Oily Rag: Switch off your higher power

By Frank, Muriel Newman

The chilly weather has arrived so we thought it time to share tips on ways to keep those power costs to a minimum.

Over the years, we have had lots of excellent tips from readers:

The first tip is to switch. Check www.powerswitch.co.nz. It has a number of features, but the most important is the calculator, which shows how much you can save by switching to another power provider. The calculation is tailored to your area and your power consumption, and shows the dollars you can save over a year. No doubt it has created greater competition in the retail marketplace, which must be a good thing for consumers.

In fact, one Northland reader was able to save about $900 a year.

While you are visiting the Powerswitch website, have a look at its price trend graphs to see how much power costs have risen in your area during the past three years, and have a look at its list of energy saving tips. It says heating your house accounts for about 29 per cent of your bill, water heating 30 per cent, lighting 8 per cent, cooking 7 per cent, refrigeration 11 per cent, and appliances like washing machines, dryers, televisions, power tools, computers, and the like, another 15 per cent.

Another great website is energywise.govt.nz. It contains ways to save money around your home, and on appliances and vehicle running costs. The website also has details on funding available for energy saving.

When buying new appliances, look out for the star rating sticker. This shows how much energy (in kWh hours) the appliance uses in a year. For example, if the sticker says 433 kWh, and energy costs say 25c a kWh (check your last power bill to see how much you are paying), then the annual costs will be $108.25 a year (433 x $0.25).

Most appliances have a 10-year lifespan so the lifetime cost would be $1082, which may be as much or more than the purchase price and should be considered when buying appliances.

A freezer is most energy-efficient at between -15C and -18C and a fridge between 2C and 4C. Fridges and freezers work best when full.

Trustpower.co.nz has a list of the 10 worst power wasters. Top of the list - homes without insulation. Second: hot water. The website says if the hot water is more than 55C at the tap, it is too hot, and will waste power. If you have a consumer adjustable thermostat on your hot water cylinder it should be set at around 60C.

The company also has a list of 33 Ways to Save Power that's well worth a look.

A number of readers have suggestions for teenagers.

One writes: "Teenagers just love to have a long hot shower and time passes quickly when you're having fun.

"To encourage the family to become more economical with expensive hot water, conduct family experiments to agree on the number of minutes needed for a reasonable shower. Place a windup kitchen minute timer on the bathroom window sill. If earning teenagers crave more time they could pop 50c in a bathroom piggy bank for a double-length shower!"

M.M says: "I take my children swimming once every week and we all wash our hair using the showers at the pools.

"Very rarely do we have to wash our hair at home and they never make a fuss of it like they do at home either.

"When I was working (before children) I always made use of the shower facilities at work and hardly ever had to shower at home!"

Tom says, "The best power saving tip for me was rather than charging working kids board - give them the power bill to pay."

If you have a favourite money-saving tip, please send it to us at www.oilyrag.co.nz or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei so we can share it with the oily rag community.

- Hamilton News

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