Winter’s dropping temperatures are usually accompanied by rising power bills - and for a lot of us, rising stress levels as we try to keep costs in check. Here are some simple tips and tricks for enjoying a warm, dry house this winter, without ruining your financial plan.
Check you’re on the best energy plan for your household
There are so many different energy providers and plans out there, and those plans are changing all the time. It’s worth using an energy comparison website from time to time, to check you’re getting the best deal.
Look for a comparison site that is independent of the power companies, such as Powerswitch, which is backed by Consumer NZ. If you’re not getting the best deal from your energy supplier, it’s quick and easy to switch to another plan and/or another supplier.
One thing to consider though is that switching utility providers does usually involve a credit check, which may impact your credit score. So do your research thoroughly before choosing a new provider to switch to, and maybe don’t switch too often.
You could also call your current provider and use their competitors’ plans to try and organise a better deal for yourself.
Use less hot water
Heating water is expensive, so one of the simplest ways to reduce your energy bills is to use less of it.
Check the thermostat on your hot water cylinder is set to no more than 60 degrees celsius at the cylinder and 55C at the tap. If it’s set any higher than that, not only are you wasting energy but you risk being scalded by the water coming out of the tap.
A water-efficient shower head is another way to save on hot water. If your shower fills a 10-litre bucket in less than a minute, it’s wasting water.
Replacing the shower head with a more efficient one (one with a flow rate of 9 litres a minute or less) will significantly reduce the amount you’re spending on hot water.
Doing your laundry in cold water is another good energy saver. Modern washing machines and detergents clean well in cold water and a hot water wash can use up to 10 times the amount of energy as a cold wash.
Finally, keep to a strict time limit in the shower! According to Energywise, a 15-minute shower costs about $1, while a 5-minute shower costs just 33 cents. Over the course of a year, a family of four could save up to $900 just by taking shorter showers.
Switch your light bulbs to LEDs
You can save about $20 a year for each light bulb you replace with an LED bulb. An LED bulb uses about 85% less energy than an incandescent one. LED bulbs are more expensive, so you may want to replace them as your old incandescent bulbs fail rather than all at once, and you will make savings in the long-term.
Turn off appliances at the wall
Did you know that leaving your TV, computers and games consoles on standby can cost you up to $100 a year? Buy a multi-plug board for all your entertainment kit, so you can switch everything off at the wall with one flick of the switch.
Invest in insulation
Many New Zealand homes are poorly insulated, making them difficult to heat effectively. If you’re unsure of how much insulation your home has already, it could be well worth getting an insulation company around to do a free assessment.
Ceiling insulation, in particular, is usually easy to get installed and can make a big difference to the energy efficiency of your home.
Buy a timer for your heated towel rail
Heated towel rails are wonderful things, but you don’t need to run them 24/7. Get a timer and set it for a few hours right before your shower, so you get a toasty warm towel without driving up your electricity bill.
Before installing a new heating solution, get professional advice
What’s better - a heat pump or a series of panel heaters? The most efficient, cost-effective type of heating for your home will depend on many things such as the level of insulation, or the type and size of your home, and the rooms you want to heat. It’s definitely not one size fits all.
It’s probably best to seek advice from the heating experts. Try to find one who deals in all types of heater, so they don’t just recommend the one type the sell.
You can also get useful information on heating types from Energywise.