Tips for staying warm, safe and money savvy this winter

Winter is here, which means it’s time to rug up and try to keep warm – but that can come at quite a cost.

According to Australian energy retailer Nectr, energy bills can be up to $200 higher in winter than in warmer months.

Luckily, there are ways households can keep their electricity bills down this winter – solutions that don’t compromise warming up the home.

From seeking out any “vampire appliances” to knowing what to look for when buying a new electric heater, here are a few tips to keep warm while saving a bit of cash.

Cutting energy bills

Nectr laid out five ways people can try and cut down on their energy bills this winter. Some are larger investments and others are things you can do right now.

The easiest and most immediate thing is to prevent “vampire energy” consumption.

When appliances are in standby mode, they can still use energy.

For example, once your phone is fully charged, if the charger is still plugged into the power point, it can chew up 2 watts per hour, Nectr said.

Unused appliances should be turned off at the powerpoint when they aren’t in use. Doing this alone could save you more than $200 per year.

The change of season could also be a good time to do an energy audit of the home.

Older homes may require upgrades to improve their energy efficiency, but it can come with huge savings,” Nectr advises.

Changes could include switching to LED lightbulbs or upgrading housing insulation. To retain heat, eliminating sources of drafts could also be helpful and lead to less energy used by heating appliances.

There are a few investments that could help cut down on your energy bill, according to Nectr. The first is roof-top solar, which can be a good investment, given Australia is generally pretty sunny.

“Even in cloudy, low-light conditions, high-quality solar panels will produce energy,” Nectr said.

“Solar energy bundles that offer no up-front cost, monthly interest-free instalments, and competitive energy rates are making the switch to solar even more affordable.”

People could further their energy independence by investing in a home battery that will enable home owners to use energy when and how they want. 

Need a new heater?

Perhaps it’s time to get a new heater for winter, and if so, check the energy rating. Basically, the more stars, the more efficient the appliance.

Energy bills

You don’t have to freeze this winter to save on some energy costs. Photo: Getty

Electric heater tips

“Electric heaters aren’t the most energy-efficient way to heat up your home, but they can quickly take the chill out of a cold room,” CHOICE‘s home heating expert, Chris Barnes, said.

“They’re also cheaper to buy upfront than other heaters, making them popular purchases during the cold months.”

Mr Barnes suggests looking for one with a long cord, this way, you can put the heater as close to you as you please. Using extension leads should be avoided for safety reasons, he said.

Because electric heaters can be expensive to run, it’s worth finding a heater that has a timer or automatic shut-off option.

Not only could this save money, but it can improve safety if you accidentally leave home and leave the heater on.

Eventually, winter ends and it starts getting hot, so it is necessary to consider the size of a heater. It depends on what your storage options are, but this is essential if storage space is lacking.

“Consider a smaller or lighter model if you lack storage space,” Barnes says.

The worst heaters

CHOICE also unveiled its picks for the two worst electric heaters on the market.

Both sit on the cheaper end, but didn’t perform well when testing how they heat up a room.

The first with a Choice expert rating of 47 per cent and a heating score of 40 per cent is the Arlec Black Smart Convection Panel Heater (PEH224HA), which is priced at $119.

At just $119 this was one of the cheapest models we tested, but there were still less expensive models that performed better,” Mr Barnes said.

“At that price, you’d expect this Arlec model would do a good job of heating your home. However, this model received a dismal heating score of just 40 per cent. We recommend saving your money and giving this one a miss.”

The other electric heater to avoid is the Kogan KAOILHTB24A, which retails for $129. The Kogan heater had a Choice Expert Rating score of 51 per cent and a 43 per cent heating score.

“An energy-efficient heater sounds great, but when it’s at the cost of keeping you warm it’s not something we’d recommend,” Mr Barnes said.

“The Kogan model had the lowest running costs of all the electric heaters we tested, but couldn’t even manage to heat up a room by 10°C in two hours.”

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