Picture by Carlos Lindner on Unsplash

The current El Niño weather event in the Pacific Ocean, expected to continue well into 2024, could mean unprecedented high temperatures throughout December and beyond.

Australians will likely be more reliant than ever on air conditioning and other cooling systems, at the same time energy prices are soaring.

According to the CPI inflation indicator, electricity prices rose 18% in the year to the September quarter, despite Energy Bill Relief Fund rebates, so there are likely plenty of households out there bracing for big bills over the coming months.

It's even more important than usual for Australians to review their energy plan, and make sure they're getting the best deal, but there are also several day to day strategies that can help reduce the bill while still keeping comfortable.

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1. Energy efficient appliances

Liam Navon, energy expert at Smart Energy, says maximising energy efficiency is one of the best ways to save on cooling costs.

"Ensure that your home is well-insulated and use programmable thermostats to regulate the temperature when you're away," he told InfoChoice.

"Use ceiling fans to circulate air and reduce the need for constant air conditioning."

Programmable thermostats allow users to cool on a daily schedule, so the system can be turned off or reduced when there's no one home.

The Department of Energy says ceiling fans can cool a room by about 3°C, and cost about 2 cents per hour to run.

2. Pick the right A/C temperature

According to the Department of Energy, for every extra degree of cooling, energy use increases from 5-10%.

Choosing the right temperature is therefore a delicate balancing act between conserving energy and staying cool.

The Department of Energy suggest cooling to be set between 25-27°C, but the needs of different households can vary.

Metropolitan Air-conditioning recommend consulting a Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) professional to assess the optimal temperature for a specific house.

HVAC experts can advise on zoning, or dividing the home into different temperature zones, as well as inspecting cooling equipment to ensure it's as energy efficient as can be.

Read more: The best A/C setting for comfort and energy efficiency this summer

3. Stop cool air escaping

The Department of Energy also has a number of suggestions to better prevent cool air from escaping, or heat from creeping in:

  • Close off rooms that don't need to be cooled.
  • Fill in gaps that could stop cool air from escaping, like using a draught stopper under doors, or applying weather seals to windows or skirting boards.
  • Use well fitted curtains and blinds to trap a layer of air next to the window, so the heat from outside isn't getting in.

4. Fire up the grill

Another tip from Mr Navon is for households to take cooking outdoors.

"Grilling not only adds a delicious smoky flavour to your meals, but also keeps the heat out of your kitchen, reducing the need for air conditioning," he told InfoChoice.

5. Consider solar

With energy bills soaring, solar panels and batteries are a potential long term saving solution.

According to the CSIRO, the average Aussie household uses between 8-25 KwH of energy each day, depending on how many people live there.

A 6.6Kw solar system can generate about 25KwH each day, although this can be location dependent (for example, houses in Brisbane are likely to generate more from solar panels than Hobart, for obvious reasons).

Particularly in summer, solar panels and batteries might be worth thousands of dollars in savings each year.

Read more: Commbank to offer interest free finance on solar systems