HEATED discussions about energy use habits are taking place in nearly half of Australian households as winter electricity bills bite.
A new study by comparethemarket.com.au shows 43 per cent of couples argue about turning up the heating, while one-third of people believe their partner is wasteful with electricity.
It found the 45-to-54 age group appeared to bicker the most about energy costs.
“Typically this age group tends to have high energy-usage homes, with teenagers’ computers, additional televisions and other gadgets sucking up extra power,” comparethemarket.com.au spokeswoman Abigail Koch said.
She said leaving lights on was the biggest complaint, while women — traditionally considered the most sensitive to the cold — were more likely to change their behaviour by putting on extra clothing.
“Perhaps men are more set in their ways and their home is their palace,” Ms Koch said.
Stephanie Lund and Paul Kornel moved in together this year and have found energy habits can cause conflict.
“Our first power bill since moving in together was really high, so I’ve become much more aware of how much energy we’re using,” Ms Lund said.
“It drives me crazy that Paul still leaves the lights and TV on even if we’re in another room. He thinks I’m nagging but I think I’m saving us money.
“I’m constantly switching things off as I don’t want to be hit by a big end-of-winter bill.”
Ms Koch said people could lower winter electricity costs by:
• Reducing the use of hot water is in dishwashers and washing machines, and having shorter showers;
• Ensuring energy-saving light bulbs were installed;
• Switching off appliances at the wall to save an extra 10 per cent a year, and;
• Checking their existing electricity contract at least once a year.
She said most discounts on contracts ran for 12-month periods. “If you don’t contact your electricity provider, your agreement will automatically revert back to the standard rate, which is the most expensive rate.”
Origin Energy spokesman Stuart Osbourne said people could reduce energy use conflict by switching to fixed price energy plans, while those with smart meters — increasingly rolling out across Australia — could look at them to potentially spot cost savings and settle arguments.
“Other options would be to have a conversation about the impact of wasting energy around the home — in terms of money and carbon footprint — or go around the house switching lights off, which I often do, and turning appliances off at the wall, which I also do,” he said.
“It’s no surprise that energy use around the home can be the source of heated discussion, especially if one person has an eye on the budget and the other person is leaving lights on turning the heating up fullbore.”
Originally published as Why we argue about turning up heat