Contribution by Water and Electricity Efficiency Expert John Salmon
Feeling the pinch of the cost of living here in the Sunshine State? The ongoing energy hikes are impacting all Queenslanders but our regional residents are being hit hardest. If you’re feeling the pinch, you’re not alone. We can’t control what the energy companies charge, but we can improve appliance efficiency. I’ve been assessing, evaluating, installing and optimising the home’s most power and water-hungry appliances for three decades. Each year I attend global conferences on power and water efficiency technology and assess the appliances available in the Queensland market. The one piece of advice I can offer EVERY Queenslander feeling the pinch, is KNOW how your appliances work.
Dramatic increases in electricity pricing
The outlook is bleak. Queensland Competition Authority Chair Flavio Menezesa’s shocking predictions for 2024 suggest regional Queenslanders will be most impacted:
“The annual bill for a typical residential customer is forecast to increase by $432, from $1,496 to $1,928. For the typical small business customer, the annual bill is forecast to increase by $497, from $1,907 to $2,404.”
Green Washing and Greenwashing
Greenwashing happens in every industry. Whether it’s the organic cotton t-shirt that takes 4 times the water to grow than a regular cotton crop, or the ‘all natural’ dishwasher tablets that blast microplastics all over your plates – greenwashing is a marketing tool to attract buyers with “good intentions”. The same thing applies to appliances. The Energy Star Ratings on appliances are there to help consumers make smarter choices, but there’s a little more to research before you choose your new dishwasher or water heater.
- Does the Energy Star rating apply to all settings on the machine or is it only the “eco” setting.
- Choose a decent brand. There’s nothing more expensive than “cheap”.
- Energy is only one consideration, water is another skyrocketing bill.
- Has the appliance been built to last or is it a “cheap and cheerful” appliance that will last exactly as long as the dubiously worded warranty? Landfill is another important issue.
- Is the maintenance schedule on the appliance standard or is there something fishy there too? An appliance that only meets its star rating because it has an expensive part that needs constant maintenance is another red flag for buyers.
Read up on your Appliance Efficiency
If you’re doing the drive from Brisbane to Cairns at 200kph, you’ll get there fast (maybe cutting a few corners) but you’ll use a whole lot of fuel. If you do it at a steady 100kph, it will take much longer but you’ll use far less fuel. This is how your appliances work. We’ve all set a dishwasher or washing machine to “eco” only to find it’s going to take four hours to complete a cycle. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Similarly, we’ve all realised that the kid has no school shorts, so we’ve put the washer on a rapid cycle to try to get him to the bus on time.
The difference between the two cycles is that your machine is working OVERTIME trying to heat, agitate, and process the load of washing. It’s sucking energy and flushing water with great abandon because it knows that you don’t want to drive the kid to school because the bus is already gone. It’s chewing through power and water to get the job done.
Your energy star rating is utterly meaningless.
Your user manual should have details about how to use your appliances for maximum efficiency. If it doesn’t, Google it! Sites like Choice will give you useful information on what’s actually going on with your power bills and user forums like Whirlpool Forums are full of armchair watchdogs carefully monitoring this stuff.
Appliance maintenance is more important than you think
For the most part, appliance maintenance isn’t just “another expense that can be ignored” nor is it a “scam by the manufacturer”. Appliances, especially major appliances like hot water systems, contain parts that are “designed to deteriorate”. Not because they’re dodgy, but because the deterioration of that part keeps your water healthy and your system “clean”. An unclean system is a VERY expensive system to run.
Understand your solar or heat pump
Similarly, solar hot water needs maintenance. Your solar panels need regular cleaning to do their very best. If you’re running a heat pump hot water system, you will need to ensure that the installation is optimised for maximum efficiency. Heat pump hot water is a little more complicated, you can learn more about how heat pumps work here. They need to be maintained and how you use your solar energy will differ with the seasons. If you’re using solar to run your pool filter, you’ll need to change the times that filter runs as sunlit hours change. Luckily, here in Queensland, it’s awfully hot and sunny most of the year. Use it wisely and get it maintained regularly.
DIY can be more expensive in the long run
Not all Queensland plumbers and sparkies are created equal… and you may be thinking you’re saving money by hiring in the cheapest guy you can find, or worse, trying to DIY all this stuff. A quality, certified Queensland plumber or electrician will ensure your appliances are running at optimum efficiency. It’s not just about changing a few seals now and then. We’re trained specifically to understand the appliance, and help you to understand it too.