A new research study commissioned by leading solar water heater manufacturer, Solahart Industries reveals that Aussies are greatly underestimating the potential impact of rising energy costs on their household budgets over the next five years though they are currently taking small measures to reduce their electricity consumption.  

The online Newspoll survey was conducted among more than 1200 Australians aged 18 to 64.  

According to Stephen Cranch, GM Sales and Marketing Renewables at Solahart, the rising cost of power was forcing behavioural changes among consumers but the research also shows that they are still quite unaware of the extent to which prices could soar in the next few years with their perceptions of future energy costs out of sync with present reality.  

Respondents are adopting various measures to reduce their power consumption at home. For instance, 89% said they will be closing their curtains or blinds to keep the house cool during summer and reduce energy bills while 83% will wash clothes in cold rather than hot water.  

Being quick in and out of the fridge, taking shorter or cooler showers, switching off appliances at the power point to decrease power usage and using candles for lighting were some of the power-saving measures listed by the respondents.  

In fact, 52% said they would go to a shopping centre or cinema to cool down in an effort to save on running air conditioners or fans at home.  

But the research study also revealed the general perception among many Australians that energy costs will not increase drastically over the next few years.  

While 27% of Australians believe energy prices will rise between just 1 and 5% in two years’ time, a further 40% believe prices will rise between 6 and 20%. Asked about the long term, 48% of people said they believed energy prices would rise by no more than 20% over the next five years.  

But recent trends in power prices reveal a different story. Domestic electricity prices rose around 40% between 2007 and 2010 with most states experiencing sizable increases in energy costs in mid-2011. Some electricity providers have indicated prices could increase by 20% in the next year alone.  

Considering these trends, Mr Cranch observes that many Australians could be in for a rude shock when it comes to their energy bills over the next couple of years. Typical energy-saving actions around the home may contribute to keeping power bills in check, but households seriously need to consider moving to sustainable energy options to offset future increases in energy costs.  

Switching to solar hot water systems from conventional electric water heaters is one of the most impactful ways to become energy-efficient at home. Mr Cranch explains that electric water heaters account for around 25% of a household’s energy use and switching to a solar water heater will reduce water heating energy consumption by 50-90%.  

In addition to reducing power bills, solar water heaters also decrease the household’s harmful CO2 emissions.      

In a move to creating a more energy-efficient Australia, the Federal Government plans to phase out electric water heaters from 2012. Households will need to replace their existing electric hot water systems with environment-friendly options such as solar water heaters or heat pumps.  

Generous rebates and incentives are presently being offered by the Federal and some State Governments for eligible homeowners to switch to solar hot water systems.