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Moving houses and not sure what to do?
If you're moving house, you will need to let your energy provider know. When moving to a new location, you have the choice of either switching from, or keeping, your current provider provided that they supply energy to that new area.
Typically it takes up to three business days to get you connected, so it's best not to leave this to the last minute otherwise you may be leaving your family in the dark!
When looking to switch electricity and gas providers, it’s best to have your new (or future) address close by as this will determine which providers are able to service you, and which deals they can offer.
You’re also going to need to know what kind of contract you’re looking for before beginning. There are generally three types of energy contracts in Australia: standard retail contracts, market retail contracts, and regulated contracts. Not sure what any of this means? Let us break it down.
What is a standard retail contract?
A standard retail contract has set terms and conditions that can’t be changed by a retailer. If you’ve never spoken to your provider about a contract or never changed retailers, then it’s more than likely you’re on a standard retail contract. The price you pay for gas and electricity under a standard retail contract could be set by the state or territory government. If you live in Victoria, New South Wales, or South Australia, your electricity prices are set by the power retailers, all other states and territories are set by the government.
What is a market retail contract?
Market retail contracts usually have a few set terms and conditions, which can vary between contracts. Sometimes known as ‘market contracts’, market retail contracts sometimes offer discounted prices, green and solar alternatives, contracted term periods, cancellation and registration fees and other incentives. You might not necessarily be eligible for a market retail contract with your current provider, but it’s a good idea to shop around and do your research for the best deal in your area. Keep in mind, though, prices under these contracts are set by the energy provider and not the state or territory government. This means prices and services do vary and can even fluctuate during a fixed-term contract.
What is a regulated contract?
In NSW, every gas customer is entitled to purchase gas at a regulated price. A ‘regulated contract’ is offered to the customer by a regulated retailer. These regulated retailers are spread out across specific districts within NSW. This means that if you’re located within one provider’s regulated district, you will not be able to accept a regulated offer from another. The State Government decides upon the terms and conditions of these contracts with the prices being set by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.
What are some things to consider when choosing a provider?
There are many aspects to consider when deciding on an energy provider: whether the provider retails in your state, bundle deals (if you are purchasing electricity AND gas), discounts for off peak usage, exit fees, whether concessions are considered. Retailers/providers can offer a variety of deals to suit your household, so having a good idea of your household’s energy needs beforehand can help the process along. For instance, could you shift your energy usage to off-peak hours (not 4—10 pm)? If so, a variable rate scheme may be for you.
What type of package am I after?
There are many different options for consumer and business energy customers. For example, different tariffs are available for residential customers with varying circumstances. Are you a general usage household? Then you’re more than likely looking for a General supply tariff. Or, maybe there’s not usually anyone home in your house between the peak period of 4pm — 8pm weekdays, then you might be interested in a ‘time of use tariff’ to save money during times when there’s nobody at home.
Which package do I already have?
Some energy providers, like EnergyAustralia, will actually install solar panels at your address for a fee (EnergyAustralia also price match, which is a bonus). But, if you’ve already got solar panels installed at home, then it makes sense that you would be looking to switch to an energy provider that offers packages for solar customers (AGL and Origin are among the top 20 solar providers in Australia).
Do I need my bill to get a comparison of quotes?
Yes, having your last electricity/gas bill is very helpful when getting quotes from providers. At the very least, it would be helpful if you could suggest an estimate of your bill and payment period.
Are there any establishment fees for starting up a contract with a new company?
Of course, it depends. For both gas and electricity, fees will apply if you don’t already have a meter or connection to the gas mains. In these cases it might be quite expensive to get the necessary infrastructure and connection. And if you are switching to a new company from a pre-existing relationship with another before your contract is up, there may be associated exit-fees. Contact your current energy provider to learn more about those.
Are there any fees for switching electricity or gas companies?
Sometimes. There are often fees for switching between companies. And some deals within the same company can have associated exit fees while others will not. To find out whether your provider has exit fees, you can call them or check out the details of your package online.
How much can I save on energy, realistically?
There is a lot of variability in energy usage, and households can indeed save appreciable amounts from optimising their energy plans. Obviously, the larger a household’s energy usage, the larger the potential savings, so this depends on your current usage. Case studies featured on Victoria’s 'Switch On' website have saved thousands a year from switching providers.
If I have solar panels, does this limit my options with energy retailers?And Empirica Research, a Melbourne-based a marketing group, found that they too could save around $1,500 when re-evaluating their electricity retailer.
Sometimes, yes. Electricity retailers can offer specialised plans for residents with their own solar power. When selecting a plan, you will have to notify your retailer of your current solar system setup.
Solar hot water
What are solar hot water systems and what’s the difference between ‘flat-plate’ and ‘evacuated tube’ designs?
Solar hot water systems catch energy from the sun, store that energy in water and store that water for later uses around the home like hot showers and dishwashers. These systems take the pressure off of traditional gas or electricity-powered hot water systems like boilers.
- Flat-plate systems consist of a flat glass plate covering copper pipes. These pipes bear water which is heated by the sun, and then transported to a storage vessel.
- Evacuated tubes are just that, evacuated tubes with a vacuum component for insulation. As with flat-plates the sun heats up the copper pipes, but thanks to the 360° nature of the tubes, the tubes catch more sun than do the flat-plate panels. Evacuated tubes are generally more expensive, but are newer, more efficient, durable, and easily fixed.
For all your solar hot water enquiries, you can read our handy guide, here.
Where can I go to get a quote on solar hot water?
Online quotes for solar hot water can be found on the official Energy Matters website, who work with a wide range of solar hot water providers. For quotes from your local area, you can use the official Solar Market website.Back to top
Solar panel systems
Which components actually compose a solar panel system?
You’ll need the solar panels themselves, an inverter for converting the energy, potentially a battery to store the energy, and if on the ground, a mount to bear the equipment.
What type of solar mounting systems are there?
Solar panels can be installed onto roofs, in which case the roof may need to be first reinforced. Alternatively, panels can be mounted on racks on the ground. This is normally the alternative for larger set-ups. More sophisticated systems can be multi-functional, doubling as an awning or sunlight, absorbing sunlight and offering shade.
What is the best solar ground mount racking system to use?
Antai systems are easily cyclone-proofed and easy to set up; other popular systems include Choose Solar, Clenergy, and Conergy. The durability of many ground mounting systems can be improved by anchoring them into the ground with products like Mega Anchor.
What’s to know about batteries for solar?
A lot. When selecting a battery there are variety of factors to consider: how quickly the battery loses its capacity, how many charges it can take before it loses capacity, how much return you get on energy as a proportion of how much you put in. Also, it is normally a good idea to have enough storage to cover you for between 3 and 4 days.
Can the UltraBattery® be used as a solar backup?
Yes, the UltraBattery® can be used as a solar backup. For more information, visit the official UltraBattery® website.
What do inverters do?
Inverters convert the DC (direct current) energy made by the solar panels into AC (alternating current) energy that can be used by the household.
Which inverters should I purchase for my solar system?
ABB, Delta Energy Systems, Enphase, and SMA inverters.
What are solar micro-inverters?
Micro-inverters invert the output of each solar panel individually. Each of these outputs can then be combined. This alternative can sometimes be superior to the typical inverter system which inverts the cumulative output of all solar panels, a process that might be limited by a poor performing panel. This setup is ideal if some panels are partially shaded throughout the day.
What are solar scams?
Yes, believe it or not, ‘green schemes’ or ‘solar scams’ are legitimate. SCAMwatch has described at least one version of the scam as offering rebates for solar systems after an initial upfront payment.
Some of the scammers perform the charade of being solar system salespeople before rushing on an impromptu deal, catching the victim off guard.
You can work to avoid these scams by asking questions and gathering as many details about the ‘company’ as you can.
Is Origin Solar worth installing?
According to extensive feedback on user review sites, Origin Solar should be avoided. Users report poor customer services, inflexible arrangements, and faulty equipment.
What is the difference between AC and DC and how does this apply to appliances and solar?
AC — alternating current — is the type of current that arrives into your home or business via the power lines. This current periodically changes (or alternates) its direction of flow. AC is able to travel through the grid for a cheaper cost than DC. Photovoltaic cells (solar panels) have an output which is DC — direct current — and so must be converted to AC so it is usable. ‘Inverters’ performed this conversion.
Do solar suppliers and installers vary in their reliability?
Of course. There is a large scope of companies out there willing to sell solar tech to you, and/or install it, too. Plenty of research must be done before diving into solar installation, and you shouldn’t rush into anything — especially if it’s at the insistence of door knocking folk.
What are some brands of panels (photovoltaic) that I should keep an eye out for?
Based on aggregated user-review sites — some of the top brands for solar panels include: SolarSecure, SolarOn, Solargain, Solar Online Australia, and ZEN Home Energy Systems.
Note — there are many varieties of solar panels out there, and they are constantly increasing in efficiency and decreasing in price, so these recommendations may be only temporary.
What happens if I see cracks or other signs of damage on my panels?
Turn your solar system off and contact the provider. It may be covered under warranty.
How much do solar panels cost?
Anywhere from one hundred to many thousands.Back to top
Case Study — Mysteriously high electricity bill
Meghan received an uncharacteristically high electricity bill, hundreds of dollars above her typical one. It could have been an inaccurate reading from her supplier or it could have been due to high appliance usages, which could be leaky — this would be the case 99% of the time. Meghan took her observations to her ombudsman in South Australia, where it turned out to be a faulty electricity meter. Though this is a rare instance, it is good to know the factors behind such a price surge.
Case Study — Seasonal bill totals
Similarly, Finlay was looking through his past bills and found that his recent usage was much more expensive than usual — over double his regular energy usage — he was actually comparing two bills from different seasons. Winter and summer can require lots of energy through extra heating and cooling. Make sure to compare two bills from the same time of year.
Case Study — Import/export meter on solar systems
Kam and Maja were told by their solar installer that they can activate their system before their import/export meter had been installed. This was bad advice. They received blips in their bills, some in their favour, some not, and they could not be accurately rectified by their retailer due to this breach of meter protocol. You can check your energy suppliers guidelines on the matter to make sure this applies to your state.
Case Study — Strange bills on solar
After not receiving a bill for some time Rini — a solar panel owner — contacted his supplier to enquire. He then received his previous bills all at once, totalling over $1,500. Before his photovoltaic (PV) panels were installed a year ago, he was being billed regularly and as normal. Rini then took his case to the Energy and Water Ombudsman of South Australia. Upon investigation, it turned out that his solar system had reversed his billings: he was being charged for his contribution to the grid, and getting credited for his usage. Rini's energy retailer had recognised this issue and so cancelled all of his bills, but they then forgotten to reissue them. This resulted in the $1,500 bill he received all at once. After the EWOSA became involve, Rini's suppliers instantly remedied the situation.
Case Study — Fallen behind on payments
Francis and her family had fallen behind on their payments, and so had their electricity turned off by their supplier. She contacted her retailer and made an agreed upon deal to pay back her deficit. Though the retailer agreed, they switched off Francis' power nonetheless. And though the retailer quickly realised their mistake and set about turning it back on, Francis took no risks and so went straight to her state ombudsman. They ensured that her power was indeed turned back on, and she was rightfully compensated for her spoilt refrigerated food.
Case Study — Unable to pay energy bills
Farmer Joe had outstanding payments on his energy bill. Being unable to pay, Joe had his power forcibly switched off. To get it back on, the retailer made a payment plan and deal with Joe, but due to his irregular income, he was unable to commit. Joe sought the help from EWON — the Energy and Water Ombudsman of New South Wales — who worked with him and his retailers to arrive at a payment plan that was achievable.
Other important questions to ask
How fast can my electricity be connected?
If you already have a meter, it will take around three business days — longer if you don’t.
I’m moving house, what do I do?
Step one is to find out whether your new residence already has an electricity or gas connection. To determine whether you have connected gas or electricity, you can contact an energy retailer (such as AGL, EnergyAustralia etc.) or an energy distributor, the companies that upkeep energy infrastructure such as powerlines and gas pipes, e.g. Endeavour Energy.
For a new property with no electricity, it can take up to three weeks to get connected. If, however, your utilities are already connected, step two is to strike up a contract with a new provider.
What is the difference between an energy ‘supplier’, ‘distributor’, and ‘retailer’?
- Suppliers: Suppliers generate the electricity or gas via various green and not-so-green processes.
- Distributor: Distributors take the energy from the suppliers and distribute it out to residents and businesses. The distributors are often responsible for maintaining the infrastructure including power lines, pipelines, etc.
- Retailer: Retailers are the companies who sell you the power from the distributors, and whose names you are probably aware of: AGL, Dodo, EnergyAustralia, etc.
What type of light bulbs are there and which is the most efficient?
Take a look at our article on light bulbs, here.
What is ‘GreenPower’ and how does it help the planet?
Take a look at our article on GreenPower, here.
We filled out an application to get our connectionless property hooked up to the grid, how long can it take for that to get approved?
It can take a while — between one to two months.
How is energy measured?
- Gas: Gas is measured by its capacity to release heat energy, and this unit is called a joule (J) (which might sound familiar from the amount of heat energy released from food). For instance, it requires 4.2 joules to heat 1 grams of water by just 1℃. Your gas usage is measured in thousands of joules (kilojoules — KJ) or more likely millions of joules (megajoules — MJ).
- Electricity: Your electricity usage is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). A kilowatt is 1000 joules used up in a second. So a kilowatt hour is a 1000 joules used every second for a whole hour. That’s 1 kilojoule * 60 seconds * 60 minutes = 3,600. So a kilowatt hour uses 3,600 KJ (or 3.6 MJ).
What are peak hours for electricity and why do they exist?
‘Peak’ and ‘off-peak’ hours refer to the times when there is the most strain on an electric network. To try and combat these all on, all off, spikes and troughs, power companies have introduced benefits, where electricity prices are cheaper on those troughs. These times roughly correspond to:
- Peak times. 3-9 pm weekdays.
- Off-peak. 10pm—7am all days.
- Shoulder. Intermediate times between peak and off-peak.
What are retail electricity tariffs?
How much you pay for the electricity you use, and the costs of it being brought to you.
What are feed-in tariffs?
How much you earn from the power you generate and supply with PVs.
Why do tariffs exist and why does electricity cost?
Network charges cost a lot. They’re the costs of bringing electricity from the generator to your house. On top of those is the inherent value of electricity. Also, there are costs associated with running the retailer. Finally, there are schemes where customers are rewarded for going green, and these costs are incorporated into further tariffs.