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Electricity: more ways to save

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Sneaky ways to save money always fill me with enthusiasm. Back in 2008 I blogged about saving electricity, eliciting plenty of comment from readers. It seemed you had even more clever ways to save on your power bill than I did.

After chewing over pages of comments, here are some of the best ideas — although if I did every single one personally I'd turn into a caricature of my depression-generation parents.

Turn more appliances off
Reader Google2010 of Hamilton turns the hot water cylinder off at the wall each morning and back on at night, cutting a third off the monthly power bill. This got me wondering because I have continuous gas hot water, not a cylinder. So I phoned the Energy Efficiency Conservation authority's PR person who pointed me to this useful graphic showing that I paid less than regular electricity users with a tank, but more than the same people who paid on a night rate.

Go onto a "low user rate"
Check your bill and if you use less than 8000kW a year, you're better off on a low-user tariff.

Buy a mini bench-top oven
Readers suggested mini bench-top ovens were much cheaper to run than conventional ovens. Or you can multi-task when using your conventional oven to cut costs, says Kathy of Richmond. Bread makers also make savings. With a bit of research I found that Consumer estimates the electricity cost per loaf of bread from a breadmaker at eight cents a loaf. All in all it makes quality homemade bread very financially worthwhile.

Have fewer bulbs
Lucy of Christchurch points out that one bulb per room used to be perfectly sufficient in the old days. My open-plan living area, thanks to the previous owners, has a whopping 22 down lighters. That must waste a huge amount of electricity. Personally I would only ever install fittings that have bog-standard lights.

Put some thought into how you run your heat pump
Several readers asked about the most efficient way to run a heat pump. There are different opinions. One is that if your house is modern and airtight, then run the heat pump 24 hours a day. If it leaks heat, only turn the heat pump on when you're using it. But check with the manufacturer for a more scientific opinion.

Get some insulation
Since I last blogged about energy saving, the government has introduced some really juicy subsidies to get your home insulated. Even if you don't own your home you could try asking your landlord to improve the insulation and consequently their investment. Landlords get discounts as well, and are becoming more aware of the need for insulation to keep tenants long term.

Hot water bottles work wonders
Hot water bottles can be used instead of an electric blanket or a portable heater. Modern bean bags don't even need hot water, just pop them in the microwave for two minutes and then snuggle up — make sure the bean bag is suitable for microwave use.

Use a thermos
Boil the kettle once in the morning and then keep the excess hot water in a thermos.

Share your shower
"Shower with your wife and halve the bill," says Dragonhead of China. "She can be soaping up while you're rinsing." This one could backfire financially if your newfound intimacy resulted in the accidental production of more offspring. Ditto for John of Pukekohe who uses candles instead of electricity when eating dinner with his wife.

In the scheme of things it's worth remembering that heating and hot water are the really big energy users, as is your daily charge. It's worth concentrating on these areas first, as well as saving cents elsewhere.

And if you're building or rebuilding, there are plenty of opportunities to reduce on the lighting and factor in programmable thermostats for items such as heated towel rails.

Read more about electricity

User comments
The issue here is to save power and the only way to do this is to turn off - at the wall - what you are not using at the time. The separate and different issue is how to save money on your power account. This will not happen. Sorry. The Power retailers have set up business to make money and no matter what types of savings the consumers of this country put into practice the income for these companies will not drop. They have teams of extremely highly paid people to ensure that their price increases will continue into the foreseeable future. If we cut 40% of power usage country-wide through cut-backs, the total money paid to these companies will not fall, the rates will just rise as fast as the usage falls. The only way to reduce the total amount spent is to cut the profit of these companies. As the Government is the major benefactor of these profits this situation is unlikely to change, and as soon as the shares are sold and the new owners take over the situation will only get worse.
Some of the "savings" mentioned here should be carefully researched for your own situation. It has been mentioned that a heat pump is better than an element - it costs a substantial amount to run your heat pump all year. The best and most cost effective is either solar assisted, heat-pump assisted or wet-back assisted hot water systems. All of these will at least take the initial chill off the water before the element begins to work, thereby making a considerable saving in electricity used. All the above have a considerable compliance and installation cost, and they also have continuing ,maintenance and running costs that should be factored into any calculations for dollar savings. The wet back on your log fire or pot belly stove - or similar - will heat your water to boiling while it is working, cutting the need for an element to work at all during these times. The main advantage here is that it heats the house as well during the period of maximum usage of hot water. The Winter.
Caution is required here. Some of the "savings" are false economy. Turning your hot water cylinder off for too long costs more money than it saves. It takes more power to heat cold water than hot, so the best way to save here is to 1) reduce your hot water usage. eg. do not use the hot tap in the kitchen to fill kettle or pot, the hot water you have used is minimal compared to the amount of hot water still in the pipes and now going cold. You have paid to heat this water, and are now paying to reheat the replacement cold water in the cylinder 2) ensure all hot water pipes are insulated, especially the cylinder. It is amazing the amount of heat lost even through the insulation. Heat loss equals power required to reheat.
As a flat, we save money and electricity by purchasing (and wearing) a ONESIE - an all-in-one custom made suit with a hood.
Heating a mains pressure hot water system is about 4 times more efficient if a heat pump is used to heat the water instead of a standard electric element. We had to replace or old main pressure hot water system last year and chose this option. Our power usage has reduced by between one third and one half. Initial cost is an issue which needs to be evaluated in terms of payback. A stainless steel cylinder is a 'must'. More details contact the email.

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