Five ways to slash your energy bill

Power circut switch with piggy bank
Save hundreds per year with these expert tips. Photo credit: Getty.

Household energy bills typically skyrocket in winter - but there are ways to save money.  

According to a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) study, in the year to March 2019, the average household spent $2077 ($173.08 per month), and used 7141 kWh of electricity.  

In the second of a three-part series on reducing living costs in the COVID-19 environment, Newshub asked electricity expert Gillian Blythe and Lighting Direct assistant manager Walid Moghrabi how to get costs down.

Get the right plan 

Blythe said that people working from home or using more electricity after lockdown should check for current offers and make sure their plan fits current usage. 

Some providers offer 'time-of-use' pricing, charging less for power used at specified off-peak times.

"If you're on 'time of use' based tariff, showering, baking, running the dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer during off peak periods can save you money," Blythe said.  

Use free power offers

People can also save money by taking up free power offers.

"Some (eg. Electric Kiwi) provide a free hour of power, while others (eg. Mercury Energy) offer 'free power days' and Powershop [currently] has a free weekend sign up offer," Blythe said.

"Another is Genesis Energy's 'Power Shoutout' - this is a free block of power that varies in length and customers get to choose when to use it."

Turn appliances off  

A 2017 Consumer NZ study estimates the cost of leaving appliances on standby.  The biggest culprit was multifunction printers, costing up to $127.94 per year, depending on model. 

Leaving other appliances on standby uses a small amount of energy, but the cost adds up. According to the study, turning standard household appliances off instead of leaving them on standby could save up to $175 per year. Likewise, turning off WiFi routers when not in use could provide additional savings. 

Check the hot water cylinder temperature

Energywise recommends setting the hot water cylinder thermostat at 60 degrees (55 degrees at the tap).  

By wrapping hot water cylinder and hot water pipes (not gas hot water systems), for pre-1987 cylinders, Blythe estimates savings could be around $80 per year.

"Energy Wise advises pre-2002 electric hot water cylinders aren't insulated very well and should have a cylinder wrap."

"You should also insulate the first 1-1.5m of hot water pipe coming off your hot water cylinder (cylinder wraps cost around $60 and pipe insulation is about $5 a metre from hardware stores)," Blythe added.

Switch to LED lights

Assistant manager at Lighting Direct Walid Moghrabi, said that LED and compact fluorescent lamps cost from $5 to $23.  

Based on the Consumer magazine LED savings calculator, eight LED light bulbs on for nine hours per day could save $124 per year ($10 per month).

Moghrabi also suggests using an efficient shower head. If the shower fills a 10-litre bucket in less than a minute, it's wasting water. 

"Replacing [it] with one with a more efficient flow rate of nine litres per minute could cut your hot water use significantly," Moghrabi said.

Other tips to save money on your power bill:  

  • prevent heat-loss by closing curtains and using draft stoppers (e.g. 'sausage dogs' or aluminium draft excluders along doors, foam seal on windows)
  • boil the right amount of water
  • dry washing outside (heavy items can be partly line-dried)
  • wash full loads in cool water 
  • use a slow-cooker, toaster oven or microwave when cooking small portions or reheating food 
  • thaw food in the fridge  
  • cook and bake in bulk  
  • check fridge temperature is between 3 and 4 degrees (freezer temperature should be between -15 and -18 degrees)
  • clean heat pump filters regularly
  • ensure the home is well-insulated (homeowners may qualify for a grant under the Government EECA Warmer Kiwi Homes scheme. Renters should check the property has ceiling and underfloor insulation required from July 1, 2019
  • community groups in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch could provide curtains (or help with the cost)

Getting on the right plan, taking up power deals, turning appliances off and stopping heat-loss will keep energy costs down, remembering that small changes are more sustainable than large cut-backs.