See how much you could save on power. Upload a recent bill and get a free estimate.

See how much you could save on power. Upload a recent bill and get a free estimate.

 

When it's cold at home, some of the more power conscious among us may be reaching for another layer to put on the first thing, but most of us think is ‘where is the heater and why isn’t it on right now?’ In the depths of winter, the home needs to stay comfortable so everyone can live happily and healthily. But how can you save money on these cold days, when it can feel like your power costs are skyrocketing? This guide has some suggestions for you.

Keep the home dry!

What so many homes miss is the importance of a dry environment and how this impacts your power costs. When a home is left to get damp and mouldy, it’s not only very unhealthy to all occupants, but makes heating the space much harder. Excess moisture in the air and on surfaces will make a room colder when the temperature drops. You can test this by running a dehumidifier in a bedroom and compare the room temperature before and after. Simply removing excess moisture might be enough to create a pleasant enough environment in your living space.

There are a number of ways to dry the home. The first, and free option is opening up the home on a clear day and letting natural air flow through to push out the old, damp air. Even on colder days this can help with the mould and moisture problem.

Next there’s a standalone dehumidifier. These units are plugged into the wall and suck out moisture in the air into a tank that you empty once it’s filled up. These units allow you to set different levels of humidity so you can control the amount of moisture they collect from the air. You don’t have to run them constantly, although the first time you run the unit in a damp room, you’ll likely get a full tank quite quickly.

The most sophisticated but ultimately cost-effective method is by having a ducted ventilation system in the home. If you don’t have one currently installed then there will be an upfront investment to get it put in. If there is one in place, get it serviced and start using this in your home. Ventilation systems do a number of things, including cycling clean dry air around the home and filtering out things like mould, spores, allergens and dust. Whilst these won’t guarantee your air is 100% pure, they’ll certainly make a difference. These systems don’t require a huge amount of power to run consistently across the year, but you’ll notice it in the feel of rooms and the lack of condensation on windows on cold days. 

Close off the home into sections

When you’re not airing out the home or trying to create some natural heat transfer. It can be cheaper to heat small spaces that you’re occupying vs. the entire home. The most straightforward way to do this is to sector off the home by closing doors. You may have to deal with some colder hallways and bathrooms, but the living area will be heated faster and cost less, as warm air doesn’t escape to other parts of the house.

Maintain a comfortable temperature

Creating a comfortable living space on a cold day isn’t so much about blasting really hot air as it is about preventing the temperature from dropping too low. Our optimal room temperature is often 18-20 degrees, which is less than many people set their heaters on. Look to keep a comfortable temperature with timed heating at the right level and you’ll find less need to blast the heat pump at full noise. Drying out the area is important for this, too.

Delay the washing and drying if you can

If the weather is really poor, consider whether or not you absolutely need to do the laundry today. It may be better to simply stockpile a bit of laundry and put washing through when you can dry garments on the line outside.

Dryers use quite a bit of power, often being rated from 1800 watts all the way up to 5000. A number of loads on a single day, and you’re going to start seeing that spike in your power usage.

Draw the curtains or blinds once the sun is gone

As important as it is to have natural daylight coming into the home, leaving the curtains or blinds open when it’s dark is needlessly putting pressure on your heating (and insulation) to do the heavy lifting. If you live in an older home without double glazing, this is as good as opening the window to let all your warm air out. Once the sun goes down, pull the blinds or curtains and retain that heat. And if you’ve got the option, ensure your curtains or blinds are thermally rated to keep this heat in.

Use appliances off peak (if you can)

Offpeak is an excellent way to save on power costs without having to buy equipment or actually reduce what you do use. If you’ve got a plan with your power retailer that gives you savings with altered time of use (for example, at Powershop, we call this Get Shifty), then you should consider how the household conducts its most energy demanding activities. Showers, using the oven, running the dishwasher and putting a washing load on are all things that you may be able to do ‘off peak’. This is an excellent option for households that work from home, work night shifts, or any other non-standard 9-5 job. You may still be able to make it work with a 9-5, you’ll just want to stay mindful of what you’re doing, and when.

Keep the hot water cylinder insulated and maintained

Hot water cylinders send the warm water through into your shower and basins. Unfortunately, many of these units get left to become old, faulty and inefficient. With some simple steps, you can make your hot water cylinder retain warm water for longer without needing electricity to heat it up again. Investigate hot water cylinder covers or ‘wraps’ that act as almost a thermal or sleeping bag for your cylinder.  

There’s also the need to keep your hot water cylinder up to date. Find a reputable plumber/electrician service that can come and check the unit is free from leaks, is working as it should and is providing an uninterrupted flow to your fixtures. They’ll be able to check for signs of wear and tear. If needed, they can replace parts or may suggest replacing the unit entirely. While this isn’t cheap, it is a reality that these units will reach their end of life at some point.

Put the timer on for showers

If you’ve read the Powershop guides and blogs before, you’ll know that we’re big supporters of shorter showers. Kiwis that spend 15 minutes in the shower in the morning are paying $1 or more each time. Most people only need a five minute shower to comfortably bathe for the day. If you’re in that category, then it might be worth timing the shower to prompt finishing it on time. Most of us don’t even realise the time that passes with a long shower, so there’s no reason why we should feel bad about putting our phone timer or an egg timer on.  

When the entire home reduces their average shower to five minutes a day, you’ll start to see this difference in your power bill. On cold days, many of us are inclined to spend longer than we need in the shower just to warm up. This is a really expensive way to get toasty! 

Dress for the occasion

While putting another layer on might be an old New Zealand cliche, it’s not bad advice if you’re battling to stay warm with just a T-shirt on. Thermal layering is an excellent choice for those days where it reaches into single digits. When you’re dressed for the conditions, your heating will go from excessive to sensible.

Check your power retailer plan is right for your usage in Winter

Big power bills are often a shock and prompt Kiwis to go looking for cheaper options. We’d encourage you to ask your retailer (whether that’s us or someone else) if your plan is best suited for those cold winter periods where your power needs are higher. It may be that you could be saving simply by making a change to your plan.  

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