In winter, our collective demand for electricity jumps upward as we do our best 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, it’s tough. It shouldn’t fall to Kiwi households to cut back their electricity usage in order to make ends meet - power in Aotearoa should be affordable for everyone, and we’re continuing to fight for fairer power prices behind the scenes.
But there are certain parts of your home that suck up your electricity, so we’ve also used the EECA’s energy tool to identify where most Kiwi homes are using power and help you understand the areas that have the biggest impact on your power bills. If you haven’t tried out these tips already, give ‘em a go!
What’s using the power in your home?
Data from EECA’s Energy End Use database. (The ‘Other’ segment refers to things like heat pumps for cooling, swimming pool pumps and EV chargers, which we’ve chosen to leave out.)
Hot water heating uses around 27%
The biggest chunk of your home’s power is used to heat hot water. So, our top tips:
- If you’ve got a hot water cylinder, check that the cylinder AND the hot water pipe coming off it are both 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.
- 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).
- Consider switching to a more efficient shower head. There are some good ones on the market that deliver great water pressure so you can save power without sacrificing the relaxing hot shower.
Heating your home uses around 20%
Next up in the power-use chain is heating, although this varies a lot between heating sources, with electric heaters usually being more expensive to run.
- Heat pumps are generally the most energy-efficient heaters (depending on the specific make and model), but 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.
Major appliances use around 16%
That’s your fridge, freezer, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, so 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!
- 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.
Entertainment & IT tech uses around 10%
Things like gaming consoles, computers, and TVs can be switched off at the wall when they’re not in use.
Cooking uses around 9%
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?)
Lighting uses around 6%
That’s for 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, make sure you check out our top 5 tips for winter-proofing those power bills. Here’s to taking back power this winter!