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Reduce your energy bills with smart appliance choices

Energy prices are increasing across the board, but smart appliance choices can help keep bill shock at bay.

Choosing energy efficient appliances
Last updated: 02 January 2018


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Aside from becoming a hermit, switching to solar or (gasp!) shopping around for the best deal on your energy, the path to smaller bills is to reduce your energy use. The good news is you can make significant energy savings by choosing energy-efficient appliances.

Where does your energy go?

A typical Australian household now spends around $1750 on electricity every year. Everyone's usage is different of course, but energy use in your home tends to break down like this:

How your home energy use breaks down

An illustration of energy use in the home.

Heating and cooling – 40%

This is where we use the bulk of our energy, so it stands to reason that it's an area where we can make big savings.

Before you consider heating and cooling appliances, ensure your home is as thermally efficient as possible:

  • Install ceiling and wall insulation.
  • Seal gaps around doors, windows and chimneys to stop draughts.
  • Close internal doors so you're only heating and cooling rooms you're actually in.
  • Use passive heating and cooling (opening the windows to let the breeze in).

These steps help reduce your dependence on heating and cooling appliances. Combining them with energy-efficient appliances will help you save significantly on your bill.

Air conditioners

The most efficient heating and cooling technology for most homes is a reverse-cycle air conditioner. But they're still an energy intensive appliance so use them sparingly – every 1℃ adjustment means about a 10% difference in energy consumption. Set your thermostat as high as you're comfortable in summer, and as low as you're comfortable in winter. 

Size matters, too – our air conditioners buying guide can help you choose the right size air conditioner for your needs. Reverse-cycle air conditioners are relatively efficient, but there's a big difference in running costs between models. 

5kW reverse-cycle air conditioners
Cheapest to run Most expensive to run
Daikin FTXM50QVMA $2099 RRP $405 annual running cost Mitsubishi Heavy Industries SRK50ZMA-S $1225 RRP $539 annual running cost
Difference in annual energy costs: $134

Based on delivering 3000kWh cooling and 3000kWh heating per year at maximum capacity*

Ceiling fans

A ceiling fan can help reduce your energy bill by reducing your dependency on reverse-cycle air conditioners. They also make air conditioners more efficient by circulating the hot or cold air.

Ceiling fans
Cheapest to run Most expensive to run
Aeratron AE2 $499 RRP 19Wh (high setting) $8 annual running cost Ventair Malibu $349 RRP 78Wh (high setting) $34 annual running cost
Difference in annual energy costs: $26

Based on eight hours use on high, every day for six months of the year (cooling in summer, heating in winter)*

Space heaters

Space heaters are cheaper to buy, but far more expensive to run than a reverse-cycle air conditioner. You can move them from room to room, and they're great for heating smaller spaces. Our space heater buying guide will help you pick the right type of space heater for your needs. But factor in their high energy usage, whichever type you choose.

Space heaters – 2000w
Cheapest to run Most expensive to run
Heller OIL9 – oil column 1.1kWh $70 RRP $55.44 annual running cost Kambrook KCE240GRY – tower 2.1kWh $129 RRP $105.84 annual running cost
Difference in annual energy costs: $50.40

Running cost based on two hours per day, seven days per week for three months (winter)*

Water heating 23%

After climate control, hot water will use the most energy. There is the daunting choice of which type of hot water service you need – electric, gas, solar, heat pump or instantaneous system. All have their good and bad points, so check out our hot water service buying guide to decide on the right type for you.

Regardless of the type you choose, the easiest way to reduce energy used in water heating is to reduce your usage. The good news is it's not hard – don't use hot water when cold will do – such as for hand washing, filling the kettle, or doing the laundry. Have shorter showers, and install a water-saving shower head. Insulating your hot water pipes is cheap and easy, and will minimise heat loss in transit. 

If possible, locate your hot water service close to the bathroom and laundry. This minimises the hot water left to cool in long pipe runs – as a bonus, this also means hot water sooner after you turn the tap on. 

Other appliances – washers, dryers, TVs gaming consoles and computers (14%)

Washing machines are an essential appliance, but in our modern world, home entertainment gear seems just as vital. Washing machines, dryers, TVs and gaming consoles are all power-hungry appliances. It's worth thinking about the energy consumption when selecting your next big screen TV, Xbox or soundbar, or when choosing a washing machine.

Washing machines

They usually cost more to buy, but most front-loader washing machines use less power, water and detergent than top loaders. Whichever washer you pick, washing in cold water will usually get your clothes as clean as a hot wash, without the energy cost of water heating. 

Also remember that one full capacity load will use less energy than two half capacity loads, so try to wait till you can fill your machine. Our washing machine reviews can help you find the most energy-efficient models.

Washers (7kg)
Cheapest to run Most expensive to run
Samsung WA70F5G4DJW top loader $999 RRP 0.066kWh per run $7.23 annual running cost LG WD1200D front loader $799 RRP 0.564kWh per run $61.76 annual running cost
Difference in annual energy costs $54.53

Based on washing 3.5kg of laundry seven times per week in cold water*

Clothes dryers

The best clothes dryer is the sun, and it costs nothing to run so line dry your clothes whenever possible. That's not always an option though, so for many of us a clothes dryer is an essential appliance. There are different types of dryers, and they vary both in cost and energy efficiency. Our clothes dryer buying guide can help you work out whether a heat pump or a vented dryer is the best option for you.

Dryers (8–9kg)
Cheapest to run Most expensive to run
LG TD-C902H heat pump $2749 RRP 1.32kWh per run $59.40 annual running cost LG TD-C8031E condenser $999 RRP 4.02kWh per run $180.90 annual running cost
Difference in annual energy costs: $121.50

Based on 150 runs per year, with 3.5kg (dry weight) of laundry*


Dishwashers aren't just a labour saving device, they're also more energy- and water-efficient than hand washing. Drive your dishwashing dollar further by waiting till your dishwasher's full before running it, and try out your eco mode with a good quality dishwasher detergent. You may find it washes just as well while using less energy.

Although most modern dishwashers do a good job of getting your plates clean, our dishwasher reviews show there's big differences in energy use between them all.

Cheapest to run Most expensive to run
Smeg DWAFI6314 $1950 RRP 0.54kWh $59.15 annual running cost Asko D5896 SSXXL $2899 RRP 1.43kWh $156.60 annual running cost
Difference in annual energy costs: $97.45

Based on one run per day, 365 days per year*


Modern LCD televisions are far more energy-efficient than older plasma screens, but they're still energy hungry. You can reduce the cost by not leaving the TV on if you're not watching it. Use the radio instead of the TV if you need a bit of background noise. 

Your AV gear is also a cluster of standby power consumers – chances are they're all in the same power socket, so it's easy to turn the whole lot off at the wall.

55" TVs
Cheapest to run Most expensive to run
LG 55UH652T $1799 RRP 262 kWh pa $78.60 annual running cost Samsung QA55Q7FAMWXXY $3999 RRP 513kWh pa $153.90 annual running cost
Difference in annual energy costs: $75.30

Based on 10 hours in use and 14 hours in standby mode, 365 days a year*


All-in-one desktops and more portable laptop computers are another essential in the modern home. While not as power hungry as an air conditioner, many households have several computers which stay on 24/7, so their energy consumption adds up. 

Power use varies between models, so consider what you'll be using it for and buy the appropriate desktop or the right laptop for your needs. If you only surf the net and work on the odd spreadsheet then you don't need a high-performance energy guzzler.

All-in-one desktop computers
Cheapest to run Most expensive to run
ASUS Zen AiO ZN241ICUT-RA011T $1299 RRP 0.87 Wh standby power consumption 28.97 Wh active power consumption 69 kWh total annual energy consumption $20.70 annual running cost Dell Inspiron 27 7775 $2379 RRP 0.99 Wh standby power consumption 128.47 Wh active power consumption 288 kWh total annual energy consumption $86.40 annual running cost
Difference in annual energy costs: $65.70

Based on six hours a day active, 18 hours a day standby, 365 days per year*

Also remember your peripherals – computer monitors can draw as much power as an extra TV, and consider the standby power needs of printers, smart speakers and other accessories.

Fridges and freezers (8%)

While you can't turn them off, there's a lot you can do to keep your fridge running at its most energy-efficient:

  • Adjust your fridge to 3–4 degrees and your freezer to -18 degrees for the best balance between food safety and energy efficiency.
  • Keep door opening to a minimum by planning ahead when cooking.
  • Full fridges have a higher thermal mass, so keeping it well stocked means your compressor won't cycle as often, which will reduce energy use a little.

Bigger fridges use more energy because of the larger space they have to cool. Choose the right fridge for your household with our fridge buying guide.

Deep freezers are great if you buy in bulk, but they're expensive to run, so ask yourself if you really need one. That old fridge you're keeping in the garage for overflow? It could cost you the equivalent of a couple of slabs a year in electricity, so keep it turned off till you absolutely need it.

Large Fridges (451–525L)
Cheapest to run Most expensive to run
Electrolux ETE4607SA 460L $1715 RRP 260kWh pa $78 annual running cost Haier HFD462FS1 462L $1499 RRP 514kWh pa $154.20 annual running cost
Difference in annual energy costs: $76.20

Based on your fridge running 24 hours a day, 365 days per year*

Lighting (7%)

Old incandescent and halogen light bulbs use a lot of energy compared to modern CFLs or LEDs. Switching your bulbs can realise large energy savings almost immediately. 

A typical household lit with 100W incandescent bulbs will use nearly 700kWh, or about $200 in electricity every year for lighting – but you can double that if your home is lit with halogen downlights, which will see your total energy consumption for lighting climb to around 1400kWh, or $420 a year. Although halogens are typically lower wattage (between 35–50W) than incandescent bulbs, you typically need multiple downlights per room and each downlight also requires a 10W transformer. 

Switching from 100W incandescent to 14w LED light bulbs gives you roughly the same amount of light but reduces your energy consumption immediately by around $170 per year.

Make further energy savings by:

  • opening the curtains to use natural light where possible
  • turning the light off when you leave the room
  • installing sensor lights which only turn on when you approach.
Light bulbs
Cheapest to run Most expensive to run
14W LED globe $0.0042 running cost per bulb per hour $0.8 running cost for the home per day $27.59 annual running cost 100W incandescent globe $0.03 running cost per bulb per hour $0.54 running cost for the home per day $197.10 annual running cost
Difference in annual energy costs: $169.50

Based on 48 globes for the average home, running six lights at a time for three hours a day, 365 days per year*

How do lumens, incandescent wattages and actual LED/CFL wattages relate? Here's a rough guide:

Incandescent vs LED vs CFL
Light output Incandescent LED CFL Suitable for
420lm 40W 6W 7W Table or floor lamps
800lm 60W 8–10W 12W Lighting a small room
930lm 75W 10.5W 15W Lighting a medium-sized room
1300lm 100W 13W 20W Lighting a large room or workspace requiring bright light
2000lm 150W+ 18-20W na Outdoors or specialist applications

Cooking (5%)

The kitchen consumes a relatively small percentage of your household's power. However, keeping consumption in mind can still pay dividends when your power bill comes in. Consider aiming for a more energy-efficient oven or microwave.

Regardless of which appliances you choose, the way you use them can have a big impact on your power consumption. Smaller appliances generally use less power than larger ones, so use the microwave instead of the oven and the toaster or sandwich press instead of the grill. 

Because the energy needed to boil a given amount of water from a given temperature is the same, boiling the kettle will use about the same amount of electricity, regardless of the model of electric kettle you choose. However, you can make significant savings by only boiling what you need – there's no point in filling your kettle for a single cup.

Similarly, cooktops seem to be fairly similar on power usage, but choosing the right size and type of saucepan for a given burner or element on your stove as well as using lids on pots and pans can help keep your energy consumption from boiling over.

Wall Ovens
Cheapest to run Most expensive to run
Miele H 2661 B CleanSteel 60cm wide $1999 RRP 0.52 kWh 81 kWh pa $24.30 annual running cost Fisher & Paykel OB76SDEPX3 75cm wide $4228 RRP 1.39 kWh 217 kWh pa $65.10 annual running cost
Difference in annual energy consumption: $40.80

Based on running your oven at 170 degrees for one hour, three times per week*

Cheapest to run Most expensive to run
Ikea Varma 700w $299 RRP 2.23 kWh standby energy per year $0.67 standby cost per year 0.0792 kWh per plate reheated $8.67 annual energy cost $9.34 total annual cost, incl. standby Sharp R350YS 1200w $279 RRP 36.83 kWh standby energy per year $11.05 standby cost per year 0.1110 kWh per plate reheated $13.13 annual energy cost $24.18 total annual cost, incl. standby
Difference in annual energy costs: $14.84

Based on reheating one plated meal per day, 365 days per year*

Cheapest to run Most expensive to run
KitchenAid 5KEK1222AOB $179 RRP 0.21 kWh 77.55 kWh pa $23.25 annual energy cost Kitchen Aid Pro Line 5KEK1522ACA0 $349 RRP 0.23 kWh 83.15 kWh pa $24.95 pa
Difference in annual energy costs: $1.70

Boiling one litre of water, twice a day, 365 days per year*

Standby power (3%)

Just because an appliance is off doesn't mean it's not drawing power. Appliances may still be using power hour in standby mode to run internal clocks, or to keep the sensors active to respond to a remote.

The average Australian household uses a staggering 81.8 watts of standby power per hour. That's 717kWh or around $215 every year, and this is for appliances which you might think are not in use.

The good news is you can reduce your standby power consumption easily by turning appliances off at the wall wherever possible. A power board or surge protector with individual switches can make this easier if you need to leave some turned on for any reason. You can turn your phone charger off at the wall when you put your phone in your bag or pocket. 

While it's not practical to turn every appliance off at the wall all the time, many of the worst offenders – your home entertainment equipment – tend to be on one or two power points, so you can make instant savings with the flick of a single switch.

Total energy savings

Energy prices are increasingly causing most of us to break out in a cold sweat when bills come in, so aside from shopping for the best deal on your energy, reducing our energy use as much as we can will pay off in the long run. 

Just by choosing the most energy-efficient appliances over the least energy-efficient options, switching appliances off at the wall whenever possible and changing to energy-efficient lightbulbs, you can stand to save around $1000 a year on your electricity bill. And that's without changing your behaviour whatsoever.

*Electricity costs calculated using $0.30 per kWh as an estimate. This will vary depending on your own electricity costs.

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