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Natural gas is a big talking point across the country, including the push to move away from it. Victoria and the ACT have even gone so far as to ban gas connections for new homes.2, 3 They likely won’t be the last either with estimates predicting that making the switch from a gas-and-electric combo to a fully electric home could save Australians on average $1,033.4
Plus, getting off gas may help states reach their carbon emission targets — going all-electric is part of Victoria’s plan to reach net zero by 20455 and the ACT’s plan to phase out fossil fuel gas by 2045 too.6
But what if you can’t make the switch just yet? Whether your savings are just as fictional as Summer Bay or you’re renting and don’t get to make the decision for your home, there are still things you can do to save on your next gas bill. In fact, as a renter and aspiring homeowner (i.e. not likely to be one for some time yet), I’ve taken a number of these for a test drive at my place.
You wouldn’t think bringing snakes into your house would be the answer to chilly winter nights. However, a well-placed draught snake (or draught excluder if you want to steer clear of any embarrassing mix-ups) could help you save up to 25% on heating bills.7 If you’re thorough, you can minimise heat loss and reduce your reliance on your gas heater. And come summer when you switch on the aircon, you’ll be keeping all that cold air in too.
I’ve learned that draught snakes are really easy to make if you have some needlework or sewing skills. Or, if you haven’t got the time, you could pick some up from the shops or tell your family a dozen draught snakes is all you want for Christmas.
For those looking to make a long-term change, insulation is where it’s at. Seriously, by getting quality ceiling and wall insulation installed you could save $524 annually8 and enjoy a home that stays at a more comfortable temperature all year long. Then you won’t have to offer guests a beanie or handheld fan when they come for a visit like my brother-in-law does.
Along with keeping the cold out, it’s worth thinking about how you warm up your place. Gas heating, unfortunately, is one of the most expensive ways to keep warm9 but getting off gas isn’t always a possibility. So, it pays to know how to ensure your gas heating is as efficient and effective as it can be.
To start, while it can be tempting to really get things toasty, resist the urge to crank up the temperature. For max efficiency, set your thermostat to 18–20°C.10 This applies whether you’re using gas for ducted, hydronic or room heating. If you need a little extra incentive to stick to this lower temperature, remember that every degree higher means an extra 10% or so on your gas bill.11
For those feeling particularly motivated, it’s also worthwhile cleaning out your heater’s filter every month or so when you’re regularly using it.12 You’d be surprised how much dust ends up in there. Mine was so full of cat hair I had to wonder how my cats aren’t bald. Keeping things clean will help to ensure all that lovely warm air is reaching you and not just cooking dust bunnies.
While you might be using gas to heat your water, you probably could stand to have things be a little colder if you want your gas bills to look better. Making yourself a bit colder on purpose might sound strange but go with us on this one.
For starters, did you know that you can actually change how hot the water gets in your water heater? This method stops you using gas unnecessarily to overheat the water.
To make the most of this tip, you’ll need to know whether you have a storage or continuous flow hot water system. Is water stored in the tank or does it only come into the tank when it’s time to be heated? If you have a storage system, set the heater to 60°C.13 This temperature stops nasty bacteria from setting up camp in that standing water and potentially getting you sick. If you have a continuous system, things can get even cooler with the recommended temperature being no more than 50°C.14
Once you’ve set the new temperature on your water heater, you really can just set and forget. If you’re like me and find making new habits tricky, this is perfect. All you need to remember is to thank your proactive past self when your lower gas bill comes in.
If you’re ready to make a change in your routine for the sake of your gas bill and cool things down further, it’s worth learning how to set your washing machine temperature. Heating the water to wash your clothes accounts for up to 90% of your washing machine’s energy use.15 This means that switching to a cooler wash or cold cycle can see you cutting some serious fat from your gas bill. Even if you have a beast of a washing machine that has a low Energy Star Rating, you could see a noticeable difference in your annual gas bill when it comes to laundry.16 I’ve been washing my clothes in cold water for months and they come out just as clean and my gas bill has shrunk.
Parting can be such sweet sorrow, unless there’s some savings thrown in. Luckily, this is on the cards if you swap from a gas hot water system to a heat pump one. Using an impressive 60–75% less electricity than your typical electric hot water system,17 making this switch could see you saving up to $180 a year on hot water alone.18
Changing your style of gas water heater can make a difference too. While this won’t result in quite as drastic a change than if you switched to a heat pump, it can be a cheaper interim solution, so it’s worth thinking about. Switching from a storage hot water system to a continuous flow one basically follows the same principle as only filling up your kettle with the water you need to save on electricity. You won’t be using gas to heat up water that is just going to sit there and get cold again. Plus, you aren’t dealing with heat loss and having to reheat water over and over.19
Of course, replacing your hot water system is a big change that can require a little more capital than our other tips. Remember that it’s a long-term investment though. Given that just heating water is responsible for roughly 23% of the average Australian household’s energy usage,20 doing what you can now to cut back may help you save in the future.
As a renter, I don’t really have the option to do away with the gas hot water heater in my yard. Well, I could, but I probably wouldn’t get my bond back. Instead, I can focus on the things I can do right now to limit my hot water use and optimise the existing system, like shorter showers, washing my clothes in cold water and changing the temperature on the hot water system itself. Plus, when it comes time to finding my own place, I can be a savvy shopper and look for a home that has a heat-pump hot water system or budget for it if my dream home doesn’t have one.
I grew up in a household where a gas stove was seen as better than an electric one for lots of reasons. But it turns out my parents might have sided with the wrong team. Scary statistic alert: according to research both here and in the US, about 12% of childhood asthma can be associated with gas stoves.21 Suddenly Victoria’s and the ACT’s pushes to get off gas make even more sense. But if that stat doesn’t have you side eyeing your stove, how about saving $270 annually? That’s how much you could save by replacing your gas cooktop for an electric alternative.22
But I’m a renter. I can’t just replace my stove when it’s not really mine. So, once I finished panicking that maybe my worsening asthma was down to the gas stoves in all my rentals and definitely not related to constantly misplacing my puffer, I wanted to know what I could do. Turns out, I have full permission to buy that air fryer. Smaller appliances are the go when you want to save on energy and avoid the gas stove.23 You can even find fairly cheap portable induction cooktops, so you don’t ever have to use your gas stove.24 Just remember to follow good electricity-saving habits when you’re using your new kitchen appliances so that you aren’t massively driving up your electricity bill.
There are a number of smaller, simple things you can start doing today to help you reduce your gas bill.
You can also start making a plan to tackle some of the bigger items later in the year. The important thing to remember is that you don't have to cop a high gas bill passively.
|Today||This Weekend||This Year|
|Set heating to 18–20°C||Use draught snakes||Install wall and ceiling insulation|
|Turn down hot water system temperature||Clean heater filters||Get a heat pump hot water system|
|Take shorter showers||Wash clothes with cold water||Replace gas stove with induction cooktop|
|Compare Gas Plans||Use small appliances to cook|
Don’t forget that a big factor in your overall gas bill cost will be the price of gas itself. While you can’t exactly control the market and stop prices from rising and falling, you can make sure that you’re on a Gas Plan that works for you. With iSelect’s range of providers and plans, you can see just what else is out there, plus easily make the switch if the grass is greener on the other side. Try it for yourself with our straightforward comparison tool or give us a call on 13 19 20.*
1 ABC News - What is happening to gas in Victoria and will the rest of the country follow suit?
2 Victoria State Government - Victoria’s Gas Substitution Roadmap
3 The Canberra Times - ACT bans new gas connections, but BBQs have green light
4 Climate Council - Smarter Energy Use: How to Cut Energy Bills & Climate Harm, p19
5 Premier of Victoria - New Victorian Homes To Go All Electric From 2024
6 ACT Government - ACT Pathway to electrification
7 energy.gov.au - Winter energy savings
8 Climate Council - Smarter Energy Use: How to Cut Energy Bills & Climate Harm, p19
9 Sustainability Victoria - Calculate heating running costs
10 Sustainability Victoria - Choose the right heating system for your home
11 As above
12 As above
13 Your Home - Hot water systems
14 As above
15 Sustainability Victoria - Reduce washing machine costs at home
16 As above
17 Sustainability Victoria - Heat-pump hot water systems
18 Victoria State Government - Embracing electricity to cut your bills at home, p2
19 Sustainability Victoria - Gas hot water systems
20 Your Home - Hot water systems
21 University of NSW - A heated debate - how safe are gas stoves?
22 Victoria State Government - Embracing electricity to cut your bills at home, p2
23 Government of South Australia - Easy energy saving tips
24 Climate Council - Smarter Energy Use: How to Cut Energy Bills & Climate Harm, p29