It’s no fun being slammed with a power bill bigger than you were expecting. There’s a number of factors at play that determine your electricity bill, so it can be hard to pinpoint the main culprit that’s driving up your energy usage.
But one thing you can look at right away is the energy efficiency of the appliances you use regularly at home, and whether they might be sucking more energy than they need to. There are some sneaky ones in there that may surprise you. But by knowing what to look for, you’ll have the power to make decisions that could knock down your power bill at the end of the month.
The most energy-draining appliances
Any appliance can waste electricity if you’re not careful, but some more so than others. If you’re wondering where the high-use areas are, start with the kitchen and laundry. Here we have the oven and stove, fridge, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer.
It’s a good idea to understand how much power your existing models use, given the daily use of these large appliances. From there you can decide if it’s worth considering replacing certain appliances with more energy efficient ones. The Energy Rating website is a good place to start if you’re looking to upgrade.
As a rough estimate, a typical NZ home with two adults and two children consumes between 15 and 28 kWh per day, according to LG Energy. Nevertheless, a large, modern open-plan home with down lights and, possibly, a pool can easily use between 40 and 50kWh per day – and some households use as much as 60kWh of electricity per day. A highly energy-efficient home with energy efficient appliances, a solar power system with a net meter, which sends unused solar energy into the grid, can use as little as 5 to 10 kWh per day.
Energy-guzzlers in the kitchen
Fridge and freezer
A fridge/freezer upright combo (typical in many households in New Zealand) will vary in its power consumption based on its size and efficiency. An average 400 litre fridge might cost around $80 to $140 a year, depending on its energy efficiency star rating. For more info on energy efficiency star ratings click here!
Pro tip: Check the seals regularly on both your fridge and freezer, any gaps could mean it’s burning extra power to keep cool. Make sure the unit is running properly, things like strange noises and lack of cold, despite being set low, could mean servicing or replacement is needed. Fridges also waste power when they simply aren’t full enough. Big empty spaces need cooling for little purpose. Maybe your fridge is bigger than you need? You can also get a power usage meter that plugs in between the wall and your fridge to monitor the actual energy being used.
Ovens require a decent amount of power to heat up to high temperatures to cook food. For a medium-high heat, Power Shop says 2,400 watts is a reasonable estimate. If you cook a meal for an hour, including preheat time, you might expect to spend around $0.60 (depending on what your $/kWh rate is with your power provider).
Pro tip: The cost of running an oven will increase if you open its door frequently to check food. An empty oven sitting at the right temperature for a long period is also a waste of power – so keep an eye on the preheat light. Check the seal is in good condition and the fans are working properly for both power efficiency and safety.
Energy-guzzlers in the laundry
Of the appliances in an average Kiwi home, washing machines and clothes dryers are often the most energy draining.
As with refrigerators, choosing the right size washing machine for your needs is an important initial step in achieving energy savings. A standard wash operating on warm costs about $0.25 kWh, around $273.75 a year.
Pro tip: Using a cold wash option is preferable, while loading the machine fully each time will save on the extra cost of putting on another load. Washing on a warm cycle can use up to ten times as much energy as a cold wash – that’s an extra 20 to 40 cents for every wash.
Check spin speed, machines with a spin speed of 1,000rpm or higher will remove a good amount of water, cutting down on drying time. Check for auto-sensing or load size selection, so you’re not using more water and energy than you need.
Clothes dryers use a lot of electricity – an average load costs around a dollar to dry. By using your dryer sensibly, and choosing to dry clothes outside on the clothesline, you could save $100 or more a year, as calculated by Energy Wise.
Pro tip: As when buying a washing machine, look for a model with an auto-sensing feature if you use your dryer regularly, to prevent over-drying. Vented dryers are often the cheapest option over their lifecycle – with low purchase prices and moderate running costs.
Energy-guzzlers in the lounge and bedroom
Home entertainment gadgets and air conditioners eat away at energy. Typically, devices that fall under home entertainment are also often left on at least standby 24 hours a day.
Air conditioners are one of the more notorious appliances for their energy-draining qualities. One of the more popular types of air conditioner is the split-system air conditioner, which is generally more energy-efficient than other types of air conditioning, but they can still be an energy-guzzler.
Pro tip: Try using the fan-only setting, which helps you feel cooler by creating a breeze. This setting uses a lot less electricity than the full cooling mode. Keep your windows open while using the fan-only mode. Clean the filter regularly and avoid using auto settings – if you forget to switch the unit off it will start heating if the temperature drops below the thermostat setting.
Generally, people choose televisions based solely on price, size and picture quality, but there are other things to consider. The larger the screen, the more electricity it uses; keep in mind that TVs look smaller in stores than they will in your living room. There are big differences in energy use between TVs of similar size, some use more than three times as much electricity than more efficient models.
Of course, switch off your TV when it’s not in use. Brighter screens tend to use more energy, check yours is set to a recommended or a lower brightness. Enable ‘automatic power down’ or ‘eco solution’ mode, it turns your TV off after a few hours of you not pressing a button on the remote.
Computers and laptops
They’re not the biggest offenders on the list, but it pays to be mindful of power use that comes with computers and laptops. A desktop computer used for three hours a day, then turned off when not in use, costs around $50-$55 a year to run, assuming a $0.25 per kWh rate. Laptops have batteries and aren’t usually on charge all day long. If you charge the laptop and top it up a bit over the day, this might look like three hours of charging time. This really shouldn’t cost much (potentially as low as $0.05 a day, according to Power Shop).
Pro tip: Some homes have multiple devices and computers, a household full of them plugged in will add up. The safest bet is to unplug your laptop when it has finished charging and switch off your computer when it’s not in use.
In the market for a new appliance?
Consider your own specific needs when deciding on an appliance purchase. Key things to think about are:
- Whether you really need the appliance
- What the right-sized model is for your household
- How much energy and water it will use
Is it necessary?
- In-sink waste disposal units use water and electrical energy. A smarter option is to collect food scraps and compost them at home or a local composting facility.
- Dehumidifiers cost up to 40c for every litre of water they remove from your home. Potentially, you could eliminate this cost by installing proper ventilation, insulation and heating.
However, if your appliance is old and unreliable, you may be better off in the long run getting a newer energy efficient model. A modern fridge, for example, will use around half the electricity of a 15-year-old fridge, meaning it will definitely save you money over its lifetime.
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