Big Bills

Reporter: Graeme Butler

Dale and Katie are battlers - really battling to cope with soaring bills... electricity, gas, water, "it's scary any bills coming in any windows envelopes oh god and when you see it's gas or electricity it's just do we want to open" The biggest hike in utilities has been in the cost of electricity - compared to two years ago at virtually the same time of year and similar usage Katie and Dale's bill for their burns beach home has soared from $183 to 345 dollars - they just can't afford to pay it

Dale says "having to fall back onto a credit card is never a good thing and to be in the situation I am now and as I say it's getting to the stage where it's maxed I'm paying 19% interest on 26 odd thousand that is just a never ending spiral" To put this struggle in perspective for our pollies - Dale Lings is on a disability pension earning him around $14000 a year his bill is $345 - a huge chunk of his income. For a government minister on a base pay of $129,000 to feel the same pain - the slug for power would look more like this $3225.

Katie says "its' ridiculous the government is making enough money I mean they've got to think about us and if they want to be in power keep it going we're not going to be voting you back in" The cost of power has increased four times in 18 months up a total of 42.5%

Gas has gone from $97 for a 3 months medium use bill a little over a year ago to $127 today and that extra money has to come from somewhere - for Katie and Dale it means cutting back .. Dale can't even afford new teeth. "To go and get teeth $2300 of which they will pay $690 you just cannot come up with that sort of difference so unfortunately I'm talking to you without teeth" The financial pain isn't just happening here in WA - the huge hikes are being felt across Australia thousands of people are now needing help to pay for the basics. Vicky Davis is also at breaking point - she can't explain her usual 350 power bill doubling.

One solution is a power audit - this device can check exactly where you're wasting power and how much each appliance costs to run. Rebecca Hargrave is from Perth Solar City. "Rebecca how much is the entertainment system here using on stand-by well Graeme right now this TV is using almost $40 just by being on standby. That's a year? That's right. and this unit how can people use all they need to do is borrow it from their library in Perth's eastern region plug it into the wall, plug into the appliance and know exactly how much their appliance is using. So they know why they're getting such big bills. Standby power can attribute up to about $145 a year on your power bill"

The utility companies also have these money saving tips

SYNERGY

1. Switch off appliances ( don't' use stand-by power )

2. Use compact fluorescent globes

3. Clean air-con filters ( to make it more efficient )

ALINTA

1.( Reduce thermostat settings )60 degrees for storage and 50 for instant

2. Shower for 3 - 4 minutes at most

3. Cold wash clothes

WATER and this is as much about conserving a precise resource as money

1. Check your meter ( to make sure there are no leaks on your property )

2. Only wash with full loads

3. Install water wise shower heads

Help is also available under the governments Hardship Utilities Grant Scheme (HUGS) for people struggling to pay their bills

ENERGY AUDITS - offered through "Perth Solar City" currently only available in Perth eastern suburbs including Town of Bassendean, City of Bayswater, City of Belmont, Shire of Kalamunda, Shire of Mundaring and City of Swan.

contact 1300 993 268 or visit www.perthsolarcity.com.au

For more tips

Water http://www.watercorporation.com.au/_files/waterwise/10_tips_on_being_waterwise_inside_your_home.pdf

http://www.watercorporation.com.au/_files/waterwise/10_tips_on_being_waterwise_outside_your_home.pdf

http://www.watercorporation.com.au/W/waterwise_family.cfm?uid=8425-1727-7746-1566

Ways to reduce your gas usage

Hot Water

Reduce your hot water thermostat settings - 60°C for storage and 50°C for instantaneous systems.

Shower for 3 to 4 minutes at the most.

Wash your clothes in cold water.

Heating

Think before you turn your heater on - now that the weather is warming up, consider whether you still need to use your heater.

If you really need your heater, warm up one room at a time and limit the length of time your heater is switched on to two hours.

Rug up with extra clothing and blankets.

Close your windows and doors to keep the heat inside your home.

For more energy saving tips, visit http://www.clean.energy.wa.gov.au/