Beat the heat, cheap, keeping costs down while staying cool

Beat the heat, cheap, keeping costs down while staying cool

Summer in Australia can be tough, doubly so when you’re hit with a surprise heatwave. When the temperature starts climbing towards 40°C and up, staying cool and well-hydrated is a must.

While the simplest way to stay cool during a heatwave is to invest in an air conditioner, it’s rarely the cheapest option available, both in up-front and running costs.

Here are some tips to help you stay cool in summer without spending a bundle:

Stay in the shade

Why do garden greenhouses get so hot? It’s because the glass lets sunlight in to warm up the air inside, but doesn’t let this hot air escape. 

The same principle applies when it comes to your home’s windows during the summer. If the hot sun is allowed to shine into your home, the indoor temperature may rise. If this hot air isn’t allowed to escape, your home may quickly grow uncomfortably warm.   

One option to consider is covering your windows with shades, shutters, blinds, tinting or curtains during the day, keeping the sun’s rays outside and limiting their impact on your home’s temperature. These coverings can be removed at night to prevent them from insulating your home and locking too much warmth indoors.

Make smart use of cross-ventilation

A ceiling fan, desk fan, or upright fan may be relatively inexpensive to buy/install, but may not be able to beat the summer heat all on its own. While the indoor breeze from a fan can feel refreshing, simply moving your home’s hot air around does nothing to lower the temperature.   

One option is to open some of your doors and windows, allowing air to flow in through one opening and out through the other. This cross-ventilation, encouraged by a running fan, can help to move the warm air out of your home and bring cooler air inside to replace it.

This of course assumes that the air is cooler outside your home than inside – it may be worth waiting until night-time, when things have cooled down, to put this strategy into action.

Mind your energy usage

There are two reasons to consider limiting your use of electronics and appliances in the hottest days of summer – heat generation and running costs.

Everything in your home that runs on electricity generate a small amount of heat as a side effect. While some gadgets and household appliance produce more waste heat than others – your laptop likely runs hotter than your radio, for example – the combined effect of a household full of electronics can mean a warmer than average household, which is exactly the opposite of what you want in the summer.

If unplugging your electronics isn’t a viable option (some gadgets use energy and generate heat even in standby mode), it’s important to estimate their electricity usage, calculate their running costs, and work out where you can change your usage habits to cut costs.  

Working out the approximate running costs of any appliance involves finding its wattage (often included in the manual or specifications sheet), adding up the number of hours it’s typically used over a length of time (day/week/month/year), then comparing this to the cost of electricity in your area (check with your energy provider).

Stay dry

Sometimes it’s not the heat, but the humidity that bothers you in summer, especially in Australia’s more tropical regions. In cases such as these, a dehumidifier could be useful for removing excess moisture from your home’s air, while also being relatively inexpensive compared to an air conditioner.

Not only can a dehumidifier help make tropical summers feel a bit less sticky, but drying out your home can help to discourage the growth of mould and mildew, which is good news for allergy sufferers.  

Keep in mind that while a dehumidifier can help to keep you dry, it won’t necessarily help to cool your home down – in fact, dehumidifiers often emit a small amount of warm air as exhaust.

Run your aircon efficiently

If you do own an air conditioner, it’s important to be realistic about what it can do, and to avoid using excess energy trying to achieve the impossible.

Smaller portable air conditioners, while cheaper than bigger split systems, tend to do their best work in smaller rooms, so don’t expect your little chiller to efficiently cool your large open-plan home. Also, their exhaust needs to be vented efficiently to get their best performance, which could limit their usage to rooms with windows that fit the exhaust hose.

Even the large split systems can use way more energy than required if not run smartly. For example, setting too low a target temperature compared to the current conditions (e.g. setting it to 20°C on a 40°C day) can mean the aircon will run its motor at full blast trying in vain to compete with the nigh-unlimited power of the sun.

The Australian government’s Energy Made Easy website recommends setting an aircon temperature of 26°C in summer to take the edge off your home’s temperature, rather than trying to turn your home into a walk-in fridge. This is a far more achievable goal for an aircon, and can help limit its energy use and wear and tear on the motor over time.

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Learn more about bank accounts

Can you open another account at the same bank?

Yes, you can open another account at the same bank if you already have an account there, but some banks place a limit on how many specific accounts you can open.

Generally, though, it is possible to have more than one everyday account, one personal account and one joint account, or have different types of accounts – such as a transaction account and a savings account.

Keep in mind that some bank accounts come with fees, so you could be charged twice for having two types of the same account at the same bank.

Also, if you have more than one high-interest transaction account at the same bank, only one account will be able to earn the highest rate of interest.

Can foreigners open bank accounts in Australia?

Many Australian lenders allow foreigners to open bank accounts in Australia. Often, this can be done before you arrive in the country – with no Australian address required. When you get to Australia, you can pick up your debit card, using your passport as identification.

Can you find your bank account number online?

If your bank offers online services, you should be able to find your bank account number online by logging into your account on your bank’s website and checking your details there.

Keep in mind that each type of account you have with a bank comes with a unique account number. This means if you have a bank account as well as a savings account, for example, your bank account number and your savings account number will be different.

If you don’t have access to your bank account online or can’t login, you should be able to find your account number on a mailed bank statement, if you have one.

Alternatively, you can call your bank’s customer service number or visit a branch to retrieve your account number.

How can I find bank accounts in my name?

To find ‘live’ bank accounts in your name, you’ll have to ask individual lenders, which involves contacting them one by one and proving your identity each time. To find ‘unclaimed’ bank accounts (those that have been inactive for at least seven years), you can use this website.

How do I open a bank account for a child?

There are few better ways for a child to learn about money management than through savings. And there’s a plethora of bank accounts designed specifically for young people and children.

A bank account for a child can be opened online, over the phone or in a branch in a few easy steps. The minimum age a child can open a bank account for themselves usually ranges between 12 and 14.

If the child is too young to open the account, you can do it for them as their legal parent or guardian. 

To do this, you would need to be over 18, have an Australian residential address and currently reside in Australia (or have proof of residency).

You would also need to provide:

  • Identification for yourself and the child
  • Your tax file number (TFN) or TFN exemption

Depending on the bank account, you might be able to choose what level of access the child has to their bank account (online and via the phone).

How can I wire money to a bank account?

You can wire money to an Australian bank account either through your own bank or by using a money transfer company such as Western Union or MoneyGram. Either way, you’ll need the other person’s name, BSB number and account number. If you use a money transfer company, you might also need to provide the recipient’s address for large payments.

Can I close my bank account over the phone?

In most cases, you can close a personal or business bank account over the phone. In fact, this is the best way to ensure you’ve closed an account properly.

By speaking to a banking representative, you can capture and close out any pending transactions, or interest owing/payable on the account being closed.

In the instance where the account is a joint account, or you have multiple bank accounts you want to close, your bank may send you a form that you need to fill out and return.

Either way, you would be advised over the phone of the steps you need to take. Calling your bank ahead of closing an account is often a smart course of action.

Can I open a bank account in another country?

Despite having a bad rap for facilitating tax evasion, it is possible and legal to open a bank account in another country, also known as an ‘offshore account’.

Some people choose to open a bank account in another country to invest overseas, for higher interest-earning potential or to access foreign banking services.

The process for opening an offshore bank account differs depending on the financial institution and country in which you’re opening the account.

Typically, you will need to provide identification such as a passport, a local bank statement and a signed declaration proving the source of the money being used to open your account. Usually, deposits into offshore accounts can be made by international money transfer.

How do I close a bank account?

Closing a bank account is one of those tasks that’s easy to put in the too-hard basket. There are quite a few steps involved, some which may require you to hang on the phone for a while.  

Here’s a handy checklist of items to tick off, so the job gets done quicker. If you don’t do your banking online, the following steps can also be done at a branch.   

  • Cancel any scheduled or recurring payments
  • Update your direct debit details (such as loan repayments) with creditors
  • Export your payee address book (to keep a record of saved third-party bank account details)
  • Transfer the balance of your account (to the new bank account)
  • Close your account online, or by calling the bank or visiting a branch

How do I open a bank account for a baby?

If you’ve just welcome a new baby into the world, congratulations. Opening a bank account for your child can be a wonderful first gift.

Before you can open your child an account, you’ll need to have a birth certificate or passport for your baby.

As the parent or guardian, you’ll also be listed as a joint holder on the account. This means you’ll need to have proof of your identification and address (a driver’s licence, passport, birth certificate or Medicare Card).

Many banks and credit unions offer baby banks accounts. Usually, you can apply online; otherwise you can head into a local branch or office with your documents.

Do I need to open a business bank account?

Just because you’re in business doesn’t necessarily mean you need a business bank account. You could be a sole trader not registered for GST, and use your personal bank account for business.

If you do want a business account, there are plenty of benefits attached to business transaction and savings accounts, as well as business term deposits.

There are business bank accounts designed for businesses with a high volume of transactions, and those for start-ups with a small amount of trade. You could also include an EFTPOS service with your account.

Some business bank accounts charge for the number of transactions per month, while others offer a pay-as-you-go fee structure, where you only pay fees for transactions you make.

It’s up to you whether your priority is mainly transactions, or earning the maximum amount of interest on your principal. There’s a business banking solution for you if you need one.

Can a debt collector garnish my bank account?

A debt collector can garnish your bank account, but only with a court order. This drastic action is usually taken only if you’ve ignored several notices asking you to pay the debt.

If this happens, there is nothing you can do to stop it other than immediately pay back your what you owe in full or make arrangements to pay it off in installments.

Once a garnishee order is issued, your bank will put a freeze on your account as it processes the order. This usually takes two to three days and you won’t be able to access any of your money during this time.

If you have Centrelink payments, they may be protected, depending on what the court order says.

Are bank accounts frozen when someone dies?

Yes, Australian bank accounts are frozen when someone dies. If you want to close the account of somebody who has died, you might have to provide proof of death and a copy of the will. You might also have to prove your relationship to the deceased person.

If you have a joint bank account with somebody who has died, you will generally be entitled to all the money in the account. Again, you might have to provide proof of death if you want to change the bank account from a joint account to a one-person account.

Can I start a bank account online?

Yes, most lenders that operate in Australia will let you set up a bank account online. The process is usually simple and takes five to 10 minutes. You will probably need to provide a passport or birth certificate, as well as a driver’s licence, Medicare card or another form of secondary identification. Requirements differ from lender to lender, so some institutions might ask for more or different forms of ID.