Energy Saving Tips

How to keep your winter gas bills down

Many Victorian households are nervously anticipating distressing winter gas bills. Gas prices are skyrocketing, in part because of the invasion of Ukraine, and in part because gas companies have been exporting our Australian gas.

Before winter, your gas retailer has likely sent an email warning that you’re up for an extra spend of $500 to $1,000 this winter.

My team sought the advice of Tim Forcey, who joined us at our Cost of Living Forum to give us all some tips on how to help keep our costs down this winter.

Tim is a home comfort and energy advisor, researcher, and social media influencer (with 85,000+ following his Facebook group My Efficient Electric Home). He’s visited thousands of homes across Victoria and advised tens of thousands more online.

So here are just six tips for us right here in Goldstein.

1. A reverse cycle air con is likely to be your cheapest source of heat

Coming in at about one-third the cost of gas, and one-fifth the cost of electric-resistive heating, a reverse cycle air con is likely to be the cheapest way to heat your home. It’s a heat pump that uses a refrigerant system to collect free renewable heat from the thin air outside of your house.

People in Europe are going mad for heat pumps (which we call reverse-cycle air conditioners) in an effort to get off Russian gas. In Australia, we are yet to realise that in addition to being handy in summer, they have been the cheapest way to heat in the winter since 2015. So, find where have you have lost the remote control and find your heat button!

Note: If your home does not have a reverse-cycle air conditioner, the Victorian Energy Upgrades program is offering rebates for the purchase of air cons to replace gas heaters from 31 May 2023.

2. Keep your filters clean

Air conditioners have filters and once you start using them for heating for hours on end all winter long, you need to keep a close eye on the filter. You can easily clean the filters yourself, says Tim.

Keep ducted gas heating filters clean also (if you find you have one). If you don’t have a filter, your ducts will be full of dust, another reason to push the heat button on your air conditioner and say goodbye to gas heating.

3. Reduce draughts, but be mindful of home air health

Sometimes we characterise the comfort of our homes as being like ‘glorified tents’. Unfortunately, most Goldstein homes I’ve been in leak air far worse than the tent I camp with! DIY resources abound for those wanting to get into draught proofing, and there are professional draught-proofers to assist as well.

However, as we tighten up our homes, remember to get your gas-burning equipment checked at least every two years to ensure it’s not trying to poison you with carbon monoxide (CO) gas. Also, run extraction fans, open windows, and run heaters/dehumidifiers as necessary to ensure moisture in your home is managed in order to fend off water condensation on cold windows, mould, dust mites, and asthma.

4. Compare energy plans, ‘pass GO’ and collect $250

Visit the Victorian Energy Compare website. You may find a cheaper gas or electricity supplier, and from 24 March 2023, you can collect $250 just for having a look around the website. Even better than free heat, how good is free money?

5. Check your showerhead and your water heater

Grab a bucket and ensure your showerhead is using no more than eight litres per minute.

That’s what you’d expect from a 3-star showerhead, which are being given away for free again, as part of the Victorian Energy Upgrades program.

And check your hot water service as well. Will it see you through the winter? Switching from a gas-fired or electric-resistive hot water service to a heat pump water heater is a way (just like using a reverse cycle air-con) to tap into free renewable heat and gain cheaper hot water. As with the purchase of solar PV panels for a rooftop, renewable energy credits, and other rebates can make switching to a hot water heat pump an attractive money-saving upgrade.

6. Say goodbye to the gas grid

Once you are no longer heating your living spaces or water with gas, switching to an induction cooktop (portable or permanently installed) means you no longer have to pay a gas bill. The gas retailers are charging $1 per day or more just to be connected, and who wants to pay that fee every day for the rest of your life?

Here’s a general link to what’s available from government programs aimed at reducing household greenhouse gas emissions, saving householders money, and gaining the advantages of electrifying everything.