Sonya is a social issues reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Going cold to save money

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Renters are more likely to cut back on heating because of costs than owner-occupiers. Photo/File
Renters are more likely to cut back on heating because of costs than owner-occupiers. Photo/File

Just 37 per cent of renters feel they can heat their homes comfortably for the price they pay.

A Consumer survey looking at how people heated their homes revealed renters were more likely to cut back on heating to save costs than homeowners.

Thirty-seven per cent felt they could warm their homes comfortably for the price they paid, compared with 52 per cent of homeowners.

Forty-four per cent of renters cut back on heating because of cost, compared to 33 per cent of homeowners.

Consumer researcher Jessica Wilson said the survey highlighted the difference between how renters and home owners felt about how easy it was to heat their homes.

"It is a concern if you're not able to heat your home properly. We know cold homes are associated with poor health outcomes, particularly for the young and elderly."

Ms Wilson said heating a home was more expensive if the property was not insulated.

"When your home is harder to heat, you're spending more on power but aren't getting the benefits."

Waikato Student Union president Indula Jayasundara said heating was a huge concern for students.

"We are constantly on the edge to get by with what's left over after paying the basic bills such as rent, travel costs and groceries. Could you imagine how we fit in other costs such as course material, discretionary expenses and in this case utility bills - which tend to vary."

Mr Jayasundara said adequate heating had a direct impact on students' learning conditions. However with high costs associated with heating, it gave students no choice but to compromise spending on other essentials - in some cases food.

Western Bay of Plenty and Tauranga Grey Power president Jennifer Custins said the cost of heating was a real concern for some elderly people, particularly those who were renting, had high medical expenses, or were old and frail.

"Power is a very large component of what has to come out of people's national super every month, for any of us. If people have other sudden costs, a lot of people have medical bills or their fridge or car breaks down, that really takes precedent."

Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin said elderly people and students were groups of people likely to forgo heating their homes because of costs.

"It is particularly older people, which is a concern. When the pension is quite tight, they choose not to put the heaters on and maybe use blankets.

"Students in a flat situation put a lot more clothes on rather than turning heating on because they're struggling to pay for everything."

Consumer's tips for efficient heating

• Only heat rooms that are being used.

• Draught-proof doors and windows.

• Seal off open fireplaces when not in use.

• Use curtains, preferably those that are lined and floor-to-pelmet (or touching the window sill), and close them at night.

• Maximise the sunshine into your home in winter by keeping curtains open during the day and cut back trees that shade north-facing windows.

• Because polished strip-timber floors leak air through the joints, reduce draughts and heat loss from these floors by insulating underneath them.

• Use thermostats and timers on electric heaters.

• Insulate ceilings and, if possible, walls.

- For more energy saving tips, visit the Powerswitch website.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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