Retirement Life
27 May 2020

Lockdown your power bills

Lockdown has meant much more time at home and all that sour dough baking, Netlflix watching and extra dishwasher runs mean more power usage. Now winter is sending its tentacles out towards us upping the heating bills too.

Luckily, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) has some words of advice on how to avoid wasting energy, particularly as we head into winter.

EECA spokesperson Dr Marcos Pelenur says it’s important to stay warm as the weather cools but it’s also important not to spend more money on energy bills than you need to.

Cutting back on hot water usage can help save money that you can put towards the extra cost of heating, he says.

“For example, use the cold-water wash cycle when you wash clothes, unless you have an especially dirty load. Modern washing machines and detergents clean well using cold water. A hot water wash can use 10 times more electricity than a cold wash,” he says.

Cutting down the long showers will also save money, Dr Pelenur says. A 15-minute shower costs about $1, while a 5-minute shower costs about 33c. If you own a dishwasher, wait until it’s fully loaded to run it – and put it on ‘eco’ wash setting if available.

“And if you rinse dishes before loading the dishwater, use cold water,” Dr Pelenur says.

Using your heat pump wisely is also important, or you could find yourself adding unnecessarily to your power bill.

The good news is that in response to the extra pressure on people’s finances due to COVID-19, the government has doubled the Winter Energy Payment which is paid to those receiving New Zealand superannuation or the Veteran’s Pension. These payments are made from 1 May to 1 October and have been raised to $40.91 a week for single people and $63.64 for couples this year.

Other top energy-saving tips from EECA:

  • If your circumstances or energy use has changed, check you are still on the best power deal to suit your needs. Powerswitch is a free and independent service that can help you do this.

  • If you have a heated towel rail, only use it when its needed. Left on 24/7 it can cost you $170 per year to run. You can buy timers for towel rails that come on automatically at certain times of the day.

  • Turn your computer, WiFi and other equipment off at the wall at night, or when not in use.

  • Dry clothes outside or in a clothes dryer that is vented to the outside – avoid indoor airing racks or clothes dryers that vent into your house. The moisture in the clothes will end up making your home damp.


  • Avoid unflued gas heaters which release toxic fumes and make your house damp. Cheap portable electric heaters are safer and cost less to run.

  • If you have a second fridge you aren’t using, it could cost you $200 a year to run if it’s an old, inefficient model.

  • If you are working from home, you may not have the luxury of choosing where to site your workspace, but if you can, use a small space that’s easy to heat on its own. Move your desk to a position that gets good natural light.

  • Switch to LED light bulbs.

Using heat pumps wisely

  • Only heat when you need it - don't leave your heat pump on all day if you're not there.  Make use of a time to turn it on and off at the optimum times.

  • Only heat the space you're actually using - shut doors and curtains to keep the heat in.

  • Set the thermostat to a healthy temperature - aim for 18ºC to 21ºC. High thermostat settings cause high electricity use.

  • Avoid using the 'Auto' mode - use the 'Heating' mode instead. In 'Auto' mode, the heat pump tries to maintain the set temperature by constantly changing between heating and cooling, as the room temperature fluctuates.

  • Avoid the ‘Low’ and ‘Quiet’ Fan settings during very cold weather. To get the full heating power out of your heat pump, choose the ‘Auto’ Fan setting.

  • It is normal for the heat pump to sometimes stop heating or blow out cold air during very cold weather, while the outdoor unit defrosts. This usually only takes a few minutes. Contact the manufacturer if you have any concerns.

  • Clean the filter regularly - this is a quick, easy job you can do yourself.

You can find more tips on the EECA website. If you’re confused about how your power bill is put together and what you’re actually paying for, then check out the Electricity in New Zealand section on the Electricity Authority’s website. This website can also offer information if you have a ‘medically dependent’ family member - someone who is reliant on electricity for critical medical support.