Welcoming a new family addition is such an exciting time – your life will never be quite the same again! It can feel a bit like information overload both leading up to and straight after the arrival of your baby – everything from do’s and don’ts to parenting advice to budgeting tips will be coming your way. You might have been told to expect your power bill to go up with a baby in the house – but what exactly does this mean? And if this is the case, how can you manage your costs here?
Today we’ll look at some areas of the house that will see a spike in power usage and why. Then we’ll provide some useful cost saving tactics that are simple to put into practice. Let’s go!
Heating to keep baby comfortable
Keeping your baby warm, in a clean air environment is absolutely essential for baby’s comfort, both when awake and sleeping. Depending on where in New Zealand you live, heating your home might be straightforward or more complex – and expensive. Because heating is pretty much a non-negotiable for parents, especially in winter, power bills can spike even beyond the usual increase seen in cold weather.
You may using one of or a combination of a:
- Heat pump – for large room or multi-room heating.
- Dehumidifier – to keep the room at a comfortable humidity with air that’s easy to heat.
- A ventilation system to filter and regulate air quality and temperature.
- A plug-in fan heater – to heat a specific room.
- A column heater – often chosen to stay on for hours at a time and easy to set a timer on.
- A wall-mounted heater – panel-based heating to emit consistent heat in a fixed space.
A popular combination in damper parts of NZ like Wellington is the dehumidifier and standalone heater. Together, these can draw significant electricity left on for hours at a time. You might want to experiment with both systems to get the right balance of clean, dry, warm air for baby and running time. This will depend entirely on your own home’s moisture levels, time of year and personal preference. Most modern dehumidifiers and heaters have timer functions that can be used to automate the process. A baby might even be disturbed by an active dehumidifier, so in these cases you could run that while the baby is awake, and heat while baby is asleep.
If you have a heat pump, you’ll typically enjoy more power-efficient heating. However, most Kiwi homes that have heat pumps will have units located in larger communal areas, and less commonly a small baby room. If you’ve got a heat pump in a hallway that adjoins the baby's room, you can create a heat tunnel by closing other room’s doors so heat can travel to where it’s needed. Even despite their more power-efficient operation, heat pumps do still use noticeable power. That’s why you might wish to consider setting your heat pump on a timer (or series of timers) that runs in bursts to keep the room warm without constantly running.
Some homes have a ventilation system that works to filter air and keep the environment dry. If you have a system like this, take time to properly learn about the different modes it offers and keep an eye on your power usage. If you can use your ventilation system to prepare air for quick, efficient heating, you can save on total electricity costs for the baby.
Finally, remember that part of the heating equation are the clothes the baby wears and their bedding. Some families invest in a purpose-made ‘sleep-sack’ which is made from year-round materials like merino wool that keep baby warm at night combined with air that’s a comfortable temperature.
Bathing baby means more hot water
The cliche of the parent yelling at the teenager to get out of the shower is totally based in reality – but this tax on your hot water usage starts way before adolescence! Your newborn will be having reasonably frequent baths, but this will increase to once a day at least when baby starts crawling and getting into the sandpit, paints or any other number of adventures.
Some Kiwi parents opt for a purpose-made baby bath, which is a small plastic tub that can be placed anywhere. These still need hot water from the shower/bathtub so regular use will start to show on your power bill. Other parents will opt for the main bathtub – while a baby doesn’t need nearly the same amount of water as a child or adult, you will be still filling up a larger area high enough to be practical to bathe your infant. Consider trying an affordable baby bath if you’re finding all that bathing is hurting your pocket each month.
Do you have more than one child? Some families will try and get multiple kids clean with one lot of hot water. Save for the odd accident(!), a baby being cleaned first will typically leave clean-ish water for older kids to bathe straight after. This is a great way of saving multiple hot water usages throughout a day.
Heating bottles and cleaning dishes
Chat to anyone who’s raised a baby about the housework and after a big sigh they’ll likely tell you about the constant dishwashing of plates, utensils, bottles, pacifiers… the list goes on. It can be easy to think that such a small person won’t make a huge dent in the daily dishes routine – but the truth is pretty much the opposite. Parents will be running more dishwasher cycles, filling up more sinks of hot water and heating or sterilising bottles throughout the day.
If you have a dishwasher that runs on a long or inefficient hot water cycle, extra dishwasher operations each day will start to show up on your electricity usage. Many parents will do one night cycle with the main dishes, and another during the day to clean all of the baby's bits and pieces.
Cleaning your baby’s plastics and utensils thoroughly is another must-do, so parents have a few options. You might consider handwashing certain items like bottles and teats then sanitise using a clean sink soak with a proper baby-specific sanitising solution. The same goes for pacifiers. While these may not be large, they need space in your dishwasher to be cleaned properly. A hand wash and sanitise can reduce hot water use and get as good, if not better, result.
If you have it in the budget, consider having extra of items like bottles, spoons and plates – you may find you don’t turn the dishwasher on quite as much when it’s less than full just to get a clean dish to use.
Washing (and drying) baby’s clothes
Okay, time for the big one – WASHING. This isn’t just a drain on your power bill, but your own personal energy as well. It’s just a fact – babyies create a giant washing pile that relative to their size, seems hard to believe. Babies = more accidents, more changes, and more clothes as a result. Each household will have their own approach to washing – handwashing vs. machine, dryer vs. clothesline, and this approach can change once baby arrives on the scene.
If you’re the machine to dryer to hamper type, you’ll want to make sure clothes are being run on an effective but efficient cycle – not just from a cost perspective, but a time one as well (yes multiple loads of washing each day is normal now). Take some time to learn your washing machine’s modes and read labels of baby’s clothes to figure out what can be grouped and washed together. Washing machines’ spin cycles that should do some pre-drying in the process too – so take a look at your machine’s spin modes. When it’s time to put stuff through the dryer, make sure you’ve emptied the filter and water tank (depending on what type of dryer you have). Anything preventing the dryer from drying effectively isn’t just dangerous but wastes power.
Winter time comes with some challenges with drying clothes, but during summer you can avoid the dryer and simply hang clothes to dry outside leaving them fresh and your power usage under control. You might even consider handwashing some of the clothes like delicates or whites to soak, reducing washing machine use in the process. We’ve got all sorts of other great laundry tips in our Laundry List blog.
There’s no way to put this lightly – with a baby, your laundry appliances are going to take a hammering. If you’re with Powershop, make sure you’re buying all the power specials that come up so you can save on those big washing days!
Cooking baby-friendly meals
Once your baby moves to food, you’ll find yourself cooking things that are both healthy and edible for your little one – after all, buying premade food from the supermarket can get pricey. You’ve got a few options here. One is doing some bulk baby meal prep – dedicate a day to cooking up a bunch of food and store it away in the freezer to be reheated for the coming week or so. This way you’ll take one hit on the power usage and then enjoy reduced power for mealtimes for a period of time.
Alternatively, align your own meals and baby’s. While you don’t have to be eating pureed pumpkin for dinner, most meals will have at least one ingredient that can be mashed or blended for the baby to enjoy. By feeding baby from your own meals instead of a separate cooking process, you’ll save on power usage of cooking appliances like the stove and oven. Sunday roast? Mash up potatoes, kumara and greens and store these in the fridge or freezer for baby’s next meal. And with shared ingredients and cooking, you’ll save on dirty dishes giving the dishwasher a break, too. Win-win-win!
Day-time power usage by parents
A new baby means more time spent at home. If you’re the primary caregiver, remember your own cost to run will increase too. Lighting, heating, TV and other appliances may be running for the 8 - 10 hours you were previously at work or out on the weekdays. How much this impacts the power bill can be hard to separate from baby’s direct power usage needs, but it’s worth keeping in mind that will contribute to the total increase.
Having a baby is one of life’s most special times. But we know that the financial aspect of raising a newborn is a bit to process, especially when the household income reduces and you add in clothes, nappies, toys, transport – okay, we’ll stop. By staying on top of the household budget, and monitoring your electricity usage closely in those first few months, you can work out the best mix of behaviours, budgeting and savings to make power more manageable.
Are you concerned about your power usage at home with your baby? Chat to the Powershop team who can help you figure out the best way to reduce your usage and/or costs!