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These suggestions are general and may not apply to your specific household or power usage habits. For more information about saving electricity, head over to our dedicated guide.

 We’re not going to judge - everyone’s been guilty of bad power usage habits. The good news is that, with just a few behaviour changes, your power bill could be substantially less. Just think about what you could do with an extra $10, $20, $50 a week in the budget.

 In this article we’re going to touch on the big items only - if you sort a few of these out in your household, there’s a very good chance you’ll notice it in the next power bill’s usage data.

Mistake 1: Taking ‘extended’ showers

What better place to start than first thing in the morning? Power use is at its peak between 7am and 9:30am, according to usage data. Showers are a large part of the higher demand for energy in the morning. Now we’ll cut you a bit of slack here - most of us take showers as we’re still waking up, so our power saving mindset might not be its best. It's worth thinking about it though, because a leisurely 15-minute shower can cost $1 and even more if the temperature is cranked right up. A family of four taking 15-minute showers each could cost more than $1,500 a year. Imagine cutting down to five minutes - which is all most of us really need to get adequately clean most days - and you’ve suddenly created an extra $1000 in the family budget. If you ask us, that’s worth making the habit change for!

 

Here are some easy ways to keep that shower time and cost down:

  • Don’t turn the shower on and then do something time consuming while it heats up - most showers should take 30 seconds to be at the desired temperature.
  • Set up an egg timer for five minutes - it can be hard keeping track without one!
  • Does anyone in the household keep irregular hours, maybe doing shift work or working from home?– If that’s you, consider taking a shower outside of peak time to save money.
  • Is your hot water cylinder serviced and insulated? Look into getting it assessed and, if possible, wrapped by a certified professional - this can reduce heat escaping through the cylinder, allowing for more efficient hot water usage in the shower.
  • Look at getting a water-efficient shower head that disperses water effectively but sparingly. Older style shower heads often use more water for no noticeable benefit.
  • If you’re worried about pressure, look at heads that have aeration - pushing air through the stream to simulate a high-pressure water flow.
  • Check the temperature of your water cylinder is within a safe, sensible level. Hot water that is too high in temperature isn’t just dangerous, it can use more power than needed for a comfortable hot shower.

So, when it comes to showering: time down + temperature down = costs saved!

Mistake 2: Preheating the oven for way too long

Cooking dinner comes at the same time as people are getting in the door from work, kids are finishing homework and beginning to run riot through the house - there’s no shortage of distractions between 5-7pm each day. Unfortunately, this means Kiwis often turn on their ovens to heat up but don’t have the dish prepared for cooking immediately when the oven has heated up. Having the oven heated but not used is money wasted - there’s no easier way to put it!

The challenging part of preheating an oven is that many units, even new ones, don’t have particularly effective ways to alert you that it’s ready to start cooking. If you aren’t nearby to hear or see the preheat indicator, it’s easy to have the oven maintain 200+ degrees for as long as you’re distracted.

The oven is one of the most power-hungry appliances in the home. During peak time, NZ homes are putting upwards of an hour each day on their oven. In some cases where the oven is left preheating for half an hour (most take around 15 minute to preheat) or longer, the annual additional power costs can translate to hundreds of dollars. That money is better spent on the food itself!

Here are some ways to avoid pricey preheating penalties: 

  • Get your phone’s timer and start it when you switch the oven on and set the temperature. Stay close to it and make a note of the preheat time once the light goes off (or whatever the alert function of your oven is). By doing this once, you’ll know what time frame you’ll have to work with.
  • Consider doing any big jobs around the house once the dish is in and cooking - that will usually take longer than the preheat.
  • Make sure your oven’s seal is in good shape - any loose rubber, faulty framing or glass can cause heat loss and could even present a safety hazard. Get a professional service person to review it.
  • Keep your oven clean - grease and burnt food make the unit heat slowly as they absorb hot air. No one likes cleaning the oven but staying on top of this can make cleaning much less of a chore - and save you money in the process.
  • Pick a few nights for oven-free meal preparation. Many dinner options don’t need the oven at all - a cold salad, a stir fry or even a BBQ in summer are all good options to give the oven a rest.

Tonight - preheat, then get dinner straight in! Let us know how your energy usage changes after a month or so. 

Mistake 3: The warm wash and dryer combo - all year round

It’s a good rule to check the labels of garments before washing them, because some need a warm wash to effectively clean them. But for most clothes, bedding and towels, a cold wash is sufficient. By choosing a detergent that is effective in killing bacteria, the washing rarely needs to include a warm wash. You may even find that a warm wash could be coupled with hand washing the garments, which will reduce the net hot water usage.

Most modern washing machines have a good, strong spin cycle, which does a good job of moisture removal before you even need to think about drying. Upon finishing its cycle, think twice about loading the pile straight into your dryer. Here’s why:

 A dryer uses several methods for moisture removal with both air ventilation and water tanks commonplace. The power required to run a dryer for over an hour (in many cases a 90-minute cycle is needed to have fully-dried laundry to put away), can run into hundreds of dollars a year.

 During the winter months, you might decide a dryer is simply necessary to keep on top of the loads of washing, but during spring and summer, it’s more economical to use fresh air and sunshine to dry your clothes - and it’ll leave them smelling better.

 

Looking to reduce your warm washing and dryer usage? Start by:

  • Separating out your garments that need a warm wash and determining if a warm hand wash is better.
  • Staying on top of washing so you’re not left with a lack of clothes, bedding or towels without the help of a dryer.
  • Letting your washing machine’s spin cycle run to remove most of the moisture from your washing prior to drying.
  • Getting sturdy drying racks or make use of the clothesline to hang washing outside whenever possible. Find a spot where plenty of sunlight is present to speed up the drying process - and get UV rays onto the washing, helping to kill more bacteria.
  • Keeping the dryer’s filter and if applicable, water tank cleared after each use, if you must use it. Blocked filters can make dryers less effective and even a hazard.
  • Making the warm wash cycle a short one, if it must be used.

Sometimes warm cycles and dryers are just required - but in most cases they’re an unnecessary expense. Why not use that money somewhere else?

Mistake 4: Heating on constantly

Everyone knows heating uses plenty of energy. But it’s simply not a choice in New Zealand - we’ve got cold winters, and it’s often still chilly in autumn and springtime. Every home’s power budget needs to factor in heating outside of summer. What makes the difference between a reasonable power bill and a big power bill is the behaviours around managing our heating.

Before we go on, it’s important to recognise that everyone’s access to heating is different - your home may have a ducted heating system, a heat pump, wall mounted heaters, or you may use standalone heating appliances. This is not uncommon in New Zealand, although moves are being made to address insufficient heating across the country.

Regardless of your heating solution, it’s almost never sensible to run the heating constantly all day - it’s going to end up costing the household a significant amount. Areas of the home will have different times to heat to a comfortable temperature, based upon the size of the room, height of ceilings, insulation and thermal factors like double glazing and curtains or blinds. With that said, there should not be immediate heat loss upon turning heaters off - if this is happening in your home there are possibly insulation or draft issues at play that should be looked into first.

Instead, heaters can be cycled on/off to keep a reasonable living temperature throughout the day and night. How this is managed will also depend on the type of heating you have. Simply cutting down heating operation time by 30-40% will immediately be felt in the monthly bill and usage data.

Looking to address always-on heating costs? Try these ideas:

  • If your heater has a timer function, set the heater to cycle on and off at certain hours in the day. How much control you have over this depends on the appliance.
  • Make use of the thermostat function if your heater has one - that means set a desired temperature and have the heater switch off once this room temperature is maintained.
  • If your standalone heater doesn’t have its own timer, look at investing in a timer plug - this will switch the power supply off/on at intervals you determine.
  • Do a scan around the room of potential points of heat loss, such as loose seals and under door drafts - some of these may require bigger fixes, but other things may be small maintenance tasks that help to prevent heat escaping.
  • Keep the room dry with the help of a dehumidifier. Dry air is quicker to heat than moisture-filled rooms, which often have ‘crying windows’.
  • Try shutting off areas of the home that do not require heating, reducing the space in which hot air needs to travel. This will reduce the time heaters need to be on.

The important thing to remember about heating, is that often the big costs associated with heating have less to do with the efficiency of the appliance, and more to do with the environment you’re trying to heat. That means insulation, fresh air, moisture, sunlight, windows and other factors should be considered at the same time.

Keen to learn more?

Check out our Saving Electricity section for more information about reducing your monthly energy expenses.