Four in five families expect sky-high energy bills as usage spikes under lockdown restrictions.
But more than half of all households have not taken steps to reduce their use of energy-guzzling appliances, according to financial comparison website comparethemarket.com.au.
As a result, Canstar Blue editor-in-chief Simon Downes said most households could expect a “major shock” running into hundreds of dollars when their next payment is due.
Among the key areas where families have maintained the same level of use include gaming consoles and laptops (80 per cent of households), and televisions and other entertainment units (68 per cent).
Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of households (23 per cent) admitted to keeping on lights in empty rooms, despite lighting contributing roughly 5 per cent to household electricity bills.
Lack of action on energy is about ‘complacency’
Mr Downes said the contradiction between households’ energy usage and their outlook on bills is down to complacency.
He said households will only begin to adopt new energy-saving strategies once they receive their first “shock bill”.
“Workers and families may think they are using the same appliances in the same way, but the reality is they’re not, because their sheer presence in the house for more hours a day inevitably means they are using more power,” Mr Downes said.
“And we’re now entering the time where households will begin to receive those ‘lockdown energy bills’ in the mail, which would give people the shock to change their habits and consider conscious energy usage.
“If you’re willing to heat your home every morning because it’s chilly, that’s fine so long as you understand the costs associated with that.”
Mr Downes said most energy providers now carry smartphone apps that allow customers to monitor their usage and predict the cost of their bills, allowing them to find areas to make proactive changes.
Governments and tax office step in as energy bills rise
Comparethemarket.com.au household savings spokeswoman Abigail Koch said temporary workplace closures had forced households to pay for traditional office running costs, too.
But she said some of those costs could be alleviated after the Australian Taxation Office announced Australians can claim 80 cents for every hour worked from home during the pandemic in their upcoming tax return.
“[Working from home] potentially adds around eight additional hours of energy usage to their bill each day,” Ms Koch said.
“Even households with solar could also see an additional downside if more energy is being consumed than is being produced.”
Energy retailers extended the olive branch to customers in financial hardship in April through deferred or rebated network charges and a moratorium on disconnections until July 31.
State governments are also providing concessions to energy customers struggling to meet their payments – including concessions and vouchers – depending on a household’s individual circumstances.
And reforms to energy-pricing laws last year to prevent non-transparent pricing now mean customers can assess all their options and hunt for a better deal elsewhere if they feel their provider is too expensive.