Seniors' guide to energy saving
About this guide
Lifestyle and energy-use patterns change as you move into retirement. Managing energy bills can be challenging, particularly if you’re on a fixed income such as a pension.
This guide explains how to reduce bills by changing your energy use and by choosing the most suitable contract. It includes ways to manage payments and what to do if you’re having difficulties or are faced with disconnection.
There are resources for homeowners, renters and landlords.
Making some of these changes can save money, energy and water as well as making your home more comfortable.
Ways to save
The following free and low cost ideas are a good way to reduce energy use. See our rebates pages to see what assistance may be available. Landlords, renters and homeowners may be eligible for a rebate when replacing an appliance. Assistance also includes free advisory services for purchasing and using energy-efficient appliances.
Heating and cooling
Around 40% of home energy use goes to heating and cooling.
Control your climate. In winter, set your heating between 18 to 20°C. In summer, set your cooling between 25 to 27°C. For every degree you increase heating and cooling you increase energy use between 5 to 10%.
Dress for the season. Consider an extra layer of clothing or a throw rug in winter and dress with lighter layers in summer.
Close off rooms not in use. Shut doors and vents to unused areas and only heat or cool the rooms you’re using. Extra bedding is a cheaper way to stay warm overnight rather than keeping the heater on.
Draught-proof. Sealing gaps and cracks to stop air leaking is a cheap way to cut your energy bill by up to 25%. Use a draught stopper to prevent air leaking under doors. Apply weather seals to windows, skirting boards, skylights and cornices. If renting, check with your landlord or property manager before fitting any weather seals.
Improve window efficiency. Prevent heat loss or gain with well-fitted curtains and blinds to trap a layer of air next to the window. Open curtains in winter to let the sun in during the day and close them before it gets dark. Close curtains during the hottest part of the day in summer.
Consider transparent film to insulate windows. It reduces heat gain and loss. If renting check with your landlord or property manager.
Catch the breeze. In summer make the most of natural airflow in the cooler parts of the day by opening windows to bring in the breeze and let the hot air out.
Use fans before air conditioning. Fans cost around 2 cents per hour to run, much less than air conditioners, and reduce the temperature by 2 or 3°C. Fans circulate air and can be used to improve the effectiveness of cooling systems.
Use fans to circulate hot air. Using ceiling fans to push the air downwards in winter improves heating efficiency. Where this option exists, the fan or remote control should clearly indicate the winter setting to reverse airflow.
Heating water accounts for about 25% of household energy use.
Get the temperature right. The recommended setting for thermostats is 60°C for storage hot water systems and no more than 50°C on instantaneous systems.
Give your hot water a holiday. If away for more than a week, turning off your storage hot water system saves money and energy. When turning it back on, allow time for the water to become hot enough to kill any bacteria that may have grown. The water must remain above 60°C for at least 35 minutes before you can safely use it. It could take several hours to reach this temperature.
Don’t use the shower to warm up. Staying in the shower uses up to 20 times as much energy as getting out and standing under two heat lamps.
Install a water-efficient showerhead. Water-efficient showerheads can save up to $160 a year on energy and water bills for a 2-person household. These use 40% less water than an inefficient showerhead.
Replacing a hot water system. If your system fails, replacing it with a suitable energy-efficient model can reduce energy use. Research the options in advance to avoid making a rushed decision.
Appliances account for up to 30% of home energy use so what you buy and how you use it can make a big difference.
Compare and estimate running costs. Use the Energy Rating website or the Energy Rating Calculator App for your phone, to compare running costs of appliances. A higher star-rated model may cost a little more upfront, but will reduce energy use and total costs.
Purchase energy-efficient appliances. An energy-efficient model will have reduced running costs. The savings can add up to more than any purchase price difference over the life of the product. The Energy Rating Label shows you how efficient a particular appliance is—the more stars the better. A water-efficient dishwasher or washing machine will save energy as well as water. Look at both the energy and water efficiency star rating labels on the machine.
Reduce standby power. Many appliances use power when left on, even if not in use. This can account for 10% of household electricity consumption, so switch it off at the power point. If it’s got a light or a clock, it’s using power.
Lighting in homes consumes between 8 and 15% of the average household electricity budget.
Use natural light. If it’s light outside, open the curtains or blinds rather than switching on a light. Lighter coloured furnishings and reflective surfaces also reduce the need for artificial lighting.
Use lights efficiently. Use efficient reading lamps rather than lighting a whole room. Switch lights off when you leave the room and consider sensors for outdoor lights.
Switch to energy-efficient lighting. Replace old-style globes with LEDs or CFLs, which use around 80% less energy. They should also last between 4 and 10 times longer.
Manage energy bills
Unexpectedly high energy bills can be stressful. There are options to better manage energy payments and ensure you’re getting the best deal for your circumstances. Check our information on electricity and gas market offers to see what's available.
Refer to Resources and assistance at the end of this guide for organisations that may be able to help with energy billing and more.
Offers and contracts
Depending on where you live, you may have a choice of which energy retailer to use. Even if you only have one retailer in your area, there are many energy offers available. Choosing the most suitable offer can be difficult, so understanding how and when you use energy is useful.
Contracts that reward off-peak energy use may result in savings if you can move activities such as washing and cooking to these periods. However, this may increase your costs if you need to run heating and cooling systems at peak times. If you choose a contract that doesn’t suit your household or lifestyle you could end up paying more.
Before agreeing to a contract, read the terms and conditions. Asking a friend or family member to review the details can be helpful.
There are laws in place for customer protection on energy matters. The retailer must provide a printed summary of any contract. The energy price fact sheet must include the following:
- all prices and charges
- early termination payments and penalties
- date and duration of the contract
- billing and payment information
- your rights and obligations
After agreeing, you can change your mind within 10 business days without penalty.
If your energy bill seems wrong, your retailer must review it if requested. If you're still not satisfied, contact the energy ombudsman in your state or territory. An ombudsman is a free and independent dispute resolution service, a full list is provided at the end of this guide, or you can get more information from the Australian Energy Regulator online or buy calling 1300 585 165. The EnergyMadeEasy website also has a range of information to assist if you have a complaint or are experiencing difficulties.
To ease financial stress you can have smaller amounts regularly deducted by your retailer rather than receive a large quarterly bill)–be sure to check with your energy retailer that there's no increase in the rate you'll be paying for energy. If receiving a Centrelink payment, the Centrepay service is available to make regular payments towards your energy bills.
If unable to pay your bill on time, contact your retailer to discuss options on how they can help. Their hardship policy outlines the options available. You may be able to delay payments or pay your bill off in smaller amounts.
If you receive a disconnection notice from your retailer, contact them immediately to discuss your options. You should not be disconnected during a protected period, such as a weekend or public holiday. People registered as depending on a life-support system have further protections from disconnection.
Sustainability improvements will increase comfort and reduce energy use. They can also benefit the owner by increasing the property’s value and reducing maintenance needs. Check with your landlord or manager before making any significant changes. Put any requests in writing and keep a record.
Rebates and assistance
Renters and owners may be eligible for rebates and assistance with sustainability improvements. See what’s available on our Rebates and assistance searcher.
Repairs and maintenance may be tax deductible for the owner. They can check the Australian Tax Office’s Rental property owners.
Resources and assistance
The National Relay Service (NRS) provides a phone solution for people who are deaf or have a speech impairment. Call 1800 555 660 or go to the NRS website for more information.
Energy and Water Ombudsman
- ACT Energy & water Australian Capital Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal
- NSW Energy & Water Ombudsman
- NT About us Ombudsman NT
- QLD Energy + Water Ombudsman Queensland
- SA Energy & Water Ombudsman SA
- TAS Energy Ombudsman Tasmania
- VIC Energy and Water Ombudsman
- WA Energy and Water Ombudsman Western Australia
Government consumer and fair trading agencies
- Real estate Australian Competition & Consumer Commission
- ACT Fair Trading ACT Government
- NSW Fair Trading NSW Government
- NT Northern Territory Consumer Affairs
- QLD Consumer rights, complaints and scams Queensland Government
- SA Consumer and Business Services contacts Government of South Australia
- TAS Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading Tasmanian Government
- VIC Consumer Affairs Victoria
- WA Consumer Protection Government of Western Australia
Information for renters and landlords
- ACT Renting Advice Tenants' Union ACT Inc.
- NSW Renting a home NSW Government
- NT Residential Tenancies Northern Territory Consumer Affairs
- QLD Thinking about renting Residential Tenancies Authority
- SA Renting Government of South Australia
- TAS Renting in Tasmania Tasmanian Government
- VIC Renting Consumer Affairs Victoria
- WA Renting Government of Western Australia
Tenant’s unions and advocacy groups
- ACT Renting Advice Tenants’ Union ACT Inc.
- NSW Information, Advice and Advocacy Tenants NSW
- NSW Older Persons Tenants' Service Combined Pensioners & Superannuants Association
- NT Tenants' Advice Darwin Community Legal Service
- QLD Tenants Queensland
- SA Homelessness and Tenancy Support Services Anglicare SA
- TAS Tenants' Union of Tasmania
- VIC Tenants Union of Victoria
- WA Tenancy WA
Other government and non-government resources
- EnergyMadeEasy Australian Energy Regulator
- Budget Planner Australian Securities & Investment Commission
- No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) Good Shepherd Microfinance
- Over 55s Australian Securities & Investment Commission
- National Seniors Australia
- Aged Care Complaints Commissioner Australian Government
- About the Home Care Packages Program Australian Government
- Life stages Healthdirect Australia
- Be Connected (Internet basics training is available at local public libraries) Australian Government.
- Smart Blocks Australian Government funded
- Better Health Channel Victorian Government