Save money while you sleep: Night Tariffs Explained

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The monthly power bill can be a source of anxiety for New Zealanders – so it makes sense to save money on the cost of electricity however you can. Cheaper night tariffs are offered by certain energy retailers which means you could save money as you sleep. As explained, they can be a sure-fire way to rest easy at night.

What are night tariffs?

There are a number of different electricity tariffs on offer from energy retailers, and it pays to find the right one for you. Night tariffs offer a cheaper power rate at night, when the demand for electricity is at its lowest across New Zealand. These plans usually charge a bit more for peak power use during the day.

Often called day/night plans, night tariffs are promoted as being a good option for households that use an above-average amount of power at night. However, there are some tricks for making the most of a night tariff rate.

Households wanting to sign up for a day/night plan will usually need a smart meter or a separate night meter, so your electricity retailer knows when you are using your power. About 80% of New Zealand houses have a smart meter and many electricity retailers will install them for free if you do not have one.

Is a plan with a night tariff right for you?

Like all electricity tariffs and power plans, there are pros and cons to being on a night tariff and it is not suitable for all homes.

Night tariffs or day/night plans can be a great option for households that are prepared to run their heavy-use appliances at night and make the most of the discounted, off-peak power. Not everyone is happy doing this: appliances like washing machines, dishwashers and clothes dryers can make a bit of noise, and can be disruptive if you are a light sleeper. Night tariffs are particularly good for households with an electric vehicle (EV), which can silently charge at night.

If you do not use a lot of power – such as a home with only one or two people and you do not run a lot of appliances – it is most important to sign up to a low user plan. This is a higher charge for each unit of electricity used but you will have the bonus of a lower daily fixed charge. Some retailers offer both low user plans and night tariffs.

Day/night plans tend to benefit households where occupants go out to work or school during the day. The benefits are less if someone in your household stays home, as they will invariably use power during the day.

Night tariffs do not suit homes where there are a lot of appliances that run 24 hours a day. This includes extra fridges and freezers, pools, water pumps, or air conditioning or heat pumps running all the time. Having said that, if you want to make the most of a night tariff, you could put chest freezers on a timer so they only run at night, programme your pool or spa pool so it runs its main filter cycle at night, and turn off heat pumps during the day.

Who offers night tariffs in New Zealand?

Cheaper night rates used to be standard in New Zealand, but that does not seem to be the case any longer, with the majority of electricity retailers offering only one rate during the day.

Here are the major electricity retailers that advertise a day/night plan:

Genesis Energy

Offers a Day/Night plan for customers who use an above-average amount of electricity at night (typically 11pm to 7am).

Meridian Energy

Offers Day/Night plans but only in certain areas. This includes cheaper power at night, from 9pm to 7am.

TrustPower

Offers a “Night Owl” meter which only provides electricity at night between 11pm to 7am, at a lower variable unit rate charge. This meter can be used for hot water cylinders, pumps, under floor heating and storage heaters.

Mercury

Offers a discount on night rates if you have an electric vehicle (EV) so you can charge it at night.

Flick Electric

Charges spot prices which invariably will be cheaper at night and off-peak times.

Electric Kiwi

Does not have a day/night rate but does offer a free ‘Hour of Power’ for 60 minutes off-peak. The time is nominated by the customer but must be between 9am and 5pm or 9pm to 7am.

How do you make the most of a night tariff?

Day/night plans work well for households who are disciplined and committed to using electricity at night rather than in peak times. Here are some tips and tricks for making the most of a night tariff plan:

  • Make sure you know when your “night time” or off-peak rates are, as they change according to retailers. Meridian’s night plans have a lower price from 9pm to 7am, while Genesis Energy’s night rate applies only from 11pm to 7am.
  • Make sure your hot water cylinder is set up so it is only charging at night. You will need to make sure you have enough water in your cylinder to last the whole day.
  • Use timers to ensure high-energy appliances run at night – such as the dishwasher, washing machine, dryer and chest freezer.
  • If you have an electric vehicle (EV), charge it at night only. Some retailers offer special rates for households with EVs.
  • Put devices on charge at night only.
  • Don’t use your heat pump during the day if you don’t have to: modern heat pumps do not take long to ‘warm up’.

Are there alternatives to night tariffs?

Most electricity retailers in New Zealand offer anytime pricing, where the variable electricity price stays the same, no matter what time of the day or night it is. However, there are some variations to anytime tariffs and day/night tariffs:

Spot pricing and time of use tariffs

Spot pricing and time of use tariffs offer very similar benefits to night tariffs – they offer lower-price electricity during off-peak hours and a higher price during peak times. The main difference to night tariffs is that spot prices are calculated by the half-hour, rather than being a block of time at night. This means there could be other times when off-peak power is available, such as during the middle of a work day. Alongside this, it will be more expensive than a simple day/night tariff if you use power in the highest-demand times: between 7am and 9am, and 5pm to 9pm during the week.

Spot pricing, time of use tariffs and day/night tariffs all benefit similar households, and the tips and tricks stay the same as long as you know when your off-peak times are. To choose the best plan to suit you, find out what each retailer offers and what their conditions are.

Controlled meters

Most electricity retailers in New Zealand offer a discounted controlled meter rate for power supplied through a separate, controlled meter. This is most commonly used for hot water cylinder heating.

Controlled meters allow the network company to switch off the meter for short periods, such as when the demand on their network is high, or when faults or emergencies happen on the network and there is a power supply restriction. Some controlled meters only supply power at night.

Controlled meters can be used in conjunction with any plan – whether it is day/night, anytime or spot pricing.

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