High energy bill checklist

While reading your latest energy bill, did you experience any of the following symptoms — Confusion? Heart palpitations? Cold sweating? Anger? If so, you have suffered a classic case of bill shock, otherwise known as the negative reaction you get when you receive a bill that is unexpectedly high. Unfortunately, there has been a dramatic increase in cases of bill shock in Australia.

If you receive an energy bill that is higher than what you would normally expect there are usually two explanations. The first and most obvious explanation is that your household is consuming more energy over the billing period. Secondly, a higher bill can also be explained if your energy provider has recently changed how it bills you or the way it records your energy consumption.

In this troubleshooting guide we’ll help you relieve the symptoms of bill shock and get a better understanding of why your energy bill is higher than usual and how to make changes so that it won’t happen again.

Here are the key questions to ask yourself.

1. How’s the weather been?

The weather can have an enormous impact on how much energy your household uses. In the hotter, stickier months using an air conditioner to cool your house down could be a major reason behind a spike in your energy usage over the December quarter. On the other hand, the shorter and cooler days during the winter months can push up your energy usage especially if you’re spending more time indoors and using electrical heating.

If your bill spike is due to seasonal weather changes you’ll need to think about either changing your habits (check out this article on how to heat your home without breaking your budget) or switch to a better energy plan. You could be paying a premium rate for your electricity service so head to Mozo’s energy comparison tool to compare your bill with other energy providers.

2. Did you have any visitors?

Perhaps your in-laws came to stay for a couple of months or you were babysitting your sister’s children. If the size of your household has suddenly increased, your energy bill is often quick to follow suit. This is also the case when you have a household member(s) spending more time at home, for instance, during the school holidays. Just think about all those extra dishes, laundry and hot showers!

3. Are you using old appliances?

Your energy usage also depends on how updated your appliances are. For instance, operating appliances that are past their prime often means that you’re using a larger amount of energy than a household with newer and well maintained appliances. Ensure that your appliances aren’t using any more energy than is necessary by regularly maintaining and updating them where necessary. If you’re looking at replacing an old appliance be sure to read our article on how buying the right household appliances can save you hundreds in annual running costs here.

4. Did you recently plug in a new appliance?

That brand new air conditioner, hot water system or even LCD flat screen TV could be the culprit behind your energy bill woes. If this is the case, it’s good to get in the habit of completely turning off any computer, TV or stereo when you’re not using it. This way you can avoid draining your electricity caused by the appliance being constantly plugged in or on standby mode.

5. Have you recently renovated?

The construction process during renovation can lead to a rise in power consumption, which in turn leads to high energy bills. If you have extended your home and now have larger living spaces to light, heat and cool, you may even have a higher daily energy usage once your home reno is finished. Whether you’re considering a full renovation in the near future or looking to make a few changes to your home here and there, you can find some energy efficient and budget friendly ideas here.

6. Is your household energy efficient?

If you’ve been hit with an abnormally large energy bill, perhaps it’s time to start improving the eco-friendliness of your home such as installing LED lighting and using lower temperature settings on your washing machine. Your starting point should be to conduct your own home energy audit to understand where you’re using the most energy and where you can improve the efficiency of your home.

Looking for ways to reduce your household’s energy usage? Head on over to our energy savings tips hub or read our article on some unconventional ways to save on energy here.

7. Is your meter number correct?

If the meter number printed on your energy bill doesn’t match the meter number at your residence, you may have been incorrectly charged. Therefore, you will need to notify your energy retailer’s customer support service during their operating hours. If you have a smart meter your energy bill won’t have a meter number, so again you will need to call up your provider’s customer care to confirm your meter number.

8. Did energy prices go up?

Your inflated energy bill could be the result of an increase in the electricity or gas tariff during the billing cycle. Luckily if you live in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and some parts of Queensland, you can easily switch to a plan with more competitive energy prices for your household or opt for a plan with a fixed rate to safeguard yourself against any future rises in energy prices.

Simply enter your postcode into our price comparison tool to compare the energy providers and plans available in your area and find the plan best suited to your household and energy needs.

9. Was there a change in your billing period?

Often the number of days in a billing period differs between bills. If you have a higher than usual energy bill it might just mean that there have been more days in the current billing period than the previous one. To make sure, you should compare the dates on your previous energy bill to your current energy bill.

10. Is your energy reading correct?

If you have access to your electricity or gas meter, it’s worth comparing the current reading printed on your bill to the reading on your meter.

11. Have you been back-billed?

If you have been back-billed by your energy retailer, your energy bill is sure to be higher because you’ll be required to pay for the energy you’ve used in the current billing period plus any outstanding costs you owe. You could be back-billed by your energy provider if you were previously undercharged for your energy usage, if there was delay in issuing your bill or if you have not paid a previous bill in full. There are time limits for how long you can be back-billed if your energy retailer is at fault, for instance, in some states it could be up to 9 months.

12. Has your meter been changed?

You may notice a variation in the amount of energy recorded on your bill if your meter has been recently changed. It may be a possibility that your previous meter was faulty and recorded your energy consumption incorrectly.

13. Is it an estimated bill?

If your energy retailer can’t access your natural gas or electricity meter, they will give you an estimated meter reading. This estimate may be based on your energy usage from the corresponding period last year or your previous billing period. If your current bill is an estimated reading and your previous bill was based on an actual reading, you may notice a variation.

When your energy retailer gets a proper reading of your meter, depending on your real energy usage, you may have to pay additional charges on your next bill if you used more energy than was estimated. Or if you used less energy than was estimated, you will be credited with the difference.

14. Have your discounts been applied?

Perhaps the discounts offered with the energy plan you have signed up to have now expired. In this instance, if you’re not on a fixed contract you can easily connect with another electricity or gas retailer that offers plans with tariffs and discounts more suited to your household and bill payment habits. Do this, by entering your postcode into Mozo’s user-friendly comparison tool here.

On the other hand, you may not have been eligible for a discount during this particular billing cycle, for instance, if you didn’t pay your bill on time.

15. Has your concession/rebate been applied?

It might be that the concession or rebate you are eligible for hasn’t been applied by your energy retailer to your bill. So if you have an eligible concession card, it’s a good idea to check if your details have been correctly registered with your energy provider by calling up its customer support service. You may even be able to check your details yourself if you have an online account.

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