Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

I’m back for a few weeks in one of the places I call home. Mullumbimby is where my brother and his family, and many of my close friends live. Staying with my friend Debra in her Mullumbimby cottage is always a pleasure unless I leave the lights on! Debra is a power woman, in more ways than one. A midwife educator, she knows how to get her power point across as she teaches midwives in northern New South Wales.

On the home front, Debra completed a Sustainable Streets course. One of the modules was about energy. We don’t often think what is powering our phones, televisions, fridges lights, hot water, and computers. That is until we open up our quarterly electricity bills, then it’s often akin being electrocuted. Hair standing on end, steam coming from the top of our heads and lots of swearing at being ripped off by a giant corporation. According to the Australian Government, taking into account the general increase in prices across all goods and services-prices for households increased on average by 72% for electricity and 54% for gas in the 10 years to June 2013.

The thing is electricity is a big nasty business and private companies are invested in our laissez-faire consumption of energy. In fact, energy companies perpetuated the myth that it was better to leave our power on because turning the lights on and off was more expensive. Debra calls bullshit on rip off energy companies.

In the last couple of years, she has reduced her energy bills from $360 to $100 per month. The reason? She is economical with her power. She uses between 4-7 kilowatts per day which works out at $3 per day.

Last summer, Debra went to Europe and had a tenant rent her house. While she implored him to use her methods, as bills were included in the rent, the tenant obviously didn’t heed her tips. He used 25.3 kilowatts per day working out at around $7.50 per day. Doesn’t sound much? It’s $52.50 per week for one person’s electrical needs! Now you can see why your bills are so frigging expensive.

Here’s how Debra keeps her bills low.

  1. Lights – leaving lights on does draw power. The myth that turning them on and off saves power is not true. When you leave a room turn off the light, even if you are just leaving for a short while, you can always turn them back on. Lighting up your whole house when your whole house isn’t in use is a waste of money. Be aware of the bulbs you use, use soft lighting LED bulbs. They are more expensive but they last longer.
  2. Fridge – it’s worth investing in a fridge with a good energy rating. Old fridges draw a shit load of power. Make sure the seals on the doors are effective. Otherwise, your fridge has to constantly work overtime to stay cool. When you getting your food out, do it in one go, rather than opening and closing the door all the time. Same goes for when replacing the items.
  3.  Turn off switches at the power point, especially if they have a standby light. Phone charges and computer charges are full on power suckers when left in the wall with the power switch on.
  4. Shop around for your power needs. We are being seriously overcharged for energy. Companies pray on the fact that we’re lazy asses and it seems like a big hassle to flip companies. Also choose your energy company wisely. Look for a community energy initiative or an ethical company that invests in green energy. Debra uses the Powershop app on her phone, where you can buy special deals and watch your consumption.
  5. Installing Solar Power Panels on her roof has saved Debra a fortune. Hot water is ridiculously expensive. If you haven’t got it, then stick to two to three minutes showers.