Winter power bills are a real headache for many Kiwis each year. Cold weather forces us to turn on heaters and electric blankets; shorter daylight hours means lights stay on longer; and miserable weather sees us cooped up at home burning through power on devices and by cooking hot meals. The power costs quickly add up.
So with winter coming, we take a look at five things you can do now to slash your power costs, and help you save on electricity this winter.
1. Compare power providers
One of the best ways to slash your power costs is to pay less for your power. All the electricity in New Zealand comes from the same grid. But despite that, not all electricity comes at the same price.
That’s why it’s important to compare electricity providers, to find the best deals around. Of course, there are other factors to consider, such as customer service, ease of bill payment, and the features and usability of any apps and websites. But price really is the big one.
One thing to note is that finding the best price isn’t always straightforward. It could be in the form of cheaper rates on your electricity usage, or it could be in the form of multiple other discounts and deals such as:
- Prompt payment discounts – give you a percentage off your bill so long as you pay your bill before a set date
- Bundled utilities – by having multiple utilities with one provider (eg power, gas, broadband) you can receive discounts on one or more of the services
- Off-peak power discounts – off-peak hours are times during the day when there is less demand for electricity, such as late at night or in the middle of the day. Some providers offer cheaper power rates during these hours. So if you can cram most of your usage into these hours, you could get a great deal
- Free power hours – this takes the above strategy a step further. Some providers give you one or more off-peak hours completely free each day. If you can make the most of them, you can make big savings!
- Signing on credit – when you sign up with a new provider, you may score some free credit to put towards your first bills
Click here for a more in-depth overview of How to Save on Your Electricity Plan.
Compare with Canstar
A great way to start finding the best power provider is by checking out Canstar’s latest Star Ratings awards, which rate NZ power companies for customer satisfaction and value for money. See the table below for some of the results, or click on the button below for the full results of our survey.
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.
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2. Identify power guzzlers in your home, and take action
Once you’ve sorted out a great power plan, it’s time to identify where most of your power is being used. By targeting energy-hungry devices, you can save on your power costs.
A good place to start is by looking at the energy star ratings on your appliances. If the rating is low, it’ll be using a lot of power. This is particularly true of appliances that tend to be big power guzzlers in the first place, such as washing machines, clothes dryers, refrigerators, and entertainment set-ups sitting on standby all day, or just switched on in the background.
The best way to take action will differ depending on the appliance.
You can’t turn off your refrigerator, but you can change the way you use it. Try not to open the door too much. Keep it well stocked, as a full fridge uses less energy. And consider turning the chill-setting up. If your fridge is getting old, consider replacing it with a more energy-efficient model.
If possible, use your clothes dryer less. Hang clothes outside to dry, or in a sunny spot in your home with plenty of ventilation.
When not in use, entertainment systems and computers should be shut down and turned off at the wall, instead of sitting on standby.
Another great step is to ensure all your lights have LED bulbs. And, of course, don’t leave them on when you’re not in the room.
3. Adjust the temperature
Speaking of power guzzlers, heating is pretty much the biggest power expense in any household over winter. But just how much it costs to heat your home depends on your home’s level of insulation, what heating source you are using and how you are using it.
A heat pump is about as efficient as an appliance gets, but has large upfront costs. Check out some of the loans and grants available that can help cover the installation of a heat pump. Furthermore, running it all day, at high heat, with the fan going at full force will still give you bill shock, despite its efficiency.
The World Health Organisation guidelines recommend a minimum temperature in houses of 18˚C, or higher for more vulnerable groups, such as children, the elderly and people who are ill. This temperature can keep you comfortable without using the extra power needed to heat the room beyond this point.
So instead of using your heat pump like an electric heater, and sitting under it as it blasts out hot air, use a heat pump to bring the room up to a comfortable temperature, then switch it off and try to take other active steps to maintain the temperature. Things like keeping curtains and doors closed, and using draught stoppers to trap in heat.
→Related article: How to Choose the Right Heat Pump and Save Money
Other heating methods
Other heating methods such as electric heaters can be a great option, too. They don’t tend to be as energy-efficient as a heat pump, but they are cheaper to buy and can still serve a purpose. They are especially good for heating smaller room, such as bedrooms.
Just keep in mind, you don’t want to run them too high or too long. Once a room is up to an acceptable temperature, turn the heater down or off and trap in the heat, as above.
4. Shift your usage off peak
Some providers offer off-peak power. If you can take advantage of this, it’s a great way to save.
If you can structure your power usage to make the most of off-peak power, you could find yourself paying a lot smaller electricity bills. For example, by doing the majority of household chores, cooking meals, or charging an EV off-peak, you can get a lot done for little cost.
If you do choose an off-peak power plan, be sure to weigh up factors like:
- In exchange for the cheaper off-peak tariffs, am I being charged a higher peak power rate?
- What are the off-peak hours? While there are several off-peak hours a day (early mornings, late nights etc) some power providers may only offer cheap power during some of these times, eg a few hours late at night.
- How much of your usage can be moved off peak? If you still use plenty of power during peak times, the savings may be minimal, or, it could even end up costing you more.
Free power hours
Another option could be to take it a step further and make the most of free power hours. These plans offer free off-peak power, making the above strategy even cheaper to implement. What better way to save on your power costs than have no cost at all? When looking for the best deal, also consider:
- The number of free hours on offer
- Are the hours customisable? Some providers give a fixed time window, while others let you choose your free hour(s)
5. Get your home winter ready
Heating up your home is all well and good, but if that heap is escaping, your home is not going to stay warm for long. Installing quality installation is crucial to keeping cold air out and warm air in, and will bring down the amount you spend on heating. Insulation isn’t cheap, but it can be easily retrofitted and the same loans and grants you can use to help pay for a heat pump can also be used on insulation.
Aside from getting your insulation up to scratch, there are other steps you can take to get your home winter-ready and slash your power costs:
- Installing thermal curtains to trap in heat
- Checking hinges and catches or latches, tightening up any that are loose
- Adding weather stripping, sealing gaps around most doors or windows
- Sealing door or window trims using clear or paintable sealant
- Double glazing windows
- Fitting draught excluders for gaps under internal and external doors
- Replacing damaged rubber seals around aluminium joinery
- Blocking chimneys of unused fireplaces
- Sealing gaps around extractor fans and range hoods, plumbing passages, etc
About the author of this page
This report was written by Canstar Content Producer, Andrew Broadley. Andrew is an experienced writer with a wide range of industry experience. Starting out, he cut his teeth working as a writer for print and online magazines, and he has worked in both journalism and editorial roles. His content has covered lifestyle and culture, marketing and, more recently, finance for Canstar.