Be your own Power Ranger

Power BoardAs the cost of living, particularly utility prices, weighs on landlords and tenants alike, these tips could help save on energy costs.

 
The rising cost of utilities, like water electricity and gas, is a universal concern no matter whether the landlord or tenant is responsible for paying the bill, which usually depends on the state in which the property is located.
 
According to Carbon+ Energy Markets & MarkIntell’s International Comparison of Australia’s Household Electricity Prices report, Australian households are paying the highest electricity prices in the world. This is a drastic reversal from the 1990s when our power bills were the cheapest. Electricity prices have become a political hot potato (with prices up about 20 per cent recently), leading to the Prime Minister sitting down with the power retailers to try to find ways to give consumers a better deal.
 
According to the latest Choice Consumer Pulse Survey, electricity topped the list of the biggest cost of living concerns for the third year in a row. Electricity costs were cited by 82 per cent of survey respondents as their biggest worry, with 64 per cent also concerned about gas prices and 63 per cent anxious about water charges.
 
The concerns were also echoed in the latest Mortgage Choice Investor Survey – with one in three investors worried about the rising cost of living (particularly utility prices), making it the biggest issue facing Australian investors over the next 12 months.
 
Utility costs are putting a strain on purse strings but there are a few things both landlords and tenants can do to ease the burden.    
 
Firstly, make sure you are getting to the best deal from your service provider. In states and territories where there is competition from utility providers, numerous comparison sites are available to help weigh up the numbers – including the Commonwealth Government’s energymadeeasy.gov.au which helps to compare offers between gas and electricity providers (note: not applicable in WA, NT or Victoria – visit compare.switchon.vic.gov.au). 
 
Another Government website yourenergysavings.gov.au provides useful tips for landlords and tenants to help curb utility expenses.
 
Landlords
When the time comes to update appliances and services (through repairs and general maintenance works or when renovating the property), landlords might like to look towards energy-efficient options – which could ultimately save them or their tenants some money:

  • Install water-efficient appliances and fixtures, e.g. water-efficient showerheads (use 30 per cent less water), dual-flush toilets, greywater reuse systems and rainwater tanks.
  • When upgrading major appliances, choose energy-efficient options, e.g. replace electric storage hot water systems with a solar hot water system or a heat pump water heater.
  • Check to see if there are any schemes, incentives or rebates available in your state/territory to make the switch to more efficient or water-wise fittings or appliances (e.g. electricity feed-in tariff, shower head exchange, heating and cooling incentives, rainwater tanks, or renewable energy incentives).
  • Investigate GreenPower (electricity generated by renewable sources such as wind, solar or hydro).
Tenants
Financial hardship is a leading cause of rent default, so landlords and PMs should consider passing on these tips to help their tenants save money:
  • Choose energy-efficient appliances – appliances account for 30 per cent of home energy use so the type of appliances chosen and how they are used can make a big difference to energy consumption and bills.
  • Control the interior climate – around 40 per cent of home energy use goes on heating and cooling, so using air-cons and heaters efficiently (every 1°C above or below the recommended winter and summer settings increases energy use by around 5 to 10 per cent), draught-proofing the home (can cut energy bills by up to 25 per cent), using window treatments and installing temporary glazing can lead to savings.
  • Be mindful of using hot water – hot water accounts for about 25 per cent of household energy use, so consider washing clothes in cold water, waiting for a full-load, only running the dishwater when it is full and asking the landlord/PM to check the temperature on the hot water system is not set too high.
  • Switch appliances and gadgets off at the power point – standby power can account for 10 per cent of household electricity use and home entertainment products are responsible for at least 5 per cent of household energy use.
  • Be water-wise in the backyard – Australians use up to 60 per cent of household water outdoors.