Who doesn’t love the NZ summer holidays? Whether you celebrate Christmas or another cultural tradition over the end of December, for many of us it's a time where our family is at home and enjoying each other's company. Luckily for us Kiwis, Christmas is in summer when power's less expensive. However, for some households who host lots of family members for a number of days, it’s normal to see a spike in usage.
Let’s look at why your power usage may increase and how to stop it creeping up.
Home for the holidays!
Before we start pointing the finger at your relatives, expect your power bill to go up simply due to the fact that you'll probably all be at home more hours in the day. For lots of households there’ll be a noticeable increase in appliance usage, washing, computer use, phone charging and TV watching - all those things that don’t usually happen during a standard weekday.
To reduce the power usage while at home all day, think about activities that don’t need power:
- Backyard cricket.
- Reading books.
- Practicing a musical instrument.
- Painting the fence.
- Mowing the lawns.
- A full house clean before the relatives arrive.
- Kids playing with toys.
- Catching up with family/friends.
The Christmas break is a great time to catch up on things you’ve not had time to do during the year, so encourage the family to try some of the above ideas to make the break memorable and light on power!
Extended family coming to stay?
If you’re hosting Christmas this year, prepare yourself for the electricity hit. Remember, for every extra person staying there's an additional shower each day, at least one extra device being charged, and even more cooking time. In normal circumstances, we generally see bigger families have larger powerbills, so it stands to reason that if your household temporarily doubles or triples in size over Christmas, you’ll see that reflected in your month’s usage.
It’s also important to note that while you might have got the regular household into good power saving habits, Uncle Steve probably won't change his ways in the week he’s staying, be it long showers, uneconomical washing machine loads or the long dishwasher cycle. So brace yourself for the cost hit!
Cooking all day and cooking all night.
If there’s one thing that’s for certain about hosting Christmas, it’s the cooking. Your oven and stove are among the most power-hungry of all appliances in the home. So when you’re feeding a larger group before, during and after Christmas day, you’ll feel it in the pocket, unless you prepare (more on this later). Consider a regular day in the year - you might use the oven once for dinner, and on most nights probably between 30-60 minutes. At Christmas, you might be using the oven two to three times in the day, and there’s a good chance a roast or large meal will be prepared for a few of these uses. Before you even realise, at Christmas an oven can end up running for over four hours including preheating time. And this is before we’ve even thought about the stove.
For the power-conscious household, think about how to get efficient with your cooking - including cooking multiple dishes at the same time. Some dishes are perfectly fine with a quick reheat just before they’re eaten. And remember, with some planning, you can get away with lots of cold dishes that don’t require cooking at all. For example:
- Cold desserts
- Snacks like nuts, fruit and cheese
- Bakeless slices and treats
Finally, if meat must be on the menu and you've got a BBQ at hand, think about moving out of the kitchen and onto the grill. Some BBQs have a rotisserie function where you can cook a whole chicken or beef fillet inside the BBQ without using a watt of electricity. Just make sure your LPG bottle is nice and full before Christmas day!
Right, who’s on dishes?
The less fun part of all the eating at Christmas is the masses of dishes that pile up after each meal. Some of those delicious festive meals seem to use every dish and utensil in your arsenal, with a Leaning Tower of Pisa stacked up in and around the sink. Whether you’re a dishwasher or hand wash household (or a mix), doing all these dishes will put demand on the hot water. To try and reduce power use during clean up, rinse all the dishes with cold water first. Starting with less grime means a shorter dishwasher cycle or less sinkfuls of hot water.
When it comes to cups and glasses, try giving each person a glass decoration so they know which one is theirs. It can be both festive, and reduce how much people go to the kitchen for a fresh glass. This way, people can simply rinse their own glass by hand when needed - saving an extra dishwasher cycle.
Hot day, heavy cooling.
As summer ramps up, keeping cool can chew through a fair chunk of power. With long periods of the oven running, rooms full of family members and the sun pouring in, the temperature can get pretty stifling. If you’ve got a heat pump or AC unit, expect to have this running most of the day if it’s hot out.
While cooling a room doesn’t cost as much as heating it, there is still an electricity cost to factor in. If you want to try and avoid this, think about where you might situate the family to socialise - is there a good spot outside with shade for everyone to hang out? Try moving the party there and save on power in the process.
New power-hungry presents.
Present time! Some presents like those with lithium-ion batteries that need charging will be plugged in straight away on Christmas day. If you have a bunch of family receiving presents like this, then your power sockets could get a serious workout. Most small devices like phones are relatively small in terms of their power draw, but larger things like power tools or remote control cars can demand more. Be prepared for the charge fest - and perhaps consider buying books this year for others!
Festive lighting fan? Go solar.
Christmas lights have been growing in popularity in New Zealand over the past decade or so. Rigging up lights around the exterior of your home is now commonplace in parts of the country.
Lighting options vary but for some homes, there's a heavy reliance on plug-in lighting. Done at scale, these lights can make for a significant load on your power which will hit you in the pocket.
Now the good news - there’s heaps of options for solar-powered outdoor lighting. During the Christmas season where there’s (hopefully) plenty of sunlight, solar powered lights can charge during the day and light up at night time. Even moving some of the lighting over to solar will reduce your usage and month’s bill.
Prepare for Christmas power with a Future Pack.
If you’re hosting a big family Christmas this year, your power is going to increase - there’s no way to completely avoid the hit. But if you’re prepared and a Powershop customer, you can purchase Future Packs or take advantage of other deals within The Shop to have extra power paid for at a discounted price during this busy time.