4671.0 - Household Energy Consumption Survey, User Guide, Australia, 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/09/2013  First Issue
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All



This section provides information on aspects of household energy usage collected in the 2012 Household Energy Consumption Survey (HECS), including:

Energy sources
Energy expenditure
Energy consumption
Dwelling characteristics
Household heating, cooling, lighting and appliances
Energy behaviours
Energy perceptions
Energy-related financial stress


Dwelling energy

Dwelling energy consists of any energy source used inside a dwelling for domestic purposes. It includes sources such as electricity, mains gas, bottled gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), firewood and other sources of household energy such as oil and other fuels used for domestic purposes.

It does not include any fuel for vehicles (including lawn mowers), small outdoor appliances (such as patio heaters and barbecues), solar energy used for lights or floating pool heaters, wood for outdoor stoves etc. unless the source is also used inside the dwelling.

Any bottled industrial gas not for domestic use, such as gas for welding, is also not included.

Fuel for vehicles

Fuel for vehicles includes fuels purchased for motor vehicles in the household in the two weeks prior to the personal interview, such as petrol, diesel and LPG.

Total household energy

Total household energy refers to both dwelling energy and fuel for vehicles, as described above.


Weekly household energy expenditure

Estimates of weekly household energy expenditure were derived for each source of energy used by a household at the time of interview. A variety of reference periods were used to best capture expenditure across the range of energy sources, and are summarised in the following table.

Energy sourceAmount reportedReference period

Electricity / Mains gasIf fixed payments made:
    Fixed payment amount
If fixed payments not made:
    Last payment made
If fixed payments made:
    Fixed amount payment frequency

If fixed payment not made:
    Coverage period for last payment
Bottled gas or LPGLast paymentCoverage period for last payment
FirewoodTotal payments madeLast 12 months
Other energy sourcesTotal payments madeLast 12 months
Fuel for vehiclesAggregate expenditure of individuals aged 15 years and over in householdLast 2 weeks

The amount and reference period is used to derive weekly expenditure estimates for each source. Estimates of weekly expenditure therefore do not refer to any given week, but are weekly equivalents based on the reported amount and reference period. For instance, a household may report their last payment for electricity as $390, and that this amount covered a billing period of 13 weeks. In this example the expenditure would be derived as $390 / 13, or $30 per week.

The use of different recall periods means that estimates for different energy sources may refer to different periods. The estimates for average expenditure on firewood for instance, cover the 12 months prior to the beginning of interviewing to the end of interviewing (January 2011 to December 2012). For electricity or mains gas expenditure, where the most common billing arrangement is quarterly, the period is three months prior to the beginning of interviewing to the end of interviewing (October 2011 to December 2012). Estimates therefore refer to varying periods prior to 2012, as well as during 2012.

Fuel for vehicles reported by individuals aged 15 years and over in the household referred to payments made by the individual (or their share of a payment) for fuels for vehicles in their household only. Purchases for persons outside of the household were not included. Fuels paid for by persons outside of the household were also not included. Care was taken to minimise instances of double-counting, where for instance, someone in the household refuelled the vehicle after someone else in the household gave them money to do so.

Fixed payment plans

Many electricity or mains gas providers offer the option of fixed payments, where an arrangement is made with a household to pay a fixed amount at regular intervals to cover expected energy costs throughout the year. The HECS collected the amount paid and frequency for fixed payment plans for electricity and mains gas. For fixed payment plans, the amount regularly paid and the payment frequency were used to derive weekly estimates.

Average weekly expenditure based on fixed payments over the entire collection period are expected to be comparable to expenditure collected by the last payment made approach. As most fixed payments arrangements are based on a household's previous consumption, over the space of a year the collective amount of fixed payments is roughly equivalent to payments made by billing means.

Solar electricity feed-in tariff (renewable energy payments)

A number of households with small scale renewable technologies (mostly solar panels) are eligible to receive financial payments or credit for the volume of electricity their system exports to the network grid. Payments for renewable energy are commonly referred to as feed-in tariffs, and generally credited to households via their electricity bills.

All households with a solar electricity system connected to the network grid (regardless of whether they had their most recent bill or statement available) were asked how much they were credited for the amount of electricity exported (i.e. their feed-in tariff). If an additional incentive over and above the government feed-in tariff was provided by the household's electricity retailer, then both amounts were sought.

Refunds and deductions

For each energy expenditure item, additional information was sought on whether any part would be refunded by someone outside the household or charged to a business. All energy sources feature an item representing expenditure before refunds and deductions, and another item for expenditure after refunds and deductions. All published expenditure estimates output, such as Household Energy Consumption Survey, Australia: Summary of Results, 2012 (cat. no. 4670.0) present net or 'out of pocket' private expenditure, that is with refunds and deductions removed.

Supply and consumption charges

A supply (or service) charge is a fixed fee to cover the costs of supplying electricity or mains gas to households. It includes infrastructure, maintenance and regular meter reading costs. A consumption charge is the cost of electricity or mains gas used by the household, reflected by the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) or megajoules (MJ) used by the household multiplied by the respective unit price. Estimates for supply and consumption charges for electricity and mains gas are published for selected populations in 'Additional tables' for this product, located in the 'Downloads' tab.

Households who used electricity and/ or mains gas were asked if they had their most recently paid bill or statement available for the interview. If a bill or statement was available, further information was sought about supply and consumption charges over the reference period, before goods and services tax. All amounts were converted to weekly values using the reference period on the bill or statement.

Supply and consumption charges were not available for households who were unable to refer to their most recently paid bill or statement during interview, or who were unable to locate this information on their bill or statement. Approximately 65% of households provided supply and consumption charges for electricity, while 65% provided supply and consumption charges for mains gas.

For households on a fixed payment plan, the reference period for supply and consumption charges is different to the reference period for total weekly expenditure. For instance, a household may have made their last fixed payment two weeks ago, but their latest statement (including supply and consumption charges) may cover the period of the previous 3 months. Supply and consumption charge data are not directly comparable to expenditure estimates, which may include goods and services tax, discounts, previous credit etc.


GreenPower provides an option for households, through their electricity retailer, to pay a premium for electricity generated from renewable sources that is fed into the national electricity grid. Information on GreenPower energy was collected from all households with an electricity connection. If a household reported they were connected to an accredited GreenPower scheme and had their most recent electricity bill available, they were asked how much of an additional payment was made for GreenPower.

Households who had recently moved

Expenditure amounts were left as zero for situations where a household had recently moved into the dwelling, and had not yet received a bill or made a payment for a particular household energy expense.

Energy expenditure and household income

Energy expenses are usually a significant and recurrent component of total living costs. Therefore energy expenditure may be analysed as a proportion of total income. It should be noted that the difference between household energy costs of a larger household and a smaller household would not be expected to be as great as the difference for other household expenses, such as food or clothing. In other words, larger households can be expected to experience economies of scale in the supply of household energy. This means that if a larger household and a smaller household both have the same standard of living, it could be expected that on average the larger household will have a lower value for energy costs when expressed as a proportion of total income. Therefore relatively high household energy costs as a proportion of income are more of a concern with respect to larger households than smaller households. This should be borne in mind when comparing ratios across different household sizes.ENERGY CONSUMPTION

Energy consumption information was collected from households who used electricity, mains gas or LPG/ bottled gas and who could refer to their most recent bill or statement available at interview. Consumption information was not collected for firewood, other sources of energy, or sources where households were unable to refer to their most recent bill or statement.

Consumption information for electricity was collected and is output in kWh, while mains gas consumption information was collected and is output in MJ. LPG/ bottled gas was collected as the quantity in either litres or kilograms most recently purchased and are output in litres. LPG/ bottled gas information that was reported in kilograms was converted to litres by multiplying the units by 1.96.

Weekly estimates of energy consumption were derived using the consumption amount and coverage period provided on the bill or statement. Of those using each source, approximately 67% of households provided consumption information for electricity, 66% for mains gas and 83% for LPG/ bottled gas.

Households that received a feed-in tariff and who also had a bill or statement available, were asked for how many kWh's the feed-in tariff related to. Approximately 70% of households with solar electricity and who received a feed-in tariff reported the amount of kWh's for which the feed-in tariff related.

Households were also asked if they were willing to supply their National Metering Identifier for the possibility of obtaining up to two years worth of electricity supply information from the Business Survey of Residential Electricity Distribution.

Linked Business Survey of Residential Electricity Distribution (BSRED) data

Historical electricity supply data for 2010 and 2011 was obtained from the Business Survey Residential Electricity Distribution (BSRED), where a valid National Metering Identifier (NMI) could be obtained from households and be successfully matched to BSRED Experimental Estimates. Approximately 42% of households provided a valid NMI which was able to be linked to the BSRED Experimental Estimates. In addition to providing a NMI, households indicated whether anyone had lived in the dwelling for at least two years. If not, the date of the household first residing in the dwelling was collected. The electricity supply data is the meter readings converted to weekly estimates of supply across the two years. The data is then averaged across the weeks that best fit calendar quarters. For further information please refer to the on the 'Business Survey Residential Electricity Distribution (BSRED), Experimental Estimates' chapter of this User Guide.

Dwelling characteristics are useful for understanding variations in household energy expenditure and consumption. A range of energy related characteristics were collected, including:
  • Whether household has solar electricity or solar hot water systems. If a household had a solar electricity system they were asked if it was integrated into the mains electricity supply grid. Only solar panels that generated electricity for the dwelling were included.
  • The capacity of solar electricity power system (kW). The output of a solar electricity system is dependent on the energy generating capacity of the solar panel. This is measured by the number of kilowatts (kW) the system can potentially produce. Higher capacity systems are able to generate a greater amount of electricity.
  • Solar hot water system booster type. A booster is an auxiliary heating system used to boost water temperature on cloudy days or days where demand exceeds supply. Booster types could include electric, mains gas, bottled gas/ LPG or wood. If a household had multiple solar hot water systems with boosters, the booster type of the first system reported is presented in this data item.
  • Types and number of hot water systems. Households may have multiple hot water systems. Systems could be powered by electricity, mains gas, LPG/bottled gas or other sources of energy. Electric hot water systems are either continuous, off-peak or heat pump.
  • Whether energy consuming medical equipment or life aids are used. Equipment operated by non-rechargeable batteries was excluded.
  • Estimated age of dwelling. Older dwellings may have less energy efficient design than newer dwellings.
  • Insulation and location of insulation. Any floor coverings, curtains, blinds, double-glazed windows, firewalls and false ceilings were not included as insulation. Generally there are three main locations for insulation (floor, walls and ceiling) however households may install insulation in other locations (such as inside a chimney).
  • Window treatments and type of window treatment such as heavy curtains, blinds and double-glazing. Window treatments are useful for preventing heat loss or gain within a dwelling.

A self-complete paper form was provided to households to collect detailed information about heating, cooling, lighting and other appliances used in the dwelling. A representation of the form is available in the
'Downloads' tab. Households could either choose to complete the form during the household interview, between visits for personal interviews, or after completion of the interviews and return the completed form by post.

Approximately 77% of households completed and returned a paper form with valid information. Records received a 'not applicable' code for all items collected from the paper form if it was not completed and returned. A full range of the items collected on the paper form is available in the 'Household heating, cooling, lighting and appliances' section, within the 'Households' tab of the data item list in the 'Downloads' tab.

Heating and cooling equipment

The type of household heating and cooling equipment can have a significant impact on energy costs, particularly during and winter and summer.

Information on the number of heating and cooling equipment types usually used in winter or summer, and average daily usage for each, was collected. Households were asked to exclude heating or cooling equipment they have but don't use, and to include domestic equipment used outside the dwelling (such as patio heaters). For selected equipment types, the usual thermostat setting during winter or summer was also collected, where available.

Where a household reported more than one type of a specific heating or cooling device, and the devices average usage period reported exceeded 24 hours, a new daily average was calculated based on the reported average and number of the appliance type owned. For instance, if two portable fans were reported with an average usage of 26 hours, a new average of 13 hours was derived. For other average hour amounts the reported average was retained.

Main source of cooling or heating used in summer or winter

A household's main source of heating in winter and cooling in summer was taken as the appliance type with the highest total sum hours of usage (based on average usage hours reported and the number of heaters or coolers). For example, if during summer a household usually used two portable fans averaging 13 hours of usage per day, and a single ceiling fan averaging 14 hours of daily usage, the main source of cooling during summer was portable fans (26 hours in total). Main source of heating or cooling could not be determined if a household reported the same hours usage for more than one type of appliance.


Households were asked to report the number and type of light globes usually used to light key living areas. Key living areas included the kitchen, dining room, lounge/ family room and main bedroom of the dwelling. If multiple key living areas existed (e.g. two kitchens), information for each of the multiple areas was requested. Only light globes usually used to light the room were requested, including non-fixture light globes such as those used in lamps and bedside lights. Battery operated light globes are excluded.


Information on the number and approximate ages of refrigerators and freezers currently plugged in and switched on in the dwelling was collected. This included combined and separate refrigerators and freezers, and other units such as wine or beer coolers.

Other information collected for appliances included:
  • The type and average daily usage for computers (collected for up to four desktop or notebook computers)
  • The number of other selected media and multimedia appliances usually used at least once a week
  • For households with swimming pools and/ or spas:
    • the type of swimming pool or spa pump (for households with swimming pools and/ or spas), and
    • who performs pump maintenance, if applicable.

During the household interview, several items regarding the actions of the household or household members were collected. These items can be used to further understand energy expenditure and consumption of households.

Previous energy efficient improvements

Owner households (with or without a mortgage) and households with a life tenure or rent/ buy tenure arrangement were asked if they had made any energy efficient modifications to the dwelling in the past 2 years (or if all members were resident less than 2 years, since first started living in the dwelling). Modifications may include installation of solar systems, insulation, window treatments or replacing an electric hot water system for a gas hot water system. All work performed by the household themselves or through payment (e.g. by a contractor) were sought.

A list of energy efficient improvements collected are available in the data item list, under the 'Household energy perceptions and behaviours' section in the 'Household' sheet.

All households were asked if any heaters, coolers or major whitegoods had been replaced in the past 2 years for more energy efficient models (if resident less than two years, since first occupying the dwelling). Major whitegoods may include such appliances as refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, washing machines and clothes dryers. Heaters, coolers or whitegoods were not considered replaced if the older model was still used in the dwelling, or if the appliance was bought where the household previously did not own the type of appliance. Any appliances upgraded within the 2 year period while living in another dwelling, and brought to the current dwelling, were excluded.

Energy efficient behaviours

Households were asked whether the following energy efficient behaviours were being performed by the majority of household members:
  • using a low-flow shower head
  • using energy efficient light bulbs for the majority of lights (such as Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs)
  • taking short showers
  • using cold water for all or most clothes washes
  • drying clothes on a washing line for all or most washes
  • switching appliances off at the wall
  • switching off chargers for rechargeable appliances when not in use
  • using draft-proofing seals on doors and windows, including draft stoppers e.g. draft 'snakes' for doors.

Previous energy efficient improvements: Main reason why not

Owner households (with or without a mortgage) and households with a life tenure or rent/buy tenure arrangement who did not make energy efficient modifications to their dwelling, or upgraded any heaters, coolers or major whitegoods were asked for the main reason why they did not perform any of these actions. Reasons such as cost, inconvenience and lack of knowledge were among the reasons reported.

Intentions to make energy efficient improvements in next 12 months

All households were asked their intention in the 12 months following the interview to replace any heaters, coolers or major whitegoods for more energy efficient models (using the same inclusion criteria as for previous replacements outlined earlier i.e. it must replace an existing appliance).

Owner households (with or without a mortgage) and households with a life tenure or rent/ buy tenure arrangement were asked for their intention to make energy efficient modifications to their dwelling in the 12 months following the interview.

The main reason for not intending to make improvements was collected for owner households and households with a life tenure or rent/ buy tenure arrangement who did not intend to make any energy efficient modifications or upgrade any heaters, coolers or whitegoods,.

Energy efficient behaviours: Main reason why not

Households who performed less than five energy efficient behaviours were asked for the main reason why they had not performed more actions. Reasons such as inconvenience and lack of knowledge were among the reasons reported.

Financial stress indicators, in addition to income and wealth statistics, are useful to describe a household's living standards. A household experiencing financial stress related to their energy expenditure may, for instance, have limited opportunity for expenditure on other basic necessities of life (e.g. food or housing) which are achieved by other households with similar incomes, wealth levels or energy expenditures.

The HECS collected a series of energy related and non-energy related indicators, which reflect cash flow and/ or financial resources problems faced by a household in the last 12 months.

The indicators associated with energy use referred to whether, in the last 12 months a household due to a shortage of money:
  • could not pay electricity, gas or telephone bills on time, and frequency (once, sometimes, often or always)
  • could not heat or cool your home
  • entered into a loan arrangement or used a credit card to pay electricity or gas bill
  • received or sought assistance from electricity or gas company to pay bills
  • received a disconnection warning from electricity or gas company
  • electricity or gas services were disconnected
  • chose to restrict heating or cooling because they could not afford extra costs
  • could not afford to put petrol/LPG/diesel in motor vehicle
  • could not afford to repair their heater or air conditioner
  • could not afford to repair a major household whitegood.

Other non-energy related financial stress indicators are outlined in the 'Financial stress indicators' section of this User Guide.

These indicators should be used with some caution. For example, the indicator 'could not pay electricity, gas or telephone bills on time', which was reported by a relatively large proportion of households in the higher income quintiles, suggests that it may not reflect an incapacity to pay, rather a short deferral of payment. For many households it might be chosen as a short-term cash flow management technique if there is no immediate penalty when payment is made a little late.

It should also be noted that the decisions households make between some of these indicators is likely to be affected by the geographic location of the household. For example, households living in very cold or hot climates are possibly less likely to not heat or cool their home when short on money when compared to households in more temperate climates. Another example are households living in metropolitan areas where suitable public transport is available, choosing not to put fuel in their vehicle when short on money.