How much should my electricity bill be?
When you look at your energy bill each month or quarter, do you know whether you are spending too much, an average amount or being downright frugal and keeping your costs lower than others? There are electricity consumption benchmarks that appear on electricity bills to help you make an informed choice about your energy use and these are helpful to check when reviewing your overall energy consumption and expenditure each bill.
This article will explain how these benchmarks work and provide a sense check on how you can compare your energy usage, based on households like yours within the same postcode. We’ve also listed factors that could affect your energy usage throughout the year.
Daily consumption benchmarks
Under the National Energy Retail Rules, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) must update their benchmarks every three years and retailers must publish the benchmarks on their residential customers’ bills. When you look at your electricity bill, you will often see this benchmark illustrated in either a table or graphical format. We’ve included three format examples.
As you can see, the average daily usage is shown for the billing period (often highlighted in a different colour) allowing you to compare your energy consumption with other households of a similar size in your postcode. Please note, these benchmarks represent typical and seasonal consumption of residential electricity, and the household size indicator is used due to its influence on electricity consumption.
The benchmark will accommodate seasonal usage variations to provide a more meaningful basis of comparison. Example 2 illustrates the use of seasonal benchmark information. The first image shows the benchmark usage for the same property across one season and the second image shows the benchmark usage for another season – you will note the difference in usage per household size between the two. The benchmark seasonal data is based on the date your meter is read and if your bill includes two seasonal periods, the predominate seasonal data will be applied to provide the best statistical fit.
Applying this to your own bill comparison
Benchmarks are helpful when comparing your energy bills per billing period or against other retailers. However, it’s important to know that your household may be different to the estimated average in your postcode due to range of circumstances and factors.
As we’ve discussed, household size is a key factor in energy consumption, although the composition of the household can vary and influence the daily consumption quite dramatically. A similarly sized house to yours, could for instance, consist of a family of four with young children, a family of four with teenagers, or even a family of four adults with a pool in the backyard – all will have slightly different consumer patterns.
Conversely, a one-person household may consume more energy than the benchmark due to factors such as whether they are a shift worker, work from home, travel or use more appliances on a daily basis.
What can you do if you are consistently higher than the benchmark?
There may be billing periods where your energy consumption is higher (or lower) than the benchmark for your household size in your postcode. Before you get stressed about this, have a look at what appliances you are using regularly and check if each is as energy efficient as they could be. Old appliances typically use more energy so you could see an improvement if you are able to update the model or reduce its use. You can check the energy rating of your appliances at https://www.energyrating.gov.au/.
We also recommend monitoring how energy conscious you and/or your household is as this could be impacting on your energy consumption versus the benchmark. A few questions to ask yourself when determining this include:
- Are we as a household regularly taking long, hot showers?
- Are we leaving lights on when no one is in the room/at home?
- Have we spent more time at home recently?
- Did we recently host guests?
- Have we updated the light globes to energy efficient ones?
- Are we using heating or cooling more than normal? (How about those of us who keep the house temperature controlled for our pets during the day...)
- Is hot or cold air escaping from old windows or gaps under the doors?
- Are we leaving our computers on overnight - or even using them for bitcoin mining!
If you have completed this little audit and still find you are consistently consuming more energy than the benchmark each bill, you can contact your retailer and ask them to walk you through a meter isolation test to check that you don’t have a faulty meter.
Finally, it is extremely important to be aware of what rates you pay and what tariff type you are on when comparing your energy bill. Take a look at one of our most recent blogs on "How to Read Your Electricity Bill" to help you better understand your household consumption in more detail.
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