In winter, our collective demand for electricity jumps upward as we combat the cold by trying to keep our homes light, warm and dry. But that increased usage also means bigger power bills, and on top of the already-high costs of living, that ain’t good news.
Making a few tweaks to how you use your electricity can help reduce the power bill creep – sure, it might seem like small change, but it all adds up over time and every little bit helps, right? So #CleverFlickers, here are our top tips to reduce your power use this winter.
Start with your cylinder
Around 33% of your home’s electricity is used by your hot water cylinder (eek, that’s a lot!) which makes this a good starting point.
- Your hot water cylinder AND the hot water pipe coming off it should be insulated. Often older models (pre-2002) aren’t. Cylinder wrap is available from home stores like Mitre10.
- Keep an ear and an eye out for a constant boiling noise from your cylinder, or white stains where your pressure valve exits the house. It can indicate a faulty cylinder or a broken part.
- Check your hot hot water temperature at the tap with a thermometer – it should be no more than 55°C. If it’s higher, you may need a professional to adjust your thermostat.
- Go for showers! Baths generally use more hot water. Aim to keep your shower under 4 minutes by using a timer (it’s a handy visual tool for kids and teens, too).
‘Allo ‘allo, appliances
With your major home appliances using around 21% of your home’s power (like your fridge, freezer, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer) it pays to make sure they’re working efficiently.
- If you’re on the hunt for new appliances, check out their energy star ratings before you buy – the more stars, the better!
- Going second-hand? (Yass!) Check out this handy Energy Rating Calculator, a joint initiative between the Australian and NZ Governments. It’ll work out an appliance’s total costs over its lifetime and, based off that, its energy star rating, too.
- With fridges and freezers running constantly, it’s super important to make sure they’re working properly. Check the seals by slipping a piece of paper in the door and closing it (if the paper is held firm, your seal is sweet), and defrost your freezer every 6 months to keep it working efficiently.
- Clean the lint filter in your dryer to increase air flow and speed up the drying process. A build up of lint in your dryer is also a fire hazard (safety first, people). And make sure you leave enough room in the dryer for the clothes to ‘tumble’ dry - too many and they won’t.
How’s your heating?
Third in the power-use chain is heating, using around 10-12% of your electricity, although this varies a lot between heating sources, with electric heaters usually being more expensive to run.
- It’s fairly common knowledge now that heat pumps tend to be the most energy efficient heaters, though that depends on the specific make and model. If you have one, use the thermostat and run it at a consistent temperature between 18 and 21°C.
- Electric heaters do cost more to run, but they can be a good way to heat a small space quickly (like a child’s bedroom). Use the thermostat and timer to make sure you’re only running it when you need to.
- Insulation is key. If you’re renting your landlord is required to insulate your home. Check under the house and the roof space, and if the insulation’s missing, have a chat with the landlord or property manager.
- If you own your home, you might also be eligible for an insulation or heating grant under the Warmer Kiwi Homes programme if you live in a low-income area - check it out here!
- Always do a safety check of your heaters before you use them.
Around 8% of your electricity is used for cooking. Good ol’ slow cookers are much more energy efficient than ovens or stovetops, using an average 0.043 units of power compared to a stovetop’s 1.7 units, so it’s a good idea to try cooking dinner in a slow cooker a few nights each week if you can. (But also, what’s better than coming home to an already-cooked, delicious-smelling meal?)
Around 7% of your electricity is used on IT and entertainment tech – things like gaming consoles, computers, and TVs. Switch them off at the wall when they’re not in use, because even in standby-mode, they’re still using power.
Light it up
Around 7% of your electricity is used for lighting in homes with incandescent or fluorescent lighting, so it’s a good idea to start making the switch to LEDs which use next to no power. Check out Consumer NZ’s guide to buying LEDs - and don’t forget to turn off lights when you’re not in the room!
Lastly, keep an eye on your customer dashboard– both the ‘Analyse’ tab and the ‘Usage data’ tabs will give you an indication of how much power you’re using and when. If you notice your usage seems to creep up quickly at the same time you’re having a shower or cooking dinner (for example), you can work out the more costly and energy hungry appliances and activities around your home, and then make changes accordingly.