How to stay cool and keep your power bill down this summer

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How to stay cool and keep your power bill down this summer
    Sustainability

Published 6 January 2020

We’re in the midst of a hot and dry summer, combined with poor air quality from bushfires, means many of us have been relying on air conditioners more than usual.

Air conditioner technology has improved significantly in recent years. Upgrading to more energy-efficient models can now make cooling your home cheaper and reduce your impact on the environment.

Here are some tips to help you stay cool and keep your power bill down.

Types of cooling

Other than natural ventilation – like opening a window – there are two main ways you can cool your home.

Fans

Fans range from portable models such as pedestal or tower fans to fixed ceiling fans. No matter the type, fans are the most affordable way to cool your home, as they only cost $5 to $10 to run per year. Though they don’t reduce the room’s temperature, a fan makes you feel cooler by evaporating perspiration.

Air conditioners

Air conditioners can range from split systems to ducted units that cool your whole home. Of the two choices, split system air conditioners are more affordable to run, costing between $10 (for a 6-star rated air conditioner cooling a small 12m2 room) to $75 (for a 3-star rated air conditioner cooling a large 60m2 room) to run per year. In contrast, ducted air conditioners cost between $125 to $315 per year to run. Read more about operating costs.

Should I get a ducted air conditioner or a split system?

Even if you need to cool (or heat) your entire home, it’s best to install several split system air conditioners rather than a ducted system, for a few reasons:

  • Cost – split system air conditioners are cheaper to run than ducted air conditioners, even with zoning. They also cheaper to install.
  • Flexibility – there’s greater flexibility with having several split system air conditioners as you can set different temperatures in different rooms and only cool the rooms you are using.
  • Energy efficiency – ducted air conditioners can make your home more draughty, as heat loss or heat gain occurs throughout the year via the ducts.

Read more about why reverse cycle air conditioners are so efficient.

In fact, it might be worth replacing your air conditioner with a newer, more efficient model if it’s:

  • excessively noisy
  • costly to repair
  • costly to run
  • producing uneven cooling or heating
  • more than seven years old.


If your air conditioner looks like this, it might be time for an upgrade. 

Do your research before buying

Buying a new air conditioner is a big commitment which will impact your power bills for years to come.

Do your research before buying to ensure you purchase the best type to meet your needs. A few things to consider:

  • Your room size, orientation, ceiling height and roof insulation
  • Energy ratings of models – split system air conditioners carry an energy rating label to help you see the energy-efficiency of a particular model. A 3-star rated air conditioner can cost twice as much to run than a 6-star model. Check the list of star ratings and running costs of split system air conditioners.
  • Dehumidifier setting – consider an air conditioner with a dehumidifier setting which removes the moisture out of the air, making you feel more comfortable while using less energy.

Consumer group Choice has some more excellent tips on how to select the right air conditioner in this buying guide.

The best thing to do is to ask a professional to come to your home and conduct an assessment. It’s best to get a number of quotes so you can compare.


Example energy rating labels

How can I reduce the running costs of an air conditioner?

Here are some tips to use your air conditioner energy efficiently:

  • If your air conditioner comes with an ‘eco-mode’ – use it!
  • Use a fan with your air conditioner. This will help circulate the cool air and allow you to set the thermostat to a higher temperature in summer.
  • Set your thermostat to cool to 23-26 degrees in summer and in winter to heat to 18-20 degrees. Every 1 degree lower or higher can increase running costs by up to 10%.
  • Keep the outdoor component of your air conditioning unit out of the direct sunlight.
  • Make sure to maintain the air conditioner according to the operating manual.
  • Only cool or heat the room you are using. Make sure to close all doors and windows and if you have an open plan home, consider using a door curtain in hallways to keep the cool or warm air in!
  • You can also keep your home cooler during the day by closing all the windows, doors and curtains/blinds to keep the heat out. You can then open them up again when evening comes and the temperature drops.

Get free advice over the phone

We’ve partnered with the Australian Energy Foundation and Woollahra residents can get free advice over the phone about the best ways to cool your home.

You can also get a free quote for the installation of an energy-efficient air conditioner.

The Australian Energy Foundation can also provide advice about other ways to keep your power bills down – including insulating your home and installing solar.

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