Winter is on the way, which means household power bills are about to rise as space heating costs kick in. The other thing that’s about to kick in is a new round of power price rises. Genesis for example, said that the increase would be 3.6% nationally while Contact Energy is increasing charges by 2.6%,
The electricity companies are engaging is the usual finger pointing. The retailers are saying the rises are due to increases in line and transmission charges (which make up a third of customers’ power bills), but the lines companies say the increases are more than warranted. Whatever the cause, the impact on the consumer is the same. That’s where some living off the smell of an oily rag tips come in.
The first tip is to have a look at www.powerswitch.co.nz. It has a nifty calculator that compares your current bill against the cheapest alternative. We suggest doing the switching exercise every time your electricity retailer ups their prices.
While you are visiting the Powerswitch website, have a look at their price trend graphs to see how much power costs have risen in your area during the last three years, and also have a look at their list of energy saving tips.
Here’s what they say about space heating, which accounts for about 29% of the average bill.
• Only heat rooms that are being used.
• Use curtains, preferably those that are lined and floor-to-pelmet (or touching the window sill), and close them at night.
• Maximise the sunshine into your home in winter by keeping curtains open during the day and cut back trees that shade north-facing windows.
• Because polished strip-timber floors leak air through the joints, reduce draughts and heat loss from these floors by insulating underneath them.
• Use thermostats and timers on electric heaters.
• Insulate ceilings and, if possible, walls.
Water heating accounts for about 30% of your power bill.
• Fix dripping hot taps.
• If your hot water cylinder doesn’t have a ‘Grade A’ label, wrap it with a cylinder blanket.
• Insulate the first metre of hot water pipe from your cylinder.
• H ave a user-adjustable thermostat fitted and set it at 60°Celsius.
• Use a low-flow shower head to supply water at 6 to 9 litres per minute.
• Limit showering time – a short shower uses much less hot water than a bath.
• Wash clothes in cold water.
• Fill the kettle or jug from the cold tap and only heat the amount needed.
Washing machines, dryers and other appliances make up 15% of your bill, lighting about 8%, cooking about 7% and refrigeration about 11%.
A freezer is most energy efficient at between -15 and -18 degrees. Keep your fridge between 2 and 4 degrees. Fridges and freezers work best when full.
When buying new appliances, look out for the star rating sticker. This shows how much energy (in kWh hours) the appliance uses in a year. From this it is easy to calculate the annual energy cost. For example, if the sticker says 433 kWh, and energy costs say 25 cents a kWh (check your last power bill to see how much you are paying), then the annual costs will be $108.25 a year (433 x $0.25). Most appliances have a ten-year life so the life-time cost would be $1,082, which may be as much or more than the purchase price and should be taken into account when buying appliances.
A number of readers have suggestions for teenagers. One writes, “Teenagers just love a long hot shower and time passes quickly when you’re having fun. To encourage the family to become more economical with expensive hot water conduct family experiments to agree on the number of minutes needed for a reasonable shower. Place a windup kitchen minute timer on the bathroom window sill. If earning teenagers crave more time they could pop 50 cents in a bathroom piggy bank for a double length shower.”
Tom says, “The best power saving tip for me was rather than charging working kids board, give them the power bill to pay!”