Hungry appliances and free motoring

Lorraine from Whangarei has a question. “How can you check if your appliances are power hungry?”

There are a number of things Lorraine could do, depending on how far she wants to take this – starting with looking for the energy star rating sticker on the appliance.

The next step could be to buy a small meter that plugs in between the power socket and the appliance to measure the power usage and the cost. Such units are sold at the likes of Mitre 10. The one we saw was an Elto EMA1 that retails for around $25.

If you want something more elaborate, there are devices like an ego smart Wi-Fi socket ($80 from that will send the information to your smartphone.

And if you want to measure total household consumption then you can do that too – the product we looked at was described like this: “A wireless transmitter is installed in your meter box with a sensor that simply clips over the main power wire, which then measures the current flow and sends that information wirelessly to the indoor display.” The display shows the power consumption and the cost. These units can get pretty fancy and can include smart phone features, but a basic unit costs about $129 (Owl Micro+).

Let us know if you have installed one of these monitors and whether it has helped you to reduce your energy costs.

Imagine if you had a meter on the dashboard of your car – like a taxi meter – that showed you how much you trip was costing. There’s no doubt the car would be used a lot less, and the driver would be far more likely to reduce speed and drive more conservatively. Now there’s a money-making idea for an inventive person!

Lorraine has reminded us that the easier it is to see how much something costs, the more incentive there is to reduce costs. This is the case with the weekly grocery shop – when items get lumped in with a whole lot of other stuff, it’s easy to lose sight of individual costs.

TS from Whangarei has a suggestion for business travellers: “I read your articles and wanted to add a tip for business travellers – that is to utilise AirBnB and even Bookabach for accommodation that is more affordable than motels. We provide a self-contained flat on these platforms that is available for 1 or more nights and has everything a business traveller would need but at a far more affordable price.”

On the subject of travelling, more people and businesses seem to be taking advantage of car sharing schemes like According to their website, the cost for casual membership is $15 per hour +$0.40 per km (including fuel and insurance), which is extremely economical for a business or a person that only needs a car, or a second car, every now and then.

And for those who want a few days away – and free use of a vehicle – check out Transfercar. The day we looked there were free cars available between Auckland and Wellington (one day only), so if you need to get between tourist hot spots, then this may be a great way to do it for free. Often they’ll even throw in a few sweeteners, like free insurance and a full tank of gas, but while you have to work within their time frame, it’s well worth checking out.

Now to frozen vegetables! PB from Auckland has asked how to dehydrate them.

The best way is to use a dehydrator. Take the frozen vegetables and spread them out on the dehydrator tray, dehydrate for six to 12 hours depending on the size of the pieces, then cool and store in air-tight containers. And if you don’t have a dehydrator, thaw the frozen vegetables, set your oven to low, place the vegetables on a baking tray and leave for 6 or more hours until they are dry and brittle.