Diana Clement: How economical are your appliances? - NZ Herald

2022-09-04 08:13:08 By : Ms. Maggie Yi

What are the appliances that are secretly sucking your power bill? Most people would be surprised at the answer. It's not necessarily TVs left on standby or one or two loads in the dryer a week.

It turns out that the shower is using way more electricity than the TV that I turn off at the wall every night. Although I won't use that as an excuse to be lazy.

I asked Gareth Gretton, senior advisor at the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), if I was barking up the wrong tree worrying about standby power and charging cables plugged in 24/7. It turns out that while "always on" appliances such as TVs, dryers, microwave ovens, and even charging cables are sucking up small amounts of power, other things in the house are using way more power unnecessarily.

Most people's power bills are one-third room heating, one-third water heating and one-third other things, Gretton says. "Within the one-third of other things, you can split that down into quarters: cooking, refrigeration, lighting and electronic devices."

It's your water heating that turns out to be sucking the power bill. "Yes, keep your space heating at a sensible temperature, around 20 degrees," he says. "But you can really make the biggest savings most easily on your water heating." That caught me by surprise.

Showering, washing clothes and running the dishwasher are what's sucking your power bill in a way that can be controlled.

I have to say I always think of my water bill when showering or using these appliances. By using them smarter I can cut down on both water and power.

"With showers, there are two things. One is the amount of time [in the shower] and the other is the flow rate," says Gretton. Modern shower heads allow a lot less water through, without affecting the overall experience. To test if your shower head is any good run it into a standard 10-litre bucket. If the bucket fills within a minute you're using too much water and, as a result, draining both bills. Then drop the temperature of your water heater if you can.

One of Gratton's tips is to wash laundry in cold water. Don't disregard it. I've been doing this for years and had made a mental note lately that the washing is cleaner than it was back in the day. That's because washing machines and laundry detergents are better than they once were, he says.

Another big thing to watch out for is your old fridge, says Gratton. They use heaps of electricity. So don't be tempted when you upgrade to put it in the garage for a bit more fridge/freezer space. It will cost you dearly.

After a lifetime of barely using my dryer and growling when others in the house do, I found out from the Genless.govt.nz website that the annual running cost can be as little as $25 for one load a week to $121. But who does one load a week?

Do be aware when buying an appliance how much it will cost you in power over its lifetime. Sometimes the more expensive device is cheaper in the long run. EECA has a appliance comparison that is well worth a look. For example, the power usage range for a 500/550-litre fridge was $58 to $88 annually. On its own, that's not going to bankrupt you.

The thing about power bills is power usage is cumulative. So it still pays to turn appliances off at the wall. Left on standby, some can be expensive. Consumer found that a multifunction printer costs $127 a year left on standby. When I heard that I walked over and turned mine off at the wall. Also, don't forget about all the wireless devices we charge these days. Phones, tablets, headsets, speakers and so on all use power when we plug them in.

EECA has many other ways to cut down your power use. Start by downloading its Household Challenge scorecard from the website.

Finally, the good news is that Gretton tells me my electric bicycle uses "vanishingly small" amounts of power.