How to crash your energy bill 80%

Cross-posted from One Step off the Grid:

The calendar says winter is over. Warmer days lie ahead.

But this past winter was one when Australians in all-electric homes could be comfortable and count the dollars saved while burning no fossil gas.

Home-economic studies show Australians can save money with all-electric homes by tapping in to renewable heat and disconnecting from the gas-supply grid.

By using air-source heat pumps for space heating (aka reverse-cycle air conditioners), heat pumps also for heating water, induction cook-tops, and possibly also solar-PV panels on the roof, Australians can reduce energy bills by thousands of dollars per year.

You might end up having no (net) energy bill at all.

In eastern Australia, we’ve already seen the first round of gas price shocks.

Gas is now too expensive to burn.

While industry has trouble contracting affordable gas supplies, we shouldn’t be wasting gas by burning it in our homes when there are cheaper heating alternatives – including finding the “heat” button for that reverse-cycle air con hanging on the lounge-room wall.

And now we learn that more gas price shocks are on the way.  Gas production from the Bass Strait, dominant for 50 years, is finally winding down. Out in the Strait, recent gas-exploration drilling has so far come up empty.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) admits that it has no firm idea where half of our gas will come from in winter 2025, just six winters from now. ExxonMobil and others have proposed that gas be brought in via new floating gas-import terminals.

Even if we don’t know where gas will come from in 2025, we can assume that imported gas won’t be cheap.

Thinking of buying a gas hot-water service to see you through the next 20 years?

Think again.

So a reminder – we can future-proof our homes and enjoy tiny energy bills.

At our old weatherboard house in Melbourne, we heat with reverse-cycle air cons for one-third the cost of running the old ducted gas heating.

While some old homes still burning gas might see winter gas bills in the thousands of dollars, with some attention also to energy efficiency measures – draught-proofing, insulation, improved windows and window-treatments – our August space-heating bill came in at $33.

Via a social-media research project named “My Efficient Electric Home”, we see thousands of Australians achieving similar results.

One popular topic on-line is negotiating the hurdles you must jump when you ask the gas company to remove their meter from your property and to stop mailing out bills.

Researchers say we can’t be sure just how bad is the climate impact of eastern-Australia’s fossil gas.

However we do know our gas supplies are getting “dirtier” as time goes by.

The original Bass Strait “sweet” gas fields are running down, so the gas companies now resort to other fields containing high levels of naturally-occurring carbon dioxide.

At the gas-processing plants, this climate-disrupting contaminant is removed and simply vented into our atmosphere.

Despite community objections, oil and gas companies seek approval for “unconventional” coal-seam and shale-gas production methods, despite the long-term impacts on climate, community health, and water supplies.

Whereas on the other hand, we can be sure that up to 80% of the heat we get out of an air-source heat pump is free and clean renewable heat that these devices collect from the “thin-air” outside our homes. (Recognising this, the Australian government offers renewable-energy credits for some heat pump installations.)

Couple your electrically-driven heat pump with renewable electricity obtained from the electricity grid or from your own solar PV panels, and you can warm your home while generating no greenhouse-gas emissions at all.

Many all-electric homes were showcased across Australia during the recent Sustainable House Day.

As future gas supplies become more costly and damaging, we need to focus on getting all our homes off fossil gas.

If we’re not using any gas in 2025, then we won’t need to speculate about from where it might have come.

Tim Forcey is an independent energy advisor who has worked with organisations such as the University of Melbourne, the Australian Energy Market Operator, Jemena and BHP.

David Llewellyn-Smith
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  1. It was all going so well until ….. “the Govt offers renewable energy credits for some heat pump installations”. In other words, while some fortunate individuals might benefit (courtesy of a tax payer subsidy) the true cost of such an installation is much higher than advertised.

    Oh well, we soldier on. Negative gearing, rebates for uneconomic energy systems. Wish I was one of the lucky few. 🙁

  2. Heat pumps are great.

    I always wonder why they don’t install more ground source heat pumps….

    • HadronCollisionMEMBER

      Maybe cost?

      We considered heat pump based hot water but were talked out of it by the company. Wish I’d stuck to my guns

      Our reverse cycle aircon/heater costs fk all to run (admittedly we use fans instead of aircon as we get prevailing ocean winds) but when we do, it’s cheap.

  3. I’m so glad to be renting and unable to afford a home. It means that my landlord makes the difficult decisions for me to not have solar water or electricity.

    • @SaCo
      I’m so glad I rent. Landlord could not give a rats a$$. 1970 brand less heater chews through the gas…prevailing southerly cools summer and winter through every ill fitting door and tired window. Recently had glass blow out from frame in stiff breeze in 2 windows…caulk weathered to disintegrating lumps…ply & tape has been my solution…tape up windows & bathroom External door in winter…works a response from landlord-he’ll have a look at it…owns in excess of 150 properties in Victoria so when people suggest moving for a better deal I’d love to know what rental fantasy property they inhabit and who absorbs the moving costs? Still I’ll stay put for now despite a$$ whole toothless backpacker neighbours.. better the devil..

  4. Pfffffftt!
    I get brown coal delivered by the tonne. Lasts all winter – and in summer, the ash blocks the sun, keeping it cooler.
    It’s a good thing.

  5. By using air-source heat pumps for space heating (aka reverse-cycle air conditioners), heat pumps also for heating water, induction cook-tops, and possibly also solar-PV panels on the roof, Australians can reduce energy bills by thousands of dollars per year.

    thanks to extremely poor energy efficiency it’s ridiculous to have home energy bills as high as thousands of dollar when adjusted for nice climate in most of the inhabited parts of country.
    How about spending money on windows that have some thermal insulation or roofs that don’t get up to 100C during summer?

    We are (among) the largest consumers of energy in the world per capita and that’s the point we should address together with going renewable. There is no cheaper way to transition to nonrenewables than to cut consumption along by half

    Just as an illustration let’s consider California energy consumption (similar climate, urbanisation levels, etc)
    in 2018 total electricity consumption in California was 280TWh or 6.5MWh per capita (40 million population)
    in 2017/18 total electricity consumption in Australia was 250TWh or 10MWh per capita (25 million population)
    total energy consumption was 6000 PJ in Australia and 8000 PJ in California

    we are among world’s leaders in energy wastage and we complain about price

  6. MountainGuinMEMBER

    I disconnected the gas heater for a heatpump when I moved in my current home. Not only was the cost of gas heating far higher than for a heatpump, but the gas supply charges meant we had to pay bills year round for a heater we only use a few months. Other pro is the heatpump cools in summer, the gas heater obv cannot.
    Only point of caution, just using PV to power the winter heating via a heatpump is only feasible for very well built and insulated dwellings. There is less solar generation in winter when most heating is needed and this assumes you can heat during the day and hold onto enough heat until the next day. I’ve found preheating the building during midafternoon when I have spare solar gets me through to evening when off peak tariffs come on line. Most heatpumps have timers so automating is pretty easy.

    • For a hot water system.

      They are more energy efficient but also more complex and prone to higher rates of failure.

  7. Melbourne resident here. I’ve had both heat pump heat (ie Reverse Cycle airconditioners) in my old place and gas central heating in my current place.

    Gas feels tons better. But isn’t all heat the same? Here’s the difference: the air that comes out of gas heating is much warmer than the RC aircon heat. As a result RC has to pump out more air to get the same increase in housewide temperature. So the house feels more ‘windy’/’draughty’ due to the increased air volume.

    Another thing to keep in mind is the noise. Not of the indoor AC units, they are generally quiet. But the outside compressors when operating at high capacity (when on a low setting it’s no biggie) can be very noisy, causing neighbour issues, especially at night. No such issues with a gas unit.

    • Have noticed this. Possibly because air-conditioners have a dehumidifier. Moisture conducts heat better. No moisture = dry skin. Be sure to moisturise with Nivea twice a day.

  8. Best of the lot, live in a hempCrete home, lasts a 1000 years as well. Nice clean air quality no moulds fungi or nastiness. That’s my dream.