Electricity consumers across New Zealand are facing "bill shock" as winter grinds on and power usage climbs, says Powershop's Ari Sargent.
As head of the online electricity retailer, he is urging power consumers to take their usage in hand to avoid budget blowouts on energy costs.
He said Masterton households, where Powershop had based its call centre, typify national statistics. Consumers in the Wairarapa town used 32 per cent more power in June than the previous month and last month added another percentage point to the period total.
"Monitoring your usage and making some smart tweaks can get power usage under control, which keeps bills down," Mr Sargent said. "If households make a few small changes they can stay warm and comfortable for less." Water heating accounts for about 30 per cent of the energy bill for a typical home, costing the average household $650 a year.
"Simple actions like turning cylinders down to 60C and wrapping them to retain heat, replacing washers to stop dripping hot taps and washing clothes in cold water can all add up.
"About 80 per cent of hot water is used in showers. If a shower can fill a 10 litre bucket in less than a minute, installing an efficient showerhead could save $150 a year, while still giving you a good shower.
"Heating and cooling is another big power user, it accounts for almost 35 per cent of typical household energy consumption.
"Good insulation is the best way to get this under control, and make sure the warmth your heating system uses doesn't escape," says Mr Sargent.
However, essential electricity use to keep warm and healthy should not be sacrificed.
"You can run a heater for a few hours a day to keep warm for as little as $10 a week, and that could save you a trip to the doctor."
Mr Sargent said certain appliances act like "vampires" - sucking electricity even if they are not in use.
Unplugging appliances like phone chargers and computers when they are not being used could help keep costs down, he said.
"Another reason to monitor power usage is the upcoming increase in GST in October.
Learning how to use power more efficiently can help families minimise the impact of the increased prices."
To help to chart electricity use and monitor changes, Powershop has launched a free online tool called PowerSaver in association with the World Wildlife Fund.
"It helps households understand daily power usage, set targets to reduce it and provides easy tips to keep costs down."
Tips on how to save power Tips and hints to cut your power bill taken from the PowerSaver scheme:
Switch off lights when out of rooms.
Wash clothes in cold water.
Dry clothes on washing line.
Switch off unused appliances.
Use lids on cooking pots.
Let food cool before refrigerating.
Switch off your computer monitor when not in use.
Fill kettle only with the amount of water needed.
Don't use heated towel rails.
Close curtains earlier at night.
Take short showers, not a bath.
Use microwave not oven when possible.
Turn down hot water cylinder.
Dehumidify your home.
When not in use, unplug television
and computer at the wall.
Set thermostat and timer on electric heaters.
Keep freezer full.
Heat only one room in the house.
Use door stopper to reduce heat loss.
Dinner by candlelight.