If your household’s power bills have been steadily climbing, there’s no time like the present to take stock. Consider exactly how you can save power, and ultimately curb your costs. Even if your bills aren’t delivering any shocks, there’s usually room for improvement. And it may actually surprise how much you can save by following a few simple steps.
Beyond ensuring you’re on a suitable tariff, you will need to weigh up how energy efficient your home is. From the kitchen to the bathroom, to the living room, pondering your power particulars can ultimately translate into significant savings.
So, how can you best save power, and reduce costs, in your home?
Before you flick the switch: energy efficiency strategies
Before exploring the ins and outs of your household’s electricity usage, it’s worthwhile considering the layout of your home. What steps can you take to promote energy efficiency over the course of both the summer and winter months?
It could well be a matter of making a few basic modifications around your home. Doing so could shore up weather resilience, and effectively drive down usage ahead of even flicking the switch.
For instance, keep in mind the following:
- Insulation – ceiling, underfloor and wall insulation will help keep your property warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
- Windows and doors – check to see if your windows and doors are sealed properly. If not, heat will be escaping during the winter and cool air in the summer.
- Regulate natural heat – barriers such as curtains, blinds, awnings and plants can be used to regulate sunlight, variously blocking or allowing sunlight in, depending on the time of year.
Effective ventilation should also be a priority. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Smarter Homes website advises that well-designed ventilation provides cooling in the summer and lets stale air out while minimising heat loss in the winter.
Of course, when weighing up what your household requires, it’s important to pay attention to the finer details. You’ll need to keep in mind the unique features of your property in implementing any changes.
Pinpointing your primary power guzzlers
When assessing your household’s broader electricity consumption, it will be helpful to utilise any tools your retailer provides. These could be something such as historical usage data, broken down by the day, week or month that can provide insights into usage patterns over time.
With this information in hand, it’s important to narrow down potential power guzzlers around your home. Then, consider what actions can be taken to drive down electricity usage.
As outlined in the Electricity Authority’s 2018 Electricity in New Zealand report, the five primary areas that make up the majority of the typical household’s power usage are:
- Water heating – 27 %
- Electronics and other electrical – 20%
- Refrigeration – 17%
- Space heating – 15%
- Lighting – 13%
In addition, cooking and clothes drying account for 5% and 3% of typical household usage, respectively.
These figures will give you an idea of some of the key household areas worthwhile focusing on. And, a combination of reduced usage and energy efficiency measures can bring about immediate results.
It’s also important to note that when shopping for a new product, you should refer to the Energy Rating Label. This displays the projected annual energy consumption and a star rating. The more stars, the greater the energy efficiency.
Water heating: plenty of potential to push down your power bills
If you’re looking at how to save power, cutting down on your hot water usage should be near the top of the list. Quite simply, it has the potential to take a large chunk out of your power bill. Where possible you should consider using cold instead of hot water.
The following are some measures you can take:
- Showering – typically uses half as much energy as having a bath. Consider using a timer to help keep your showers short. Additionally, use a shower head with an efficient flow rate (9l a minute or less) or install a shower flow restrictor.
- Washing machines – run full loads to reduce the number of washes. Coldwater washing is also more energy-efficient, as hot water uses up to 10 times more electricity.
- Dishwashers – pre-rinse dishes in cold water if required, and run full loads, using an eco setting if available.
Of course, it’s also important to properly maintain your hot water system (consulting hot water specialists when required). This can contribute to more efficient water heating and reduced costs.
Meanwhile, if you’re in the market for a new system, consider both the initial costs and long-term running costs. A more energy-efficient unit may cost more upfront, however, have the capacity to drive down costs over the longer term.
Electronics and other electrical: small changes can add up
Electronic and other electrical equipment spans a diverse group of items. And each comes with its own particular running requirements. However, they can collectively account for a sizeable portion of your power bills.
From the time of set-up, it’s important to consider how you will be using the equipment. Instilling energy-efficient practices from the get-go can bring down your costs.
The following steps can help to drive down usage:
- When not in use, turn it off – if you’re not regularly using home entertainment equipment, turn it off at the wall.
- Sleep mode – enable this mode for devices with screens. Set them to go to sleep if they haven’t been used for a few minutes (avoiding the use of screen savers).
- Auto-off – if available, enable this setting to power down your TV when the remote hasn’t be used for a few hours.
- Brightness – brighter screens can use more energy.
With many of these measures, it is simply a matter of ensuring the right settings are being used and adopting good usage practices. Small changes have the potential to add up over time.
Refrigeration: Cutting cooling costs
Fridges and freezers can account for a big chunk of your power bill. As they are running all the time, they should be a priority when it comes to cutting costs.
The following measures can help promote refrigeration energy efficiency:
- Positioning – place your fridge/freezer in a cool spot. This should be out of direct sunlight and away from other appliances that give off heat, such as cooking appliances. Ensure there is an air gap of at least 75mm around all sides of the unit, and air is able to enter at the bottom and escape at the top. Poor ventilation means more energy will be used.
- Temperature – set the fridge thermostat to between 3C and 5C, and the freezer to between -15C and -18C (lower temperatures require more energy).
- Keep space free – this allows cool air inside to circulate. Overloaded fridges and freezers need to work harder.
- Door seals – ensure that seals are in good condition, preventing warm air from leaking in.
Given the lifespan of fridge/freezers (potentially well over 10 years), when shopping for a new model it’s particularly important to look to the long term. You should always consult the Energy Rating Label in weighing up running costs.
Heating/cooling: Employing energy saving setups
Heating costs during the colder months have the potential to drive power bills up significantly. It’s important to carefully weigh up the various pros and cons across the range of heater options available.
For instance, a space heater may be suitable for smaller rooms that only require occasional heating, while heat pumps (which can provide highly efficient heating) may be suitable for larger spaces in which heating is used on a daily basis.
When it comes to heating your household, keep the following in mind:
- Heater type and size – consider what type and size of heater will be most appropriate for the space.
- Heater running costs – weigh up the running costs. beyond initial cost, consider the frequency of use over the longer term.
- Timers and thermostats – are useful tools to help regulate usage and drive down heating costs.
- Heater positioning – consider the optimal positioning for efficient and effective heating.
Heat pumps may also provide cooling options, effectively catering to your household’s requirements at all times of the year. However, compared to dedicated air conditioners, this may be a comparatively expensive cooling option.
When it comes to keeping your household cool during the warmer weather, as a first port of call it’s worthwhile considering if a fan (or fans) will be enough.
Lighting: LEDs light the way
Rethinking the way you light your house, and weighing up the full range of lighting options available, can help to drive down power bills. There are a number of practical measures you can take to reduce usage.
For instance, seek to utilise natural light where available. Get into the habit of turning lights off when you are not using a particular room. Using a dimmer may be another way to reduce costs, while outdoor security lights with sensors mean they won’t need to be kept running at all times.
Meanwhile, to best lower costs, LEDs should be your go-to.
LEDs provide the following benefits:
- Energy efficiency – use up to 85% less electricity than traditional incandescent or halogen bulbs and can last 15 times longer.
- Running costs – can save $100-$300 over the life of the bulb.
- Lighting effectiveness – provide good quality lighting and instant brightness.
LEDs are available in a wide range of styles. While they cost more upfront, the long-term savings are worth it.
Compare electricity providers with Canstar Blue
If you are look at bringing down your power bill, your usage isn’t all you should consider. Your power provider can play a big role in just how much you are paying. But finding the right provider can be a real challenge. Less than half of Kiwis believe they are getting a good deal on their power, yet only 12% of us have actually changed our electricity provider in the last 12-months.
If you are looking to change electricity providers, or are unsure if you are getting the best deal, Canstar Blue can help. We rate NZ power companies for customer satisfaction and value for money, see the table below for some of the results, or you can 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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Canstar Blue NZ Research finalised in April 2023, published in June 2023.
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About the author of this page
This report was written by Canstar author Martin Kovacs. Martin is a freelance writer with experience covering the business, consumer technology and utilities sectors. Martin has written about a wide range of topics across both print and digital publications, including the manner in which industry continues to adapt and evolve amid the rollout of new technologies