How to Minimise Holiday Power Bills

People often say to me things like: 

"I just got this massive power bill and we weren't even at home for much of the bill. We were on holiday, it makes no sense!"

Sorry to say, but just because you took a holiday, it doesn't mean your appliances went on vacation too!

Your electricity and gas bills will generally be lower when they include a holiday. However, you can typically reduce them a lot more by making a few simple changes.

What's Guzzling Power When You're On Holiday?

When you leave your home or business premises vacant, many appliances continue to operate unnecessarily. The worst culprits tend to be:

  • Hot water systems with a storage tank - they will continue to re-heat the water each day, even if there is none being used (as the insulation on the tank is not great).
  • Standby power loads on all electronics - think computers, microwave, TV's, cable TV or set-top boxes, coffee machines, etc.
  • Anything on a daily timer - I'm thinking of things like pool pumps, heated towel rails, heated floors, fish tanks, under-floor ventilation fans, or similar.
  • Refrigeration - any 'always on' refrigerators and freezers including water coolers under-sink hot/cold units, zip boilers at the office, beer fridges, wine fridges, etc.

How to Reduce Your Power Bills When on Holiday

Obviously you usually can't switch everything off when you're away, that would be a pain. So here are the things which you can switch off relatively easily to substantially reduce your energy usage:

Hot Water

  1. Electric hot water tanks. These can be switched off via the their mains circuit at your switchboard. They are almost always clearly labelled "Hot Water." When you return, be sure to allow at least one hour with the circuit switched back on to re-heat the water before you use any.
  2. Gas hot water tanks. These can be switched off at the unit (underneath the access panel), or by switching off the main supply valve next to your gas meter. The pilot light will need to be re-lit on your return. Clear instructions are provided on the unit (access panel) or on the internet.
  3. Solar hot water tanks. Even solar hot water tanks will have an electric or gas booster, so you should turn those off (as above). Just be sure that you do not turn off the circulation pump that sends water to the panel on the roof and back. You can leave that on so you have a full tank of hot water when you get home!

Appliances

  1. General appliances & electronics. Any appliance that is not on a timer (and is not critical for some reason) can simply be switched off at the wall and re-started when you get back. In fact, you really should be using an EcoSwitch to do this at the end of every day on your main equipment. Anything that has a standby power load is fair game.
  2. Appliances on timer switches. Like pool pumps, heaters, fans, and fish tanks. Many of these can have their run-time significantly reduced while you are away. If you have a pool consider use the Future Wave controller to reduce usage and lower water circulation rates while you are away.

Refrigeration

No, I am not going to tell you to throw out all your food and switch off the main fridge / freezer. That would probably not be cost effective, nor sustainable, unless you're going away for quite some time!

However, it is worth considering turning off all refrigerators that do not contain perishable food. Or, move all perishables into one unit, and switch the rest off. Don't forget to switch off water coolers or hot water boilers if you have them (particularly relevant for workplaces).

Lighting

Most lighting can be left off except for any security lighting that may be required. Outdoor security lights are best done as motion sensor LED options, that way they'll only be on when actually needed. At larger premises an energy efficient LED floodlight will do the trick - ideally connected to a separate timer, daylight sensor, or motion sensor.

How to Check Your Energy Usage When Away

Installing a web-enabled wireless energy monitor our Efergy Engage Hub will allow you to take your energy savings a step further. 

This device allows you to view your energy usage at home or work, even when you're not there. You will of course need to leave your internet modem / router switched on for this to work, but don't worry, your router should only use 5 to 10 watts of power.

On a recent holiday I was able to log in briefly and check that all was in order at home. No untoward usage, just one fridge switching on and off throughout the day. With a small spike in the evenings when a security light came on.

Holiday power usage and electricity bills

Do you know what happens with your energy usage when you're on holiday? If not, you could benefit from installing an Efergy Engage Hub energy monitor (above screenshot).

By Ryan McCarthy | |
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Reduction Revolution Pty Ltd (ABN 74 141 672 764) is an Australian-owned company focused on energy efficiency and sustainability.

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