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Electricity and energy

Appliances

  • There are conflicting thoughts on if it is better to switch off appliances rather than leave them on standby. Of course it depends on the type of appliance, use the "on/off" function on the machine itself. A TV set that's switched on for 3 hours a day (the average time Europeans spend watching TV) and in standby mode during the remaining 21 hours uses about 40% of its energy in standby mode. Now you can buy a multi plug that some how switches off all things connected to it using a remote? - Tony, Blenheim.

  • I save power by using a small fan forced bench top cooker instead of the big oven. I can cook a roast meal for 4 much more economically by not heating up that MASSIVE oven most of us have in our kitchens. The small bench top oven heats faster using less power too. Slow cookers also are a great way to cook a lot of food at once inexpensively. - Tex, Christchurch.

  • Turn off appliances at the wall. Appliances with a memory still use quite a bit of power so don't use the remote to turn off the TV or stereo. Other appliances that draw current are ovens, microwaves, videos, washing machines and dryers. - O.R.

     
  • My television corner is a jungle of appliances most of which have external transformers and/or standby options which gobble electricity whether I'm using them or not. I plug them all into a multi-socket power board which in turn plugs into a single wall socket. When I'm not viewing I just turn off the wall socket and the whole lot shuts down. Turn on the wall socket and all the appliances wake up again. The only useful thing I lose is the clock setting on my VCR, which only takes a minute to reset on the rare occasions I forward plan a recording. By the way, a power board with surge protection will also protect your equipment from power surges which may start to occur if power supplies become less reliable in the future. - Peter Cox, North Shore City.

  • Calculate the energy cost of your household appliances. See Energywise >>> 

Battteries

  • I have discovered a method of extracting the maximum amount of use from this little Penlite cell AA batteries which power small pocket radios, torches and TV remotes. In radios, when these batteries weaken reception becomes faint and distorted and it becomes necessary to replace them. Up until the tie of my discovery I simply threw hem out. Not any more! Even though they don’t have enough energy to provide decent radio reception they still have enough juice left to keep a battery-powered electric clock going for months and months. When the clock does eventually stop months later, the battery can then fairly be considered exhausted and of no further use! My only problem with this has been that I have more half-drained AA batteries presently in hand than I have clocks to put them in! – M.C.

Bed

  • I have a lightweight polar fleece throw rug that's sometimes on my bed, or on the couch - or on the floor. One night I was cold in bed, but I didn't want to get out of bed to find another blanket or fill a hottie. Instead, I dragged the throw into the bed with me and sort of cocooned myself in it. It was amazingly effective -- I warmed up in a minute or two and stayed cosy all night. I think it works because my body heat is trapped really close to my body instead of having to warm the whole bed -I certainly notice a difference in temperature in the rest of the bed. I've also found that if I drag the fleece blanket from on top of the bed to between the sheets, I'm warmer. If you're cold in bed and you have a fleece throw, try it. And if you're cold but have no more blankets to put on the bed, try putting one of the blankets between the sheets instead. – Anne, Christchurch.

Bubble wrap (on windows)

  • I have put up bubble wrap on my bedroom windows. It needs blue tac. On a window that is not important to the outside look it seems to work well and there is no condensation to worry about. Mind you that moisture probably condenses somewhere else. I shall put up more this winter. - Jim, Pukekohe

  • Adding to the bubble wrap phenomenon, we bought a huge 30 metre roll of bubble wrap for $16.00 at Mitre 10 Mega along with foam tape for lining the window joins in our damp, draughty rental. Apparently the demand for Bubble wrap has been overwhelming. Kiwi ingenuity at it's very best! - Norelle Owen, Christchurch.

  • In response to your article about keeping warm in winter I would like to share my enthusiasm for bubble wrap. It simply sticks on a window with a little water. It is amazing what a big difference it makes to the temperature in the house. If your lucky you can find free bubble wrap (some businesses receive their goods in it and throw it away), but it is not too expensive at stationary retailers. On frosted windows it is hardly visible. On windows with a view (such as the living room) I put it up when I draw the curtains and take it down again in the morning. I am very very happy with it. – Lisa, Whakatane.

  • I just saw your column in The Star, mentioning bubble wrap for window insulation. The contributor recommended sticking the wrap to the window with a little water. I tried that, but found it fiddly. They also mentioned stationery stores as a source for bubble wrap, but if you buy it there you're paying over 4 times the wholesale price. I ended up buying a roll of JUMBO bubble wrap, plus 2 rolls of 2" wide clear packing tape and dispenser from a packaging supply company for around $100. This was enough to do an entire 4 bedroom house and garage with enough left over for my brother to steal to do a few rooms in his house. You do it on a fine day so there is less humidity at the time (after washing the windows and surrounds the day before) and after tacking the bubble wrap up with a piece of tape in each corner, you tape all the edges to the aluminium window frame to create a sealed unit. Before doing this, our heat pump couldn't keep up with the energy loss through the windows. Now, the major cold soak is the walls and floor, and the heat pump has no trouble warming the house to a comfortable temperature. The $100 spent was paid back in no time and the landlord doesn't have to put up with our whining about the cold house. Bonus - hardly any condensation - it only appears on the aluminium part of the window. Best $100 I ever spent. Do it! – A.G., Christchurch.

  • I'm a huge fan of insulation. A well-insulated home traps free winter Sun so you don't need much heating on sunny days, and reduces the cost of heating on those days when the Sun doesn't do it for you. Insulation also lets you enjoy life more as you're no longer living within a 2m radius of the heater. Roof, floor and wall insulation can be a big deal though, and even with govt help, requires a significant financial outlay. Double glazing is even more expensive and the payback time is over a decade. But covering the windows in bubble wrap or plastic film, while temporary, is cheap and amazingly effective.

  • Lisa from Whakatane sticks bubble wrap on the window glass. Bubble wrap is the product of choice for any window you don't often look through. Holding it onto glass with water is quick and will come away cleanly. A more effective method, if you don't mind a bit of a clean-up job afterwards, is to use sellotape (or even masking tape if you're worried about the surface but don't mind the look) to attach the bubble wrap to the frame. The aim is to create an air gap between the bubble wrap and the glass of 1–2 cm. More is OK, but a greater distance doesn't improve matters any. The air gap works exactly the same as it does in thousand-dollar double glazing. Yes, that's what the bubbles are for in bubble wrap, but this way you get double the insulation. Make sure you completely seal the wrap to the window though, otherwise it doesn't work. Another advantage to sealing the window with bubble wrap is that you seal off any leaks around the window frame.

 The disadvantage with this method is that you won't be able to open the window. I had three windows I wanted to insulate but also open. They are aluminium windows, so at first I thought I'd just stick my plastic (not bubble wrap, but I'll get to that later) to the frame of the window, but that would've only made a 5 mm gap which wouldn't be enough. So what I did was buy some foam from Para Rubber and cut it into 1 cm wide strips. My foam was 5mm. I made a double layer stuck onto the glass at the bottom of the window, and then put a single layer around the rest of the frame all stuck on with double-sided sellotape. Then I put my plastic on top and trimmed off the excess. Now I have an insulated window that doesn't look too geeky, works brilliantly (you just have to touch the surface to tell it's working: it feels warm, not cold), and I can open the window.  

But bubble wrap is not acceptable when you want to see through the window. I bought a new mattress a few months ago. It came wrapped in thick, clear plastic. If you wanted a free window covering, that plastic would work and let you see out of it. You'd need to pull it firm to maintain that air gap -- and for maximum visual clarity too. If it's warm to touch, it's working.

I didn't use mattress plastic though. I paid for the genuine product. What you get is a thin, transparent film and tape. The film is high-tech, 'cause after you put it up you play heat from a hair drier or fan heater over it and it tightens. If you've done a good job in putting it up, the result is almost invisible and definitely see-through. But -- my system of lining my windows with foam first caused some problems when I tightened the film. The foam is flexible, so it pulled in, and pulled away from the window, once the film tightened. I had to modify my system by using wide, clear tape on the foam lining before sticking on the film. Then I used extra wide, clear tape on top of the film to stop it pulling away. And finally, I used the heat sparingly, trying to keep the tension on the film to a minimum. I think it would have been better to frame my windows with something stiff, like wood, but I'm not a carpenter and I had the tape. To finish, I strongly recommend window insulation for every room in the house. Start with those rooms that get winter sun. When those rooms are insulated during the day, the winter sun warms the room up and it stays warm. The difference can be really dramatic. When it's 7 or 8 °C outside on a sunny day, my study gets to 27 °C or more quite regularly with no extra heating. And it stays warm in the evening without any additional heating. – Anne, Christchurch

Cooking

  • My Mum never ever turned the oven on to just cook one thing. So when there was a casserole etc. on the bottom rungs, there was always a cake or date loaf or pudding on the top ones. I now do the same and even if I'm making scones, I whip the temperature down as soon as they're cooked and then in goes a lasagne/stew/macaroni cheese and then a cake or two. Once cooled into the freezer they go. - GVP, Waipu

  • If you have a wood burner with a cook-top, place a portable fish smoker on top. Cut vegetables to size, season and place on the rack. Place on top of the fire box and voila, healthy roast vegetables. - Fibertrix, Hokitika.

  • I also have 2 single burner gas camping stoves I use them for simmering things and quick fry items. - Helen, Sunshine Coast Qld.

  • To cut down on cooking costs make "one-pot" meals or use a steamer on top of the frying pan or sauce pan. Steamed vegies are much healthier too. - M.N.

Electricity costs

  • Check out www.whatsmynumber.org.nz to see if you can get a cheaper deal on your power. Power companies constantly change their prices and you may find a cheaper company who won't lock you in to a contract. - Lucie, Wellington.

  • A reader from Northland says, “I recently became aware of PowerSwitch.  It took me a couple of minutes to see that by switching to another suppliers I could cut my electricity bill by about $900 a year. It’s a big saving because we are big electricity users, but it’s better in our pocket than theirs!" The Powerswitch site can be found at www.powerswitch.co.nz

Freezers

  • A freezer is most energy efficient at between -15 degrees celcius and -18 degrees.
  • Freezers work best when full.

Fridges

  • If your seal has started to go on your fridge simply change the direction the door opens. Most of them are able to be adjusted to the other side for left or right handed opening. Our fridge seal needed replaced at the cost of $120.I asked hubby to try this idea first and it worked. Door has excellent suction and closes fine. - S.J., Dunedin.

Margaret Hore from Tauranga says, "I would like to inform SJ Dunedin that changing her Fridge door from right to left may help her seal, but the modern day fridges come with right hand door openings and unless you order a left hand door opening fridge from the factory, it costs $400.00 to change it.  I have experienced it."

While changing our fridge door from left opening to right opening, as suggested by S.J. of Dunedin, I discovered that the bottom of the door is an exact copy of the top, therefore (hopefully) should be able to be turned upside, down giving the seals 2 more lives when they start going again. - L.M., Te Puke.

  • Keep your fridge between 2 degree celcius and 4 degrees. It is most energy efficient at that level.
  • Check that the fridge seals are tight.
  • Fridges work best well full.
  • Thaw frozen food in the fride. It cools the fridge.

Firewood & fires

  • When cleaning your wood box out, or cleaning your wood shed, shovel all remaining bits of wood etc onto newspaper then wrap up. This can be placed into your fire when lighting it or as a quick fire boost. – PR, Kawerau.

  • The local tip on the Concorse, you go in and can fill your car up with as much wood as you want and it's all free. - M.M, Waitakere City.

  • We get free fire wood from our local mill (one might be able to barter for off-cuts). Ask & you should get. - Paul & Julie Funnell

  • One tip that came up a couple of times in the book concerned me: free fire wood from building sites.  I think you need to include a warning about treated timber (health risk and will burn out your fire box quickly).  On most building sites there is very little suitable for burning. -  Tom (Thank you for that Tom, you make a very good point about burning treated timber,  - Oily Rag ed')

Fireplaces

  • Prevent drafts by closing up fireplaces that are seldom or never used.

  • Keep the backs of fireplaces clean to better project heat out into a room.

General

  • Members of Grey Power can get cheaper electricity from www.greypowerelectricity.co.nz. From what we can see, Grey Power has done a deal with Pulse Energy a power retailer. The website does not give any examples of the savings but they do make the promise of “low prices, price protection and additional discount options”. To gain these benefits you do need to be a Grey Power member, which costs $20 a year. - Tony, Blenheim 

  • Our energy supplier has an online energy usage daily breakdown you can check, I knew we had an issue with our hot water cylinder so checked it over the course of a week and made the decision to turn off the hot water in the morning when wake up and turn it back on at night and wow did it make a difference, also can help to see what your bill will be roughly at the end of the month as can calculate the units and see previous bill for per unit costs so you wont get any surprises and helps you to save the money in the meantime if you check it on a weekly basis. - H.N., Christchurch.

Heating

  • Get a ceiling fan installed in the room where the fire is. This will increase the comfort level of the room. Most of the heat gets trapped up on the ceiling and the fan will circulate it and increase the room temperature at foot level quite considerably. – G.B.

Hot water
 

  • My man explained the hot water cylinder to me in not so technical language. It’s the same principle has a pot on the stove. If you start with cold water you have to turn your stove up high to get the water boiling, but when its there you can turn it down to the lowest setting and keep it simmering. When you turn off your hot water cylinder the water cools down so the cylinder has to work on full power to get it hot as quick as possible - this uses more power than the "simmer" function of leaving the cylinder on all the time. We turn our cylinder off if we go a away for 3 nights or more. – JJ, Waikouaiti.

  • I placed quartz random-shaped beads into my shower head. It works wonders because now I only need to turn the tap on a little to still have a good shower. - SN Invercargill.

  • If you have a mains cylinder fit a 350kpa limiting valve instead of the normal 500kpa. You will barely notice the difference but will save lots of water in the shower. A high flow shower head will more than offset the felt loss of pressure and all valves will operate as normal. – Mike, Auckland.

  • I have turned my hot water cylinder off every morning at 7am and then turn it back on at 11pm or what ever time you go to bed have been doing it for ten years, reason I had one of those kiwisaver put on my other house, and was angry I could not move it to my new house, rang power board and it was someone there that told me it would be the same thing if I turn it of and on at those times, and my power bill has never been over $150 a month, used to be $120 but power goes up. I also turn things in my house off at the wall and that saves power also. - Tydalelady, Tauranga.

  • I live in public housing and only have a 60 litre HWS but that is a very expensive small heater as it has instant or rapid recovery heating meaning that as water goes out it comes back in and heats. I turn my HWS off all day until 40 minutes before I have my shower at night. If you have a 125ltr or larger tank you would possibly be better off not to turn it off as the larger tanks store water and keep it at the desired temp. You can also lower the temperature it heats to as well. Always use cold water for washing clothes unless they are greasy oily. Only dry clothes in a dryer on warm. If yr HWS is in a cupboard hang stuff in there. HWS do throw out a lot of heat in a cupboard, why waste it. - Old dame, Mooloolaba Queensland Australia.

  • I have a large 6ltr teapot sitting on our wood burner during winter. It heats up to boiling in less than an hour and much quicker if I have it sitting directly on firebox. Woodsman Ebony are good. We use hot water for doing dishes and cups of tea and I have used it for a Filipino shower (warm water in a bucket with a scoop, get wet, soapy up, rinse off. Also the teapot is still warm in the morning after the fire going out over night so adds a few degrees to the inside temperature. A large pot with a tight fitting lid would do the same job but a bit harder to carry and pour. – Marty, Christchurch.

  • I been using my pot belly fire place for cooking and boiling water for my teas & coffees it does well. – Lmalc, Wellington.

  • Instead of wrapping prehistoric electrical cylinders to save some energy, the whole of NZ should be looking at instantaneous gas heaters for hot water. More than 75% of NZ buildings use electricity for hot water, space heating and cooking... which is very inefficient and makes many households vulnerable because energy prices have risen more than 60% in last 10 years. The cheapest way to produce hot water is the combination of a solar hot water system + gas califont in series. If the SHW is state of the art you will save over 70 % on your energy bill .Unfortunately not many solar systems in NZ are state of the art so be careful before you buy! There is a reason for the scepticism towards solar energy in NZ because of ongoing quality and performance issues! - Eric, Kaiwaka.

  • Tamzin from Auckland has been trying to save power by switching off their hot water cylinder at night. “I am very keen to find out the real deal re hot water savings. I too can check daily usage online -BUT after alternating off/on for the hot water cylinder am now using MORE power. This does not make sense to me or my provider. I have tried on at 6pm and off at 9am, but there seems to be a meter reading surge once the power is switched back on the cylinder. Anyone know what's going on? I need to get this sorted to stop wasting power when not needed.” C to help Tamzin.

    Good question. The answer seems to come down to a trade off between the daily cost of keeping the water in the cylinder up to temperature, and the one-off cost to bring the cylinder back up to temperature when it is turned on again. A factor is the type of cylinder you have. Modern hot water cylinders have a higher R-value and cool down at a slower rate than those with a lower R-value. In other words, the lower the R-value, the more benefit to be gained from turning off your cylinder because the greater the cost of maintaining the water temperature when it is on (but a greater benefit would be gained by wrapping an old cylinder).

    One could get pretty technical about this and quote Newton’s Law of Cooling but all said and done, the Oily Rag Rule of Thumb is that if you have a modern cylinder its not likely to be worth your while unless you are heading away for about a week. 

    The best way to save money on hot water is to wrap cylinders that have a low R-value, set the thermostat temperature below 60 degrees, fix leaky taps and faulty valves, and use low flow shower heads.  

  • I found that if I turn on my hot water at night when I  go to bed, and turn it off in the morning when I get up (about 7am) I saved about $80.00 on my power bill each month! - frugalite from Hamilton

  • Hot water accounts for at least a third of your power bill.  I bought a shower timer on Trade Me for $18 and have reduced our power bill by $100 a month. We no longer have an excessive $300+ bill per month!- Mackie, Auckland.

  • Oily Rag has some very good tips on saving hot water costs which inspired me to check my hot water cylinder. I found it to be very well insulated but there's a one meter long copper pipe coming out of it which is always too hot to touch. The heat loss from this pipe must waste a lot of electricity over time. Anyway, I was just about to throw out two old pillows but instead I've tied them around this pipe with some old rope. It will be interesting to see if this rather crude insulation has any impact on my electricity bill. I'll let you know.  - Peter Cox, North Shore City.

  • I'm a single person household. So I found out years ago I could save $20 per month, by only having the hot water cylinder on for 1 hour per day. This is not enough to heat the entire cylinder to the thermostat temperature, but say only half. Of course hot water rises from the bottom to the top where the outlet is, and the temperature is hot enough to shower with, wash hands etc (adjust the shower rose as they premix cold). The dishwasher and washing machine only use cold which they heat to the required temp, and the cylinder is thus not diminished. And if I use some hot water from the tap, the cylinder fills cold to the bottom where it stays as a cold layer, and without the heater on it doesn't mix  with the existing  water. This would only work with one to two persons households , who can discipline themselves to turn the cylinder on and off every evening (sometimes you need longer if ripple control is used in winter). Ideally a timer, would be best to turn at say at 3 to 4am for a hour so its hottest for morning. But I don't think domestic timers can handle the 3kW heaters, and need an electrician to install the timer. - SLC, Auckland.

  • For Mr & Mrs Normal, hot water accounts for over 40% of their electricity bill. Make sure the thermostat on your hot water cylinder is not set too high. 60 degree Celsius (150 to 160 Fahrenheit) is sufficient but some can take it lower. If you hot water cylinder is losing heat (that is, it is warm to touch) look at adding insulation and ensure all hot water pipes are well lagged.

  • A wetback in a fireplace or chip heater is an excellent way of heating your hot water while you are heating your home. Install a valve to avoid back cooling in summer.

  • I take my children swimming once every week and we all wash our hair using the showers at the pools. Very rarely do we have to wash our hair at home and they never make a fuss of it like they do at home either. When I was working (before children) I always made use of the shower facilities at work and hardly ever had to shower at home! – M.M.

  • For a saving on the electricity account I always fill a thermos flask with boiling water, and use it to rinse a few dishes or have handy in the bathroom for use in the hand basin. Saves the wastage of cold water waiting for the hot water to reach the basin. - D.K.

  • For years I have used the hot water left in the jug to fill up my thermos flask and use it to rinse dishes, as I only do the dishes 2 or 3 times a week, now that I live by myself. – J.O. Christchurch

  • A Whangarei reader says educate your family to use the cold tap for washing hands, the odd rinse etc. The hot water does not usually reach the tap before it is turned off and that wastes heat.

Heaters

  • Use a timer on oil heaters. Have it turn the heater on a couple of hours before you get up in the morning. That will mean you can cut the cost in half. - O.R.
  • Reflectors in heaters should be kept clean and bright.

Kitchen

  • Match the size of your pan to the size of your element. Puddings can be steamed over boiling vegetables.

  • Turn the oven off 10 to 15 minutes before serving the meal – the stored heated will complete the cooking.

  • Some appliances are more efficient than others. A microwave and a pressure cooker, for example, save energy by cooking food quickly. Use them when you can.

  • Use a thermos flask to cook. Fill the flask with boiling water; add diced vegetables and chopped meat pieces and leave to cook. This is a great way to prepare hot food for picnics.

Lighting

  • I use candles for lighting around the house saves heaps of money [hey, but be careful about the fire risk! Remeber the great fire of London (which was actually srated from a bakers oven but get my point!) - ed]. I use family members washing machine [hope they don't mind paying! - ed] - LM, Kapiti coast

  • Lighting accounts for about 5% of the electricity bill, but turn off lights when not needed. We know of on person who goes a little further. To cut costs he uses 40wt bulbs. When he wants to read the newspaper he changes the bulb to 100wt, then changes it back once he has finished reading!

  • Clean your light bulbs, and use florescent bulbs – although they cost a little more, they use less energy. Use low wattage bulbs in non-work areas.

Showers

  • 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. - Dorothy, Whangarei.

Space heating

  • I bought a great draught excluder yesterday. It's double sided so you just slide it under the door and it stays there when you open or shut the door. Less than $10 from a local hardware store. Have noticed a huge difference - no more cold air on my feet in the evenings. - Niki, Christchurch.

  • Do you have an unused open fireplace? Get a couple of supermarket shopping bags and fill them with crumpled up newspaper, then stuff them into the chimney. A great way of insulating and if you want to use the fireplace just pull them out.”  - Ed, Wanganui. A word of warning: Do remember to remove the stuffing before starting the fire! [oily rag ed]

  • We have recently lined the existing curtains in our house with new woollen blankets from the army surplus shop. The blankets are folded double and stitched together making an open ended bag which is then attached to the curtain at the top so that the completed article consists of three layers, being the original curtain and two thicknesses of woollen blanket. This has increased the average temperature in the house appreciably by reducing the heat loss through the glass. We believe this to be far more cost effective than double glazing. Our only heating is wood fires. We got enough blankets to do the whole of a three bedroom house plus a sleep-out for $500 from the retail store of kiwidisposals.co.nz in Christchurch. Their range of stock varies but it's always worth a look. I believe they also have a store in Auckland. - K.W., Romahapa.

  • It costs plenty to heat the air in your home, so don’t waste it. In colder climates the winter heating bill can be horrendous. Just under half (42% on average to be exact) of all household heat is lost through the ceiling, so insulate this first. Many older homes have no insulation at all. In others, the insulation is inadequate – either because earlier building requirements specified only a thin layer, or because the insulation material may have shrunk of shifted. Ceiling insulation material needs to be 100mm to 150mm thick to be effective. It also needs to be airtight, so there are no sneaky leaks.

  • Walls account for 24% of lost heat, but there are more difficult to insulate unless you are building a new home or extensively renovating. One way to insulate is to use gib board to reline the interior walls.

  • Raised wooden floors can also be a problem. It is estimated that 12% of heat loss is through the floor. Wood fiber insulation board and floor coverings are an effective way of minimizing heat loss through the floor. Another alternative is to fit insulation below the floor – cardboard can be stapled between floor joists, creating an insulated layer of air.

  • Eliminate draughts around windows and floors. Well-made, full-length curtains or thermal drapes are a simple answer to heat loss through windows. Thick, heavy fabrics are the most efficient. Light materials should be lined. Because a lot of air is lost around the edges, the curtains should extend 150mm on each side, and below the base of the window. A full pelmet is recommended. Heavy drapes are more heat efficient than blinds. About 12% of the heat of a household is lost through windows. Scout around for a cheap material that could save on your heating costs.

  • Making your own “stop draught sausages” can eliminate door draughts. This is a fabric sausage filled with sand or sawdust. These sneaky heat hounds develop a personality of their own by adding buttons as eyes (an excellent family project).

  • Leaky window and door joinery can be sealed with sealants or a self-adhesive foam strip.

  • Close up rooms that are not use din wintertime. Close up fireplaces that are seldom or never used.

  • In really cold climates, consider double-glazing windows and glass doors. The investment will pay for itself by reducing heating costs (and for those situated in noisy environments it will deal to that problem as well).

  • A wood burning coal range or potbelly stove is a cheap way to heat your home and a great way to save on cooking costs.

  • Warm a bed rather than a bedroom. Electric blankets are very cheap to run and hot water bottles even cheaper.

  • A think layer of newspaper under mats keeps the room warmer in winter and makes the carpet last longer.

  • I have a heat pump but it does not cost me much to run as I also have a DVS which blows the warm air from the roof space down to dry and warm my home. I also have a solar panel to heat the water. My bill averages $80 over the year, last one was $57. For a 3 bedroom house with 2 adults. I have calculated a saving of approx $500 a year from the DVS and solar so it does not take long to pay for itself, especially the way power prices are going. Each time they increase the rates I figure how to use less. - Canny Scot, Christchurch

  • Saving fuel costs. For those with a wood burner or pellet heater: Install a small swivelling fan high up in a corner of the room. It will drive warm air down to where you need it most and, if you like, into adjoining rooms. - Thirties depression baby, Auckland.

Standby power

  • There are conflicting thoughts on if it is better to switch off appliances rather than leave them on standby. Of course it depends on the type of appliance, use the "on/off" function on the machine itself. A TV set that's switched on for 3 hours a day (the average time Europeans spend watching TV) and in standby mode during the remaining 21 hours uses about 40% of its energy in standby mode. Now you can buy a multi plug that some how switches off all things connected to it using a remote? - Tony, Blenheim.

  • Plug all of your tv, dvd, sky, freeview etc devices into a plug gang behind. When you go to bed, turn the one switch off at the wall and all those annoying power hungry devices that would normally be on standby 24/7 will be off when you don't want them. One flick of the switch when you want to use them will fire the whole lot up again. Say Bye Bye to Standby! - D.H., Howick.

Towel rails

  • I have a heated towel rail, but never use it! In winter, I place my bath towels in the airing cupboard overnight, they're still warm and bone dry when I use them the next morning. Luxury! – Karen, Palmerston North

Washing

  • A cold water wash in the washing machine costs about 10% of the cost of a hot water wash. - O.R.
  • Don’t use a washing machine or dryer unnecessarily. Wait until you have a full load to wash. Whenever possible, let Mother Nature do your drying. If you do use a dryer, don’t over fill it.

  • When buying a washing machine consider a suds saver. They wash many loads and reuse water and soap powder. Use washing water to kill aphids and garden bugs on roses and other outdoor plants.

Windows

  • Adding to the bubble wrap phenomenon, we bought a huge 30 metre roll of bubble wrap for $16.00 at Mitre 10 Mega along with foam tape for lining the window joins in our damp, draughty rental. Apparently the demand for Bubble wrap has been overwhelming. Kiwi ingenuity at it's very best! - Norelle Owen, Christchurch.

  • In response to your article about keeping warm in winter I would like to share my enthusiasm for bubble wrap. It simply sticks on a window with a little water. It is amazing what a big difference it makes to the temperature in the house. If your lucky you can find free bubble wrap (some businesses receive their goods in it and throw it away), but it is not too expensive at stationary retailers. On frosted windows it is hardly visible. On windows with a view (such as the living room) I put it up when I draw the curtains and take it down again in the morning. I am very very happy with it. – Lisa, Whakatane.

  • I just saw your column in The Star, mentioning bubble wrap for window insulation. The contributor recommended sticking the wrap to the window with a little water. I tried that, but found it fiddly. They also mentioned stationery stores as a source for bubble wrap, but if you buy it there you're paying over 4 times the wholesale price. I ended up buying a roll of JUMBO bubble wrap, plus 2 rolls of 2" wide clear packing tape and dispenser from a packaging supply company for around $100. This was enough to do an entire 4 bedroom house and garage with enough left over for my brother to steal to do a few rooms in his house. You do it on a fine day so there is less humidity at the time (after washing the windows and surrounds the day before) and after tacking the bubble wrap up with a piece of tape in each corner, you tape all the edges to the aluminium window frame to create a sealed unit. Before doing this, our heat pump couldn't keep up with the energy loss through the windows. Now, the major cold soak is the walls and floor, and the heat pump has no trouble warming the house to a comfortable temperature. The $100 spent was paid back in no time and the landlord doesn't have to put up with our whining about the cold house. Bonus - hardly any condensation - it only appears on the aluminium part of the window. Best $100 I ever spent. Do it! – A.G., Christchurch.

  • I'm a huge fan of insulation. A well-insulated home traps free winter Sun so you don't need much heating on sunny days, and reduces the cost of heating on those days when the Sun doesn't do it for you. Insulation also lets you enjoy life more as you're no longer living within a 2m radius of the heater. Roof, floor and wall insulation can be a big deal though, and even with govt help, requires a significant financial outlay. Double glazing is even more expensive and the payback time is over a decade. But covering the windows in bubble wrap or plastic film, while temporary, is cheap and amazingly effective.

  • Lisa from Whakatane sticks bubble wrap on the window glass. Bubble wrap is the product of choice for any window you don't often look through. Holding it onto glass with water is quick and will come away cleanly. A more effective method, if you don't mind a bit of a clean-up job afterwards, is to use sellotape (or even masking tape if you're worried about the surface but don't mind the look) to attach the bubble wrap to the frame. The aim is to create an air gap between the bubble wrap and the glass of 1–2 cm. More is OK, but a greater distance doesn't improve matters any. The air gap works exactly the same as it does in thousand-dollar double glazing. Yes, that's what the bubbles are for in bubble wrap, but this way you get double the insulation. Make sure you completely seal the wrap to the window though, otherwise it doesn't work. Another advantage to sealing the window with bubble wrap is that you seal off any leaks around the window frame.

 The disadvantage with this method is that you won't be able to open the window. I had three windows I wanted to insulate but also open. They are aluminium windows, so at first I thought I'd just stick my plastic (not bubble wrap, but I'll get to that later) to the frame of the window, but that would've only made a 5 mm gap which wouldn't be enough. So what I did was buy some foam from Para Rubber and cut it into 1 cm wide strips. My foam was 5mm. I made a double layer stuck onto the glass at the bottom of the window, and then put a single layer around the rest of the frame all stuck on with double-sided sellotape. Then I put my plastic on top and trimmed off the excess. Now I have an insulated window that doesn't look too geeky, works brilliantly (you just have to touch the surface to tell it's working: it feels warm, not cold), and I can open the window.  

But bubble wrap is not acceptable when you want to see through the window. I bought a new mattress a few months ago. It came wrapped in thick, clear plastic. If you wanted a free window covering, that plastic would work and let you see out of it. You'd need to pull it firm to maintain that air gap -- and for maximum visual clarity too. If it's warm to touch, it's working.

I didn't use mattress plastic though. I paid for the genuine product. What you get is a thin, transparent film and tape. The film is high-tech, 'cause after you put it up you play heat from a hair drier or fan heater over it and it tightens. If you've done a good job in putting it up, the result is almost invisible and definitely see-through. But -- my system of lining my windows with foam first caused some problems when I tightened the film. The foam is flexible, so it pulled in, and pulled away from the window, once the film tightened. I had to modify my system by using wide, clear tape on the foam lining before sticking on the film. Then I used extra wide, clear tape on top of the film to stop it pulling away. And finally, I used the heat sparingly, trying to keep the tension on the film to a minimum. I think it would have been better to frame my windows with something stiff, like wood, but I'm not a carpenter and I had the tape. To finish, I strongly recommend window insulation for every room in the house. Start with those rooms that get winter sun. When those rooms are insulated during the day, the winter sun warms the room up and it stays warm. The difference can be really dramatic. When it's 7 or 8 °C outside on a sunny day, my study gets to 27 °C or more quite regularly with no extra heating. And it stays warm in the evening without any additional heating. – Anne, Christchurch

Teenagers

  • When your teenagers have jobs and are still living with you, get them to pay the monthly power bill in lieu of a board payment. It is powerful (excuse the pun) motivation to turn off lights and heaters and have short showers. The more power they can save, the more money in their pockets at the end of the month. They will probably start policing other family members' power use too. - Nana of five, Rotorua.

Towel rails

  • Turn off towel rails when the towels are dry. This will cut down the power usage by about half. - O.R.
 

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