Saving energy this winter

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
With rising food and fuel costs hitting Kiwis in the back pocket, many are looking for ways to save money in their weekly budget.

Energy costs are one area that can be reduced but with winter approaching, compromising on health and comfort is not an option.

Gareth Gretton, a senior adviser with the EECA (Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority), says there are plenty of things we can do to reduce energy use and save on our power bills.

"Around a third of the energy used by the average household is from hot water. So one of the easiest ways to lower your energy bill is to cut back on any hot water you don’t need to use, freeing up more cash for keeping warm and for other things."

Here are the EECA’s top tips for making savings.

1. Wash cold

Unless you have a particularly dirty load, use a cold-water wash cycle when you wash clothes. Modern washing machines and detergents clean well using cold water and making this change could save you about $85 a year.

2. Shorten your showers

A 15-minute shower costs about $1, meaning a five-minute shower costs only about 33 cents. Reducing your shower time could save up to $900 a year for a family of four.

3. Check your shower’s flow rate

"If your shower fills a 10-litre bucket in less than a minute, it’s wasting water," Mr Gretton says. "Replacing your shower head for one with a more efficient flow rate of nine litres a minute or less could cut your hot water use significantly. Even reducing the flow rate by 1 litre per minute could save a household of four around $80 per year."

4. Fix dripping taps

Dripping hot taps can cost you hundreds of dollars a year, while a new washer will cost only a few dollars.

5. Fill the dishwasher

If you own a dishwasher, wait until it is fully loaded to run it and put it on the "eco" wash setting if it is available. If you rinse your dishes before loading the dishwater, use cold water.

6. Insulate and draught-proof

Both help to minimise heating bills. Check if you are eligible for insulation grants through the EECA’s Warmer Kiwi Homes programme. Inspect your doors and windows for draughts on a cold, windy day, then visit your hardware store to get the right products to seal any gaps.

7. Choose an efficient heater

"When the time comes to replace your heater, consider fitting a heat pump if you haven’t already got one," Mr Gretton says. "They’re a great choice for larger rooms, while electric resistance heaters are good for smaller rooms."

The EECA recommends only heating the rooms you need to. For a healthy living environment, set your heater thermostat for between 18degC and 20degC. If you have older people at home, it might need to be a little higher.

8. Turn the heat pump off when you don’t need it

Many of us have heard that leaving a heat pump on is more efficient but that is not the case unless your home is super-insulated, Mr Gretton says. "Leaving your heat pump running 24/7 will use more energy than only heating when you need to."

9. Trap heat in your home

When it starts to get cooler in the evenings, close your doors and pull your curtains across.

10. Replace old downlights with modern ones

Old-fashioned downlights suck electricity. In fact, the EECA calculates that 20 100W, old-fashioned downlights may cost more than running a heater or heat pump.

11. Switch to LEDs

Compared with traditional incandescent light bulbs, LED bulbs use 85% less energy and last longer. Each incandescent bulb you replace with an LED can save you between $100 and $300 over its lifetime (depending on the wattage of the bulb you replace). What’s more, most LED bulbs cost only $3 to $10.

12. Work smarter

If you are working from home, use a smaller room as your home office if possible as this will be more efficient to heat.

Mr Gretton says with more people staying in and working from home, it is important to know how to conserve energy at home.

"In the last couple of years, for instance, computer monitor sales have boomed — 396,779 were sold last year, compared to 112,608 in 2015.

The good news is thanks to the EECA’s product regulation programme ensuring new appliances in New Zealand meet minimum energy performance standards, average annual energy use by computer monitors has actually declined during the same period.

Similarly, the average annual energy use of fridge/freezers has halved.

On the flip side, televisions are getting bigger. The average screen size has grown from 37.9 inches to 48.5 inches since 2013, and average energy use has risen accordingly, from 260kWh per year to 318kWh.

"So think about whether you really need that huge-screen TV, and how often you have it turned on."

Further advice for using electricity efficiently can be found at at genless.govt.nz.

"It’s not just about saving money — saving power also reduces our household greenhouse gas emissions, which is important to tackle climate change."

"Electricity generation makes up just over 5% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s about the equivalent of 1.4 million petrol cars."

"Reducing the load on the grid helps avoid more emissions and every little bit counts."

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