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A Guide to Energy Efficient Heating in 2023

In this guide Canstar Blue discusses energy efficient heating tips for your household this winter. We reveal tips for saving money on heating costs, as well as which types of heaters are the most energy efficient.

Energy efficiency means that an appliance runs without using as much power as another appliance, therefore saving on electricity. The benefits of an energy efficient appliance span from being more environmentally sustainable to being easier on the back pocket, with plenty of room in between.

How do energy efficiency ratings work?

For most products an energy efficiency rating is pretty straightforward – the more stars, the more energy efficient, and the more energy efficient, the cheaper it will be to run – but for some heating and cooling units these ratings are a little different.

Since 2021, the star ratings on heat pumps, and some heaters and coolers, have shown climate ratings for energy efficiency, as opposed to the simple six-star method.

The methodology looks at the seasonal energy efficiency of the unit in three climate zones across New Zealand and Australia. Created to help consumers be even more energy efficient, the system takes into account the different climates of each of the three zones and determines the impact this has on some heating and cooling options, allowing customers to pick an appliance best suited to where they live.

Gas energy ratings however, still follow the original star rating methodology – the more stars, the more energy efficient the appliance.

Not all heating products are required to display their energy efficiency on them, but air conditioners are generally required to display their ratings.

Types of energy efficient heaters

When it comes to heating your home, there are a range of options. When choosing a heater, you need to consider factors such as the area being heated, how the area is used, and the number of people using it.

Here is a list of the most common heater types in New Zealand:

  • Fan heaters
  • Fan heaters
  • Micathermic heaters
  • Oil column heaters
  • Oil-free column heaters
  • Panel heaters
  • Radiant heaters

What are the fuel types for heaters?

When it comes to powering heaters, some fuels are greener and more energy efficient than others:

  • Electric
  • Solar
  • Gas: natural or LPG
  • Solid fuel: wood, coal, etc.

As you can probably guess, the greenest form of energy is solar electricity. However, as between 80-85% of NZ’s electricity supply comes from renewable resources, regular electricity in Aotearoa is pretty green, too.

Gas and solid fuels are less environmentally friendly. And gas and solid fuel heating systems are also far less energy efficient than an electric heat pump, which is by far the most energy efficient method of heating a home.

Compare with Canstar Blue

Canstar Blue’s latest review of NZ power companies compares them on customer satisfaction. The table below is an abridged version of our full results, available here.

See Our Ratings Methodology

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How to find an energy efficient heater and save on heating costs

We’re not here to tell you to grab a blanket – we’re here to help you figure out how to heat your home in the most energy efficient way. Here are some tips you may find handy:

1. Choose the most energy efficient heater

In most cases, you’ll find a figure in watts (w) or kilowatts (kw) indicating how powerful your heater is. Obviously, if you’re living somewhere particularly cold, a high-powered heater will be necessary, but for those in less harsh climates, a smaller, lower watt heater could be something to consider.

As a rule of thumb, gas heaters and reverse-cycle air conditioners generally tend to be cheaper to run and more energy efficient than portable electric heaters. Keep in mind that it’s often the case that the cheaper appliances to run are the more costly ones upfront. That being said, a sturdy air conditioning system is probably going to outlive a cheap tower heater from a home goods store, so it’s a good idea to do your own calculations to work out what’s best for you.

2. Utilise the timer feature on your heater

Most standalone heaters and air cons will allow you to set periods of time in which your appliance will be operating without you having to turn it on. To avoid cranking your heater to full blast in the mornings, set your timer to 15 minutes before you wake up, turning off at about the time you’d be dressed. Same goes at night: set your timer to switch off the heating an hour or so before bed.

3. Get the most out of the sun

In the middle of the day, when it’s warmest, take a second to open up any blinds and allow the natural heat of the sun to warm up your space rather than immediately going for the heater. Keep the air warm by avoiding having too many windows or doors left open.

4. Make sure your appliances aren’t ancient

Old appliances rarely run as efficiently as new ones, so if you’ve had an oil column heater since before your kids were born, it may be time to switch it out for a less power-draining model.

What else can I do to save money on heating?

There are many cases to make against standard heaters, and if you’re fed up with large winter power bills, then we don’t blame you for looking elsewhere. If you’re looking to save even more money on your winter heating, try some alternative heating methods, like insulating your home, investing in an electric blanket or even stocking up on thick blankets and thermal clothing.

Compare portable heaters with Canstar Blue!

Will switching to an energy efficient heater save me money?

While all signs point to yes, whether or not you save money will come down to your personal situation. There’s no point dropping cash on a new, more efficient heater if you’re going to use that as justification to crank it at all hours of the day. On that same note, even the most energy savvy household will have a hard time seeing savings if they’re on a power plan with high rates.

The size of your power bill is not as simple as what heater you own, it comes down to a combination of the factors mentioned above. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds, and we’re here to help, so click the button below to compare energy deals.

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About the reviewer of this page

This report was reviewed by Canstar Content Producer, Caitlin Bingham. Caitlin is an experienced writer whose passion for creativity led her to study communication and journalism. She began her career freelancing as a content writer, before joining the Canstar team.

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