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Having trouble figuring out what you can do to make your energy bill more manageable? Discounts, plans and deals exist to help seniors cut down their energy costs, but if you haven't seen them, don't worry – they're not always the easiest to find.
There's a good chance you're paying too much for your energy bill if you haven't updated it recently, so here's what you should consider to avoid wasting money on unnecessary energy costs.
Which providers have special plans designed for seniors?
Currently, there is only one provider with plans explicitly designed for seniors: AGL. The AGL Seniors plans are available to anyone holding a Seniors Card in NSW, VIC, QLD or WA.
For example, in NSW, the Seniors Fixed plan offers fixed rates that won't change for 12 months, no lock-in contract and up to $50 in sign-up credits. On top of that, you won't pay extra for sorting your bill out at a post office.
To see AGL's current offerings for each state, see their Seniors page.
Energy rebates for seniors
An energy rebate works by refunding a certain part of your energy bill, either a percentage of the total or a flat amount. Which rebates are available and what you'll need to qualify for them depends on your state, but you'll usually need:
- A valid Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) or Pensioner Concession Card
- Be a legal resident of whatever state you're in
- Have your name as the primary account holder on your power bill
- Your contact details and bank account details
For example, if you meet these conditions in NSW, you can access the Seniors Energy Rebate, which provides a flat $200 per household every year.
To find what energy rebates or other savings you might qualify for, check your state's concessions website.
What should seniors look for in an Energy plan?
When you're shopping for a plan, you should pay special attention to:
- Low supply rates. High supply rates will mean you're paying heaps for simply being connected, whether you use much power or not. Fortunately, some plans offer low supply and low usage rates, so having the best of both worlds is possible – just be sure to shop around.
- Benefit periods. Certain plans have very low rates thanks to a discount that expires after a year or so. Signing up to one of these runs the risk of the benefit period expiring, leaving you stuck with much higher bills than before.
- Fixed rates. Fixed rates are ideal for those who wish to "set and forget" their energy plan. Your supply and usage rates are fixed, meaning they won't climb up without you noticing. You still have to pay attention to the benefit period, since they'll go back to being variable after it expires.
Ways to save
Lower rates are one thing, but the best way to save on your energy bill is to reduce your power usage. Here are a few things you can do to achieve this:
Heating and insulation
- Heaters in winter should be set between 18 and 20 degrees, while coolers in summer should be set between 25 and 27 degrees. Each extra degree can increase energy use by 10%.
- Seal gaps in doors and windows. Draught-stoppers under doors can prevent air leaks, and installing well-fitted curtains can also trap heat effectively.
- Don't try to heat the whole house. Close off rooms you aren't using and open windows in summer to let hot air out and take advantage of the breeze.
- Long showers are doubly expensive, since you have to pay for both the heat and the water. Find alternative methods to warm up – they're very likely to cost you less.
- Water-efficient showerheads reduce hot water usage and can drive your bill down significantly.
- Appliances come with an energy efficiency rating. Higher efficiency models consume less power when running, making them more cost-effective in the long run than cheaper ones.
- Turn appliances off at the wall instead of leaving them in standby.
- Run your dishwasher and washing machine at lower temperatures, and pick water-efficient models.
- Replace old appliances with newer, more efficient ones.
For seniors who are facing financial issues and struggling to pay their bill, there are a couple of steps to follow:
- Let your retailer know. Most have financial hardship programs in place where you can pay your bill in smaller instalments over a period of time.
- If you receive a disconnection notice for not paying your bill on time, don't panic. Contact your retailer and sort out a payment plan so that your power doesn't get cut off. You can't be immediately disconnected on weekends or public holidays, or if you have a registered life-support system.
- Get advice from a financial counsellor. Your retailer should be able to refer you to a free financial counselling service.
If you get an energy bill and think it isn't right, your retailer is required to review it for you. After review, you can contact the energy ombudsman in your area if you think it's still wrong. You can find the relevant ombudsman in the resource section below.
Resources and assistance
The National Relay Service (NRS) provides a phone solution for people who are deaf or have a speech impairment. Call 1800 555 660 or go to Accesshub for more information.
Energy and water ombudsman
ACT Energy and water ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal – Call 02 6207 7740
NSW Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW – Call 1800 246 545
NT Ombudsman NT – Call 1800 806 380
QLD Energy & Water Ombudsman – Call 1800 662 837
SA Energy & Water Ombudsman SA – Call 1800 665 565
TAS Energy Ombudsman Tasmania – Call 1800 001 170
VIC Energy and Water Ombudsman – Call 1800 500 509
WA Energy and Water Ombudsman – Call 1800 754 004
Government consumer and fair trading agencies
Real estate ACCC – Call 1300 302 502
ACT Fair Trading ACT Government – Call 13 22 81
NSW Fair Trading NSW Government – Call 13 32 20
NT Consumer Affairs – Call 1800 019 319
QLD Consumer rights, complaints and scams Queensland Government – Call 13 74 68
SA Consumer and Business Services Government of South Australia – Call 13 18 82
TAS Consumer, Building and Occupational Services Tasmanian Government – Call 1300 654 499
VIC Consumer Affairs Government of Victoria – Call 1300 558 181 or Koori Helpline 1300 661 511
WA Consumer Protection Government of Western Australia – Call 1300 304 054
Information for renters and landlords
ACT Residential tenancies ACT Government – Call 13 22 81
NSW Renting a home NSW Government – Call 13 32 20
NT Residential tenancies Northern Territory Consumer Affairs – Call 1800 019 319
QLD Renting Residential Tenancies Authority – Call 1300 366 311
SA Renting Government of South Australia – Call 13 18 82
TAS Renting Tasmanian Government – Call 1300 654 499
VIC Renting Government of Victoria – Call 1300 558 181 or Koori Helpline 1300 661 511
WA Renting a home Government of Western Australia – Call 1300 304 054
Tenants' unions and advocacy groups
ACT Renting Advice Tenants' Union ACT Inc – Call 02 6247 2011
NSW Information, Advice and Advocacy Tenants NSW
NT Tenants' Advice Service Darwin Community Legal Service – Call 1800 812 953
QLD Information for tenants Tenants Queensland – Call 1300 744 263
SA Homelessness and Tenancy Support Services Anglicare SA – Call 08 8305 9200
TAS Tenants' Union of Tasmania – Call 1300 652 641
VIC Tenants Victoria – Call 03 9416 2577
WA Tenancy WA – Call 08 9221 0088 (metro) or 1800 621 888 (regional)
Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Australian Government – Call 1800 550 552
Be Connected Australian Government (free courses on the Internet) – Call 1300 795 897
Better Health Channel State Government of Victoria – Call 1300 606 024
Energy Made Easy Australian Government – Call 1300 585 165
Home Care Packages Australian Government – Call 1800 836 799
Life stages Australian Government – Call 1800 022 222
Money Smart Australian Securities and Investment Commission – Call 1300 300 630
My Aged Care Australian Government – Call 1800 200 422
National Seniors Australia – Call 1300 765 050
No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) Good Shepherd Microfinance – Call 13 64 57
Over 55s Australian Securities & Investment Commission – Call 1300 300 630
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