IF you spend more than 10 per cent of your income on energy bills, you may live in energy poverty.
Living in energy poverty often means being deprived of enjoying other goods and services because so much of your income is spent on energy.
Pensioners are particularly vulnerable to energy poverty considering the pension is so low.
Caroline Valente, a PhD student from the University of Technology Sydney, is conducting research on how Age Pensioners cope with energy costs.
Valente recently presented her preliminary findings, and they are confronting.
It was found that some Age Pensioners adopt extreme habits to save on energy including showering and cooking less, using candles for lighting and handwashing clothes. To make matters worse these extreme habits will not significantly reduce an energy bill.
This leads to an important insight of Valente’s research: ‘energy literacy’ enables people to effectively reduce energy costs.
Being energy literate means being aware of which appliances use the most energy in a home, what energy rebates and concessions are available and how to choose the best energy deal.
Also, living in an older home with a lower energy efficiency rating will most likely have higher energy costs. For example, in Sydney a two-star energy efficiency rated home was found to have electricity costs of $21.89 per square metre while the costs in a ten-star rated Sydney home were 46 cents per square metre.
The same goes for appliances, the older they are the less efficient they are. Although replacing a 30-year-old fridge will have upfront costs, it will reduce energy costs in the long run.
Customers are not rewarded for remaining loyal to energy providers but may be charged up to 30 per cent more than necessary. It is worth calling your energy provider to see if they have cheaper deals. If not, it may be time to take your business elsewhere.
If you are solely dependent for your income on the Age Pension, and energy costs consume a lot of your income, Caroline Valente would like to interview you.
To participate in the study, contact Caroline Valente on 0406 671 148 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org . For people willing to participate, Ms Valente has offered to provide some advice on how to improve your energy literacy and save on bills.