Note: The information contained in this section offers general advice but is not a guarantee on specific level of power savings. For more information consult your power provider, or appliance manufacturer.
Our houses need power to run – that’s unavoidable. But are we being as smart as we can with how we use it? Saving power at home doesn’t need to be a big hassle. With some small changes it’s possible to cut back on our usage without compromising on comfort.
In the following sections you'll learn things like:
- How to make heating and cooling more efficient.
- Good household habits for power saving.
- Keeping a home maintained to reduce electricity usage.
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How do I save power at home?
There are lots of ways you can start saving power at home. Whether you’re on your own, flatting, a couple or an entire family, power saving doesn’t need to be a chore. According to 2018 research by the Electricity Authority, the average New Zealand home uses around 7,000 kWh a year. This varies by region across the country, but wherever you live, you’re probably keen to have a smaller power bill. Here are some ideas that could help reduce your energy usage.
6 ways to save electricity
Heating and cooling
Heating and cooling can be a big part of our power usage especially during cold snaps and heatwaves, which we seem to be getting more and more of these days! Here are some ways to conserve power while still keeping your home warm or cool.
Close off rooms and heat areas that are being used
It can be tempting to leave heaters on in rooms you’re planning to use later on, but it’s really inefficient use of power. Instead, shut the doors to the areas you are actually using and heat those rooms only.
Put heaters on a timer
If you’ve minimised draughts and heat loss points, it’s unlikely you’ll need to keep the heater on for the whole time you’re in a room. Set your heater or heat pump to run for a period of time that’s enough to heat the room consistently, then shut off for a period of time when the temperature is maintained. How long the on/off cycle needs to be will vary on your heating system.
Keep the house dry and ventilated
A dry, mould-free house is easier (and cheaper) to heat. If you have a ventilation system, this will help reduce dampness and keep heating costs down. Otherwise, consider using a dehumidifier to pull excess moisture out of the air. This will just need to be placed in the room you wish to dry out – and may fill up a few tanks! Read our section on insulation for more on keeping the home dry.
Pull the curtains
Curtains, provided they’re well lined and cover windows properly, are good at retaining temperature – for heating or air conditioning. During a heatwave, your heat pump/air conditioning may be competing with sunlight pouring directly into the room. If you don’t have double glazing, pulling curtains over for a period can help the AC cool the room down faster.
Open the windows!
This one’s really cheap to do. Opening the windows of your house should be done regularly to get fresh air though (and let any indoor pollutants like mould out). Depending on the temperature, opening the windows may be sufficient to cool down a house or room. Make a habit to open your windows every day (weather permitting) and you should feel the difference in air quality. By doing this, moisture should be removed and heating the house should become easier and cheaper.
Hot water usage typically has a big impact on our power bills, especially during winter. Here are some things to consider if you want to better conserve energy spent on hot water.
Take shorter showers
We know, a nice long hot shower is one of many ways Kiwis try to keep warm in the winter. But as far as power use goes, this is a super-expensive hobby. According to Energywise, a 15 minute shower costs $1. By reducing this down to just 5 minutes per person, the annual savings are considerable. Try to keep the rest of the home reasonably warm with some of our other energy efficient tips – so the shower is simply where you get clean not another (expensive) heating option.
Pull the plug on bathtime
Baths can be twice as expensive as showers – just think about the amount of hot water it takes to fill the tub! Once in a while for adults is okay – and baths for young kids tend to be much shallower using less hot water. But encourage the grown ups in the house to have short showers instead of a full tub.
Wrap the hot water cylinder
Check your hot water cylinder – if it’s not insulated there’s going to be some energy efficiency lost in heating your water. This wrap is available from the main home/DIY chains, usually at a reasonable price. The long-term savings are likely worth it.
Washing or shaving? Fill the basin
Running hot water in the basin while shaving or washing can lead to a lot of wasted hot water. Fill the basin up with hot water and use this to wet your flannel or razor – no difference to the final result, just energy savings!
Households are using more electronics than ever before – we’ve gone way beyond just having a TV and DVD player or games console. Personal devices like tablets, mobile phones, and computers are commonplace. Even with modern technology making good improvements in energy efficiency, in a home with multiple users the additional cost can be noticeable.
Turn TV off when not being used
It seems obvious, but our TVs are so often left on – almost as ‘background noise’. If the family’s eating dinner or no one is in the living room watching, switch off the TV and enjoy the quiet! While modern televisions are much more energy efficient than the old school CRT units, there’s still no need to waste power on a TV no one’s watching.
Power down (not sleep) home computers
It’s so easy to just leave our computers on and leave them to go into sleep mode. Desktop computers are constantly plugged in to the wall and receiving power. Laptops will be on and off charge throughout the day. Consider turning off computers completely when you don’t plan to use them for a while. Not only will this conserve power at home, but a fresh restart of a computer every so often can actually help it run better.
Charge mobile phones then unplug them
Get smarter with all plug-in chargers and equipment – turn them off at the wall and even remove the plugs entirely. Luckily mobile phone charging is generally quite low power consumption, but these too should be part of your ‘unplug when not using’ routine for personal electronic devices. Beyond this, you can use your mobile phone more efficiently by closing unused apps and turning brightness down: phone lasts longer, less charging needed.
Read more about appliances and their usage in our dedicated guide.
The kitchen’s a pretty power-hungry place. From cooking on the stove and oven to keeping food stored in the fridge and freezer, how this electrical equipment is used makes a real difference to your power bill.
Keep an eye on pre-heating and cooking times
Using the stove and oven requires a considerable amount of power, so you really don’t want to waste it by pre-heating longer than needed or leaving food cooking for longer than required.
Can the microwave do a good job instead?
Microwaves are more efficient than the oven or stovetop, so where possible use a microwave to cook at least part of the meal.
Don’t keep opening the oven door
Every time you open the oven door to check the roast, the unit loses heat and needs to work hard to heat back up again. This will cause more power to be used. Trust your cooking guides and recipe instructions and try to keep the door closed, looking through the window to check.
Use the right pan or pot for the job
If you’re only boiling a cup of peas, you don’t need a large pot. A large pot full of water will just take longer to bring to the boil. Also make sure you’re covering the element completely – any exposed part of the element not only wastes power, it can be dangerous.
Cook up a storm
If you’ve got free oven space, consider cooking more than one dish. Eat one, and refrigerate or freeze one to eat another day. Sure you’ll need to get your timings right for each dish, and ideally be cooking dishes with similar temperature requirements – but the savings on the home power bill will be icing on the cake.
Make sure your fridge/freezer is efficient and sealed
A badly sealed fridge means that cold air is escaping from your appliance when closed – meaning it has to work harder to maintain the set cold temperature. Regularly check the seal on your fridge and freezer doors and replace as soon as an issue is identified. When picking a new fridge, check the energy rating label for an indication on how efficient the unit will be.
Doing the laundry involves some large appliances – at the very least a washing machine, and often a dryer as well. Here are some ideas to help take the load off your electricity bill.
Put the washing machine on cold wash
A warm washing machine cycle can cost as much as one dollar. Cold washes are fine for most clothing – as always, check the garment label. For things like towels and non-delicates a cold wash with a decent detergent will usually be fine.
Hang clothes outside on the line or rack
It might be easier to take a washing load straight from washing machine into the dryer, but hanging clothes outside to dry is not only free but the clean air and sunlight will leave your clothes smelling fresh, dust-free and kill bacteria. Try to avoid hanging clothes inside as this can cause moisture build up in your home. The lack of air can make the clothes take a long time to dry which sometimes leads to musty, unclean-smelling clothes that’ll need another wash.
Keep dryer filters clean and secure
If poor weather’s made hanging clothes outside a no-go, you may want to use your dryer. Make sure that any lint filters are cleaned out before each use as this helps the dryer run properly. If your dryer is the type that is ducted to the outside, make sure this ventilation is operating properly with no gaps in airflow. If your dryer extracts moisture into a tank, be sure to empty this every time as well.
Wash and dry on the right cycle
Pick both wash and dry settings that do the job properly, but don’t spend time and power on large cycles for normal loads. Many machines have eco-settings but you may want to experiment with the options and consult the manufacturer’s manual.
An insulated house can reduce heating and cooling power costs considerably. While insulation does have an initial cost, the long-term savings and household comfort benefits should be enough to justify this. Here are some ideas on how insulation can help seal in some power savings.
Insulate the ceiling, floor, then walls
Ceiling insulation keeps a fair amount of warm air from escaping out the top of the house – or getting in during summer. Make sure installation is done safely, and you will start feeling your heating and cooling lasting much longer than before. After this, floor insulation can further help reduce heat escaping. Wall insulation is a much bigger undertaking and ideally happens during a build or wider renovation.
Look into double glazing
Double-glazed windows are a great way to stop heat escaping through windows and can drastically cut your heating energy costs. However, high quality, double-glazed panes can be expensive. You may want to consider putting double glazing in rooms that are highest priority and then working your way around the home gradually. Places like the living room and kids’ bedrooms are good places to start.
Maintain external cladding
Keep the outside of your house sealed and painted to prevent external weather elements from affecting your heating or cooling efficiency.
Getting the household into good habits of switching lights off in empty rooms will help save power at home. Using different types of bulbs and timers can help too.
Read more about managing your lighting usage in our dedicated guide.