Average Household Spends $99 Per Week on Energy - How do you compare?

Energy is possibly one of the most disruptive and confusing household expenses.

Electricity and gas bills arrive infrequently and, to make matters worse, they're not really itemised. This is unlike almost all other household bills where you can actually see the breakdown of what you got for your money.

Fuel use for cars is somewhat more predictable - but even next week's petrol price is anyone's guess.

For these reasons, many households do not have a good understanding of how much they really spend on energy consumption. In this context, energy consumption being only direct fuel usage (electricity, gas, wood and vehicle fuel).

Thankfully, the Australian Bureau of Statistics likes to work these things out (and I like to read about what they've found out).

Energy costs about 10% of disposable income

  • $99 per week. This is the average amount spent by Australian households on energy. This includes $39 on energy used within the home (such as electricity and gas) and $60 on fuel for vehicles.
  • That's about 5.3% of gross household income or about 10.7% of disposable household income.

The values and percentages vary depending on occupancy status, income levels and other variables. Generally these variations are within logical expectations. For example, households in the Northern Territory spend more than average on vehicle fuel usage than other states, and low income homes spend less overall on energy but their percentage expenditure on energy is still much higher than high income homes.

15% of households are using solar power

  • This figure covers both solar PV panels and solar hot water systems.
  • This is a promising number - although heavily skewed to owner-occupied dwellings. About 20% of owner-occupied dwellings utilise some form of solar power whereas only 4% of rental properties can say the same.
  • On average, households with some form of solar power spent $7 less per week on energy than the rest.

Dwelling type and energy costs

  • There is a strong correlation between dwelling type and total household expenditure on energy.
  • Free standing homes spent an average of $109 per week, vs $70 per week for semi-detached dwellings and $59 per week for units. Bear in mind that more people are likely to live in free standing homes - and these are household totals, not per person averages.

I use $14 per week

So I just crunched my numbers and they're nice and low, as expected(!) Here's a quick summary for me:

  • Both gas and electricity connected
  • Dwelling is a unit
  • 2 person household

So here's how we keep it low:

  • We do not own a vehicle. We mostly use foot and pedal power for transport and have a car share account if a vehicle is needed (you don't directly pay for fuel).
  • The unit block we're in has solar hot water.
  • For heating in winter we mostly use energy efficient Foot Mat Heaters and an electric blanket.
  • For cooling in summer we use a fan.
  • We minimise gas usage on the stove-top with the aid of a Thermal Cooker.
  • We use Philips LED light bulbs throughout.
  • We switch off our standby power - either manually or with an EcoSwitch.
  • For clothes washing we use the cold wash setting and don't have a dryer.
  • And yes, we do own a television (it's just not massive), we operate two computers most of the day (one's a low energy MacBook laptop), and several other gadgets (we just switch them off when not in use).

How do you compare?

That's enough about me - how do you compare to the average? Where could you do better?

Next time you re-fill the fuel tank or use energy around the home, just remember, that's over $5,000 of expense per year for most Australians homes... And there's plenty of scope for improvement.

Source data: Household Energy Consumption Survey

The source data for this article is the Household Energy Consumption Survey, Australia: Summary of Results, 2012 (ABS document reference 4670.0). Released 24/09/2013.

- Ryan McCarthy


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