Making the most of your electricity and understanding your usage
Easy things you can do to save power
There are lots of simple things you can change around your home to make your electricity go further. Together these small adjustments can shave hundreds of dollars off your bill over the course of a year, so you can use that power where it counts most—like to heat your home.
Don’t leave your appliances on stand-by; instead, switch them off at the wall. Many devices draw power even when you’re not using them. Appliances on standby can cost you more than $100 a year.
Switch to LED bulbs for lighting. They’re more efficient and they last longer. The best place to find LEDs is in hardware stores, where they’re often more affordable than at other suppliers. They can save you $100 a year across your house compared to older types of light bulb. Remember to turn the lights off when no one’s in the room.
If you’ve got a second fridge you’re not using, turn it off. Lots of Kiwis have a second fridge going, but if you’re not using it and leaving it on, that fridge could be costing you $200 a year—or even more.
Set your washing machine to use cold water when washing your clothes. Most washing machines do a great job washing clothes with cold water, and only really stubborn stains need hot water to clean. Using cold water could save you around $100 a year.
Dry your clothes outside where you can. A dryer costs about $1 a load.
Long showers can add up quickly, costing you hundreds of dollars a year. A family of four can save $10 a week by shaving five minutes off their showers.
For more quick wins, visit EECA Energywise’s page on reducing your power bill.
Keeping warm in winter
New Zealand’s low-quality housing and a lack of insulation means many families and whānau spend lots on heating. If you struggle to keep your home warm in winter, here are a few things you can do to reduce costs and get the most out of your power.
First, check if your home is insulated. This is the most important thing you can do to make sure your home isn’t wasting heat. By 1 July 2019, all rental properties must be insulated by law—read more about that law change here at Tenancy Services.
Seal up your doors and windows using affordable DIY equipment from hardware stores. Draught stoppers, which sit in front of doors sealing up the gap at the bottom of the door, cost under $10 and will help keep the heat in. Window insulator kits cost around $15 for two windows, and help you stay warm while reducing condensation. They can cut heat loss through windows by about 50%.
Only heat rooms you’ll be using regularly throughout the day.
Close your curtains when the sun is setting and use double-layered curtains (or thick curtains) that sit close to the window and extend all the way to the floor. Your local curtain bank may be able to help you if you can’t afford curtains.
Set your heaters (including your heat pump) to between 18-22°C, the ideal temperature range for keeping you warm and being energy-efficient. Most heaters won’t be able to heat more than just one room, so shut the door. A heater with a thermostat will shut off automatically once the room reaches the desired temperature.
When used properly, heat pumps are the most efficient form of heating and will save you a lot of power compared to other types of electric heaters and gas heaters. Wood burners are also very efficient and are great at heating large spaces, but do require a bit of management to make sure you’re burning wood efficiently and the wood you’re using is fully dry.
Understanding your power bill
Power bills can have a lot of technical information on them. Each retailer’s bill will look a little different, but the front page is usually the simplest and has all the important bits you should keep an eye out for, like how much you owe and if you’ve qualified for any discounts.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to get in touch with your retailer if you’re unsure about anything in your bill, if you think something might be wrong, or if you think you won’t be able to pay your bill for whatever reason. Your retailer’s support team will be able to explain your bill to you and can offer you support if you’re having trouble paying your bill.
Most bills will have a “fixed charge” and a “variable charge”. The fixed charge is the same regardless of how much power you use because it covers the cost of getting the power to your house and other essentials like your power meter. The variable charge is the cost of the power you’ve used, displayed in kWH (kilowatt hours) or sometimes referred to as “units”. This is a measurement of how much power you’re using over time.
Your bill will also include the name of your plan and what period you’ve been billed for. Most power companies will bill you monthly, but depending on your plan and how you’re paying you may be billed fortnightly or even weekly.
Your bill lists the charge that needs to be paid along with any other outstanding charges if you’ve missed recent payments. If you qualify for any discounts you’ll usually find that alongside the outstanding charges.
The plan you’re on might not necessarily be the right one for you. You can use a website like Powerswitch to compare plans and retailers and find the best deal for you. Switching retailers in New Zealand is easy—once you’ve made your decision, your retailer does most of the work.