LED bulbs, Powerswitch and EnergyMate: Save power, make money

The price tag on wasted power in New Zealand is $372 million - but with one simple switch, there's money to be made. 

As the winter months roll in and power bills double, more and more families are put under financial pressure. 

When keeping your house warm accounts for a third of your power bill, what you use is crucial. 

Porirua resident Toko Angell is now a power-saving guru - but it wasn't always this way. 

One in five New Zealand households battle power poverty and Angell's was one of them. 

"It's a big worry actually... when it's cold, I can't help it but turn it up, close the doors, I have mokos come here during the weekend. I make sure they're warm," Angell told Newshub.

EnergyMate, a part government, part industry-funded programme, stepped in. Trained EnergyMate coach, Jess McRae, visited Angell's home to give him the tools to manage the dreaded winter power bill.

"Homes typically use twice as much electricity in winter, so you're going to feel that bill in your back pocket," says the CEO of Electricity Retailers' Association, Cameron Burrows.

The cheapest heating option is undisputed. A heat pump is four-times cheaper to run than an electric heater, as long as the temperature isn't set any higher than 22 degrees. 

The average power bill is decreasing. In the last five years, the average bill has dropped by $95, now sitting at just over $2,077 a year.

However, Vector's high-income households are reducing their energy use four-times faster than low-income ones. 

"It's the money," Jess McRae told Newshub.

"They have the money to swap out appliances. They have the money to put double-glazing on their windows, to buy all the things they need in order to reduce their power; solar panels, things like that, that our whānau just can't afford."

There some are cost-free ways for everyone to save money. Turning off your appliances at the wall could save $100 a year, and at a dollar per load, households can easily skip using the clothes dryer.

The beer fridge, costing $200 a year to run, can be switched off.

Opening your windows around cooking and showering times to reduce dampness is another tip. And keep an eye on the heated towel rail, which has a power price tag of $170.

Above all, swap all light bulbs to LED bulbs - a $3 investment that can save you $100 a year. 

"[We] most definitely got different light bulbs, and they are lifesaving, [they] save a lot of power," Angell told Newshub.

The Electricity Authority estimates $372 million could be saved if all Kiwi households switched to the most affordable power plan. 

In the North Island, an average household could save $195 each year. In the South Island, an average household could save $242. 

"There's a hell of a lot of people in New Zealand that could be saving a lot more than that," says Sue Chetwin from Consumer NZ.

The multi-million dollar answer is Powerswitch. Run by Consumer NZ, the website offers a power plan comparison tool so everyone can figure out the cheapest plan.

"Families in the South Island have saved $800 a year [through Powerswitch," says Chetwin.

The savviest of switchers use the free service every six months.

"It takes a couple of days for the process to flow through and for it to happen but you can be done and dusted in literally minutes," says Burrows. 

Only 400,000 kiwis have banked that free money in the past year - a statistic that Angell is proud to be a part of. 

"I think it's gonna be a big, big difference," he said.

And for the first time, he's actually looking forward to receiving his power bill - due any day.