau of Meteorology, Australian Government. 2019.
[2] Apparent (‘feels like’) temperature. Bureau of Meteorology, Australian Government. 2016.
[3] Heating and cooling. Department of the Environment and Energy, Australian Government. 2019.
[4] Energy Consumption Benchmarks: Electricity and Gas for Residential Customers. ACIL Allen Consulting. 2018.
[5] Using and saving energy: heating. Government of South Australia. 2018.
[6] Winter. Department of the Environment and Energy, Australian Government. 2019.

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Written by James McCay

James is an avid reader, loves medieval history and historical re-enactment, and the human to animal ratio at home is 2:4 (not including the dozen fish). James studied Creative and Professional Writing at QUT. When he isn't burying his head in a book or talking to his wife about history, he also enjoys making furniture out of reclaimed wood.

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