Summer is a time for fun but it's also a time when energy and water resources are under pressure. The 2018-19 summer was the hottest on record for Victoria and the current summer is predicted to be another hot one.
High temperatures can be uncomfortable and a danger to the health of some people. They can upset the supply of energy and water and they can increase the risk of higher bills.
So, here's our guide to preparing for the heat and getting summer ready.
Heatwaves and outages - the basics
- Know your neighbours. Are there elderly or vulnerable people next door? Is there someone you can assist in a heatwave or outage, or someone who can assist you?
- Create an emergency outage kit complete with first aid supplies, spare batteries, a radio that doesn't need mains power, a torch, prescription medication and cash.
- Keep a store of water and non-perishable food. Many authorities recommend having enough water and food to last each family member for three days. That means up to 10 litres of water and lots of canned food. Water is especially important if you use electricity to run a water pump. And it's also a good idea to think about water and food for pets.
- Keep a list of emergency contacts. This should include the State Emergency Service (SES), your local electricity distributor in case of outages (this is listed on your electricity bill) and your gas distributor in cases of gas leaks.
Are you using life support equipment?
New rules for electricity and gas, coming into effect during 2020, will add protections for people who need life support equipment. They'll apply to licensed energy businesses, embedded networks that use more than 40MWh of electricity per year and suppliers. LPG will not covered.
Under the rules, life support equipment can be:
- An oxygen concentrator
- An intermittent peritoneal dialysis machine
- A kidney dialysis machine
- A chronic positive airways pressure respirator
- Crigler najjar syndrome phototherapy equipment
- A ventilator for life support
Here's what you can do if someone in your household needs life support equipment:
- Contact your energy business and let them know you need to register your life support needs.
- Get medical confirmation (as a completed medical confirmation form) from a registered medical practitioner saying someone at the address needs life support equipment.
- Contact your energy distributors to receive SMS updates on outages in your area.
- Have an emergency plan for outages that includes:
- Emergency contact numbers
- Details of the nearest hospital
- Access to spare batteries or an alternative power supply
- A torch or portable light (and replacement batteries)
- A fully-charged mobile phone and a spare battery for the phone
Stay cool now and avoid high bills later
Temperature changes can lead to higher electricity usage and higher energy bills. Air-conditioners are often the main cause of high bills over summer. Here's what you can do to reduce the chance of high bill shock:
- Think about your windows. Heat can enter the home through windows. Keeping blinds or curtains closed during hot days will reduce the heat entering your home.
- Use fans. Electric and ceiling fans are a low-cost alternative to air-conditioning units.
- Set the temperature carefully. Your air-conditioner should be set to 26 degrees C or above. Each degree lower can add to the power needs of the air-conditioner and increase your energy bill.
- Ventilate the house. When the outside temperature drops later in the day, open windows and doors around the house to encourage airflow and release hot air from inside the house.
Water and regional areas
Regional areas are facing hotter and drier conditions, and bills have been rising for customers.
Using less water can help you save money on bills and improve our environment. The two current water efficiency programs are Target 155 for metropolitan Melbourne and Target Your Water Use for regional areas. And there are plenty of tips on saving water on the Smart Approved WaterMark website.
Customers experiencing difficulty paying water bills can talk to their local water corporation and also access grants, if eligible. Regional customers operating or working on farms can access a range of assistance programs and rural financial counselling services.
The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has resources about the drought including reports on rainfall and water storage in Victoria's reservoirs. There's also information about accessing emergency water and a waiver for new domestic and stock bore construction licences for eligible landowners.