When looking to switch electricity and gas providers, it's best to have your current (or future) address at hand. This will determine which providers are able to provide you energy and which deals they can offer.
You're also going to need to know what kind of contract you're looking for. There are typically three types of energy contracts in Australia: standard retail contracts, market retail contracts and regulated contracts.
If you're not sure what any of this means, we'll break it down for you.
Standard retail contract
A standard retail contract has set terms and conditions that cannot be changed by a retailer. If you've never spoken to your provider about your 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 may 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. In all other states and territories prices are set by the government.
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 often offer features such as discounted prices, green and solar alternatives, contracted term periods, cancellation and registration fees or a number of 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 that 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.
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. 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 (IPART).
If you're moving house, you will need to let your energy provider know. When moving to a new location, you do have the option to stay with your current provider if it supplies energy to that new area. It's smart to check and compare services in your new location. You may potentially find a much better deal with another provider that services that address.
Typically it takes up to three business days to get your energy connected. As such it's best not to leave this to the last minute, otherwise you may be leaving your family in the dark.
In addition to the type of contract, there are a number of factors to consider when choosing your energy provider:
Not all providers service all areas, so knowing who to compare in your area is essential.
Looking to connect both electricity and gas? Many providers offer discounts for bundling the two services, so make sure you consider those options.
You can potentially save a lot of money with some providers for using your electricity during off-peak hours. If you have the flexibility to schedule appliances to run and charge during off-peak periods (generally outside of 4pm to 8pm on weekdays), you should consider the benefits of off-peak discounts.
Some energy providers may charge you exit fees when you switch to a new provider. Understanding how much you may have to pay to leave a provider is critical before you make any changes.
Some providers offer concession discounts for pensioners, veterans, low-income households or households with specialised medical equipment. If you think you may be eligible for a concession discount, you should compare the concessional discount offerings for providers in your state.
Today, there are two main approaches to using solar power in Australian homes: Solar hot water systems and solar panel systems.
Solar hot water systems
Solar hot water systems collect 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 the traditional gas or electricity-powered hot water systems.
There are two main solar hot water system designs to choose from: Flat-plate systems and evacuated tube systems.
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 flat-plate panels. Evacuated tubes are generally more expensive, but are newer, more efficient, durable and easily fixed.
A solar panel system generally consists of more than just the panels that sit on your roof collecting the sun's rays. You'll also need an inverter for converting the energy so you can use it to power your home's electricity and a mounting system to secure the panels to your roof. If you want to use the collected solar power at night you will also need a battery storage system.
Solar panel systems use light from the sun to create a direct electrical current, which is captured by photovoltaic cells (or PV cells) in the solar panel. The current is then run through an inverter to convert it from direct current (DC) to an alternating current (AC) which can be used to power your home appliances.
It's important when considering a solar system for your home to take into account your household's needs and your budget. For a more detailed guide to solar electricity, see our solar power guide.
There are a number of different tariffs available for residential customers. Most households will probably end up on a general supply tariff. If there's usually nobody home in your house between the peak period of 4pm to 8pm on weekdays, then you might be interested in a "time of use tariff". As always, consider your individual needs and compare your options before signing a contract.
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 set-up.
Having your last electricity or gas bill is very helpful when getting quotes from providers. If you can't supply this, having an estimate of your bill and the payment period can get you started.
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 installed. 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 to pay. Contact your current energy provider to learn more about those.
This will depend on your provider. To find out whether your provider has exit fees, you can call them or check out the details of your package online.
If you already have a meter at your home, it will take around three business days to get connected. It takes longer if you don't have a meter, though.
Suppliers generate the electricity or gas via various green and not-so-green processes.
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 and pipelines.
Retailers are the companies who sell you the power from the distributors and whose names you are probably aware of: AGL, Dodo, EnergyAustralia and so on.
There are four main types of light bulbs: Incandescent, halogen, fluorescent and LED. Typically, LED is the most efficient. You can find a more detailed breakdown in our guide to light bulbs.
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 gram of water by just 1ºC. Your gas usage is measured in thousands of joules (kilojoules – KJ) or more likely millions of joules (megajoules – MJ).
Your electricity usage is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). A kilowatt is 1000 joules used up in a second. So a kilowatt hour is 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).
Peak and off-peak hours refer to the times when there is the most strain on an electricity network. To reduce the strain on the power grid, power companies introduced off-peak benefits. These provide cheaper electricity prices during periods of lower demand, to incentivise customers to try and spread the load of their electricity usage. Typically, peak and off-peak times are as follows:
Peak times: 3pm to 9pm weekdays.
Off-peak: 10pm to 7am all days.
Shoulder: Intermediate times between peak and off-peak.
If you have a solar panel system connected to the grid, you can earn money for supplying electricity to energy companies. The feed-in tariff defines how much you earn for the electricity your solar panels feed back into the network.
Surprisingly, Australia turns out to have more power than it needs.
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