How to avoid bill shock and stay warm and safe this winter (May 2016)

After a particularly mild autumn, the impact of sudden cold weather could also mean that the difference between your autumn and winter bills is more noticeable than usual. The good news is that you can stay warm this winter without bill shock by trying a few of our common sense tips and tricks. If you haven’t used your gas heater for a while it’s also a good idea to arrange a professional service to make sure it is safe.

Safety first

All gas heaters (including central heating units, space heaters, wall furnaces and water heaters) need to be professionally installed and serviced every two years to ensure their safety. Carbon monoxide (CO) can be produced by faulty heaters and CO poisoning has caused the death of 10 Victorians in the past decade. There is a greater danger of CO poisoning when the door or windows of the room or caravan where the heater is being used are tightly sealed, or when the heater is being used in small spaces like the toilet or the bathroom. You should be very wary of buying second hand heaters and you should never use outdoor heaters indoors. Signs of CO poisoning are:

  • tiredness
  • shortness of breath
  • mild or severe headaches
  • nausea and vomiting
  • weakness and sleepiness.

CO is known as the silent killer because it has no colour and no smell and is undetectable without the use of a carbon monoxide analyser.

Stop using your heater and get it inspected immediately if it shows any signs of problems such as:

  • yellow flames
  • soot or discolouration around the heater
  • missing or damaged parts
  • the flame going out after a short period of time
  • debris falling down the flue pipe.

If you are renting your home, your landlord is responsible for ensuring your home is maintained in ‘good repair’. Contact your agent or landlord to request a service of your heater if you have any safety concerns or if it has been more than two years since the last service. For more information, check out Energy Safe Victoria's website or contact them on (03) 9203 9700.

Tips to stay warm while minimising the costs

  • Only heat the rooms you are using, close the doors to other rooms and set your thermostat to 18 – 20 degrees.
  • Turn your heater off overnight and when you are out.
  • Layer up with warm clothing, thick socks and blankets before adjusting the heating.
  • Use rolled up towels or door snakes to block droughts or gaps under doors.
  • Close the curtains or blinds in the room you are using to stop heat escaping through glass windows.

Be wary of small fixed electric wall or portable heaters as they can be very expensive to run. For example, you might be paying $0.50 per hour to run this type of heater . Lots of people also run multiple heaters at once in different rooms of their house. Because they are silent and only heat small spaces, it is easy to forget that they are on. Over the course of a day, week, month and billing cycle, the use of these heaters can really impact your bill.

Sustainability Victoria has some great tips for energy efficiency and how to choose an energy efficient appliance on its website.

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