Slashing hundreds of dollars off your annual power bill could just be a "Flick" of a switch away.
Wellington company Flick is one of seven electricity retailers to enter the ultra-competitive energy market in the past year. It describes itself as "the first retailer to give New Zealanders access to the wholesale price of power direct from the market the big guys buy electricity from".
Since launching last year it has spread up the North Island, including to Auckland in recent weeks.
Flick charges spot prices for power, which can be as low as 4c or less a kilowatt hour (kWh), plus a fixed daily distribution charge of 40c a day and 1.5c kWh for standard users. Aucklanders also face a distribution charge of 6.3c a kWh.
Major power distributors mostly charge a flat fee of 22-26c a KWh, plus a fixed charge of up to $2.20 a day, although some offer off-peak specials from 11.5-17.42c a kWh.
Flick's costs change half hourly and are cheapest at non-peak times. Chief executive Steve O'Connor said changes in power use could lead to "pretty substantial" savings.
"If you know you go home, cook a meal, fill up the dishwasher and usually put it on at 7pm [when the price is higher] you might instead wait until you go to bed to put it on when power is cheaper," he said.
Flick has 800 customers but is looking to broaden its reach.
It offers customers online tools to monitor price rates throughout the day and customers are billed weekly.
O'Connor said it was fair and transparent for consumers, who do not have to sign fixed-term contracts.
The company website says: "We believe customers should have complete control of how they buy electricity and from whom ... so if Flick isn't right for you it's easy to leave at any time."
Electricity industry commentator Geoff Bertram said Flick was good news for consumers. "Retailers' mark-ups are obscene." But clients should be aware the rates they pay could rise dramatically if wholesale electricity prices spiked.
"Another couple of dry months could be bad for wholesale prices. They might only go from 2c or 3c per kWh to 8c or 10c, but still it makes a big difference to your bill," Bertram said.
O'Connor said Flick customers didn't have the insurance against big fluctuations, but "because there are more lows than highs, our customers still win over time".
Consumer New Zealand chief executive Sue Chetwin said the risk of power bill blow-outs to Flick consumers was quite low, but emphasised they have to be prepared if something does go wrong.
"But they can probably switch to another company without too much damage if they need to."
Major companies surveyed by the Herald on Sunday this week had no intention of changing their models in response to Flick's new approach.
Genesis Energy spokesman Richard Gordon said: "It would be like Countdown responding directly to a specialist cheese shop opening up [down] the road."
Figures released by the Electricity Authority show the four largest retailers - Contact, Genesis, Mighty River and Meridian - lost market share last year. Medium-sized retailers gained 40,000 customers.
The authority offers a free service, whatsmynumber.org.nz, which allows consumers to compare and swap providers.
With the onset of frosty mornings not far away, power usage will surge for many Kiwis.
But for some bright sparks, Flick may provide a way to avoid nasty shocks when the power bill arrives.
Users with a bit of flex get better value
The average Kiwi household uses 8000-9000 kWh a year, with bills that range from $2,100 to $2,275.
A third goes on heating, another third on water heating, 10 per cent on refrigeration and 8 per cent on lights.
People with a flexible approach are most likely to benefit from Flick's offer.
If you run your dryer every evening in winter on a 26c a kWh plan you will pay $175.77 a year. But in the middle of the night the rate could fall to 6c per kWh, meaning a bill of $50 for the same use. On Flick's plan you could set your hot water cylinder to heat only at off-peak times, and save about 10 per cent a year.
For consumers using a main provider and paying 62c an hour to run a 2.4 kWh heater, the price of that heating could drop to 14c an hour at times when your Flick price falls to 6c a kWh.
Savings won't be so great at peak times when spot prices are higher.
Consumer New Zealand's top tips to save on power include showering at night and reheating the water at low off-peak prices, running the washing machine, clothes dryer and dishwasher when you go to bed, doing housework such as ironing and vacuuming after 7.30pm or at the weekend and turning off unnecessary appliances at peak times.
Wellingtonian Dave Allison switched to Flick eight months ago.
So far, he has saved about $500 on his power, or 5-15 per cent a month, for the home he shares with his wife and son.
He had his account with EnergyOnline and last September paid $350 for gas and electricity.
His typical bill now is about $120 a month.
The Allisons have made some tweaks to their electricity use. The dishwasher goes on at 1am when prices are at their cheapest.
Allison is not worried about temporary bill rises if Flick's costs spike. "I accept it as part of the model."