Perhaps the New Year has got you thinking about your energy consumption and if your monthly bill could be lower? If so, we explore eight energy bill myths stopping you from saving power for real.
Myth #1: My appliances don’t consume any energy when they’re switched off
It might feel like you’re doing a lot by switching off your TV or computer when it’s not in use, but are you switching it off at the wall, too? Some electrical products, such as TVs, laptops and video games, can continue to burn power when left on standby.
Get into the good habit of switching off all your electronics at the wall when you’re finished with them. You could save power and a few extra dollars by the month’s end. Try setting a reminder on your phone to switch off everything before going to bed each night.
Myth #2: All energy companies are the same
This is a perfectly understandable sentiment, considering the ever-increasing cost of energy. But you may be surprised by just how different power companies can actually be, especially when it comes to the rates they charge. But while the cost of your electricity does largely depends on your energy distributor – the company responsible for maintaining the poles and wires that transport power to your home – retailers can differ significantly with regards to the customer service and support they offer. Some have 24/7 customer support, which is ideal if you experience any pesky outage problems.
App features and support also differ greatly between providers. For more about electricity company apps, check out our story: How Electricity Apps Can Help Cut Your Power Bill.
Myth #3: Solar panels won’t work on cloudy days
False! Yes, a solar power system will work to its maximum potential on sunny days, but a bit of cloud cover doesn’t mean it’s sitting there idle. Note that a north-facing roof is optimal. Also, the size of the solar system will need to be configured to ensure a household consumes as much as possible of the power generated.
Myth #4: Switching providers won’t save me much money
It probably could save you a fair bit. Electricity providers in NZ change their pricing and plans all the time to stay competitive. If you’ve never changed your electricity provider before, chances are there is a far better value deal out there for your home. You could potentially save hundreds of dollars a year by switching to a more competitive plan.
Take a look at your next power bill. Once you know how much you’re paying in fixed and variable charges, it’s easy to jump online and compare different power companies and the deals they’re offering.
A good place to start is Canstar’s most recent review of electricity providers, which you can find here, as it lists all the big players. And for more information, check out our story: Simple Guide to Finding the Cheapest Power Deals.
Canstar Blue’s latest review of NZ power companies compares them on customer satisfaction and value for money. The table below is an abridged version of our full results, for more details. Click on the big button at the bottom of the story for more details!
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Canstar Blue NZ Research finalised in May 2020, published in June 2020.
See Our Ratings Methodology
Myth #5 Installation will be a hassle if I swap companies
You might think that switching power companies means a complete overhaul is required and that an engineer will need to visit your home to install a new meter. This is definitely not the case. Swapping power companies is a simple procedure that doesn’t require any rewiring to your premises. So, generally, it won’t be a hassle. The only difference you’ll likely notice is lower electricity bills.
As 83% of all NZ residential connections use smart meters, you’ll probably not even have anybody visit to read your meter so your old supplier can send a final bill, as it will be sent automatically.
Myth #6: I don’t want the power to go off if I switch
As we mentioned previously, switching energy providers doesn’t mean any significant change to your power supply. At no point will your electricity be disconnected. Your new retailer will simply take over your account, charge you its own rates, and send you their bills. Your home will still be powered in the same way.
If there are any big changes involved, they should be clearly explained to you when you apply to switch. And you will have to agree to them first before they are made.
Myth #7: I’m under contract so I can’t switch
The term contract sounds scary, but in the world of power supply, it’s a little misleading. While all energy plans are technically a contract (i.e. they come with various terms and conditions), no one is ever locked into a contract that they cannot simply quit.
The worst case scenario is that you’ll have to pay an exit fee to cancel the contract – but this often isn’t too pricey. If you’re switching to a better deal, this cost could be recovered quickly. In fact, the good news is that exit fees are actually becoming less common, so most of the time switching won’t cost you a thing – other than a little time.
However, there are a couple of things you should be aware of when it comes to quitting your old contract:
- If you’re on a plan that gives you a conditional discount, some retailers will not honour the discount for your final bill. So if you’re getting a huge 40% discount from your old retailer, you can expect a much higher final bill. It’s a bit sneaky from the retailers, but a good example of why you need to read the small print before signing up. Fortunately not all retailers do this, but it pays to double check.
- Also, if you are cancelling a plan that came with cash or gift incentives, you’ll probably be required to repay the cost of these freebies!
Myth #8: I rent so I need to stick with my landlord’s plan
Renting a home doesn’t mean that you have to be tied down to the property owner’s choice of energy provider. If it’s your name on the account and you pay the bills, you have every right to switch. Especially, if you think you can get a better deal. The only exceptions to this could be:
- If your rental agreement states that you cannot switch providers (e.g. because the landlord pays the bills) or;
- Your home is part of an embedded network where all of the properties (e.g. in the apartment block) are supplied by the same company
It’s clearly important to read your rental agreement carefully and ask lots of questions before signing. Allowing your landlord to pay the utility bills, or being part of an embedded network, can have its benefits. But make sure you understand what you’re getting into first.
If you’re after a better value energy plan, Canstar can help you compare retailers, to make sure you’re on the best rate and aren’t missing out on any benefits. Just hit the button below!