As the cost of electricity rises, many New Zealanders will be looking for ways to get their electricity bills under control.
But how many tricks like turning off appliances on the wall and taking shorter showers really save money?
Research shows that some of our most common energy-saving exercises make little difference, and others, like washing dishes by hand, may actually be less energy efficient.
However, some changes can save hundreds of dollars a year – and which devices use the most power might surprise you.
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Turn off the lights
While flipping the switch when you leave a room can save pennies an hour, there are far greater savings to be made by switching to LED bulbs, according to Consumer NZ Product Testing Team Leader James le Page. .
Despite the higher upfront cost of LEDs, the bulbs pay for themselves quickly with lower electricity bills.
A mid-range LED costs $18, uses 9.5 watts of electricity, and has an expected life of 15,000 hours.
A 60-watt incandescent bulb, which produces the same light, costs 50 cents but only lasts 1,000 hours, the Page said.
“If the light is on for three hours every day, incandescent will use $17.08 in electricity per year, compared to $2.70 for LED. That’s a savings of $14.38 per year.
This means that the LED bulb will pay for itself in just over a year and will last another 12 years if used for three hours a day, while the incandescent bulb will need to be replaced every year.
“These numbers show that you shouldn’t wait for your incandescent bulbs to explode – it’s more cost effective to replace them with LEDs now,” the Page said.
Turn off devices on the wall
If you really want to save as much as you can, turning off devices on the wall will completely eliminate power consumption, the Page said.
However, most devices consume very little power in standby mode.
Testing with New Zealand consumers found that some technologies, including televisions, Blu-ray players and home theater systems, cost just pennies a year on standby, while clothes dryers, games, washing machines and microwaves left on standby use less than $10 of electricity. over 12 months.
At the other end of the scale, set-top boxes and some multi-function printers consume significantly more power in standby mode.
In the case of multifunction printers, standby power consumption ranges from nothing at all to over $10 per month on different models.
Set-top box TVs have been found to use almost as much power in standby as they are in use and can cost $53.75 per year, even if the TV is never on.
Take shorter showers
With around 30% of the energy used by an average household for hot water, reducing the time spent in the shower is a great way to cut costs, according to Paul Fuge, Head of Powerswitch.
Every five minutes spent in the shower costs 33c. So, by reducing daily showers from 10 minutes to five minutes, a family of four could save $450 a year.
Wash clothes in cold water
Test results from New Zealand consumers show that washing your clothes in cold water is significantly cheaper than washing in hot water, Le Page said.
A cold wash in a front or top loader costs 3c to 8c per load, while a hot wash costs 13c to 46c.
A hot wash per day at 46°C per load would cost $167.90 per year. A daily cold wash at 8c per load would cost just $29.20.
Do the dishes by hand
Research shows that washing dishes by hand uses more hot water than running the dishwasher.
A 2011 study from the University of Bonn, Germany, found that households without a dishwasher used on average more than twice as much water to clean dishes as those with one.
The research was backed up by Consumer NZ’s own tests which showed the average dishwasher used 13.5 liters to clean a full load.
“By comparison, our test sink two-thirds full holds 13 liters,” said Erin Bennett, product testing editor.
“To wash as many dishes as a full dishwasher, you need to run at least three sinks (39 L), including the pre-rinse.”
Rinsing the suds from the dishes added another sink full of water and even more would be used if rinsing under a dripping faucet.
“While our tests show that dishwashers are generally more water efficient, there are multiple handwashing variations, so it’s important to think about how many gallons of water you personally use,” Bennett said. .
Ditch the dryer
If you have an outdoor washing line, the Page advises you to use it. However, it is not recommended to dry clothes indoors on a clothes rack, as moisture that accumulates indoors can lead to damp and mold growth.
“If you’re going with a clothes dryer, especially in the winter when drying outside isn’t an idea, heat-pump dryers use the least amount of electricity,” the Page said.
“You can check if your electricity plan has cheaper times, so you can save a few cents per load when using the dryer – some plans offer discounted off-peak rates or even free electricity for a short time. period every day. Make sure you don’t pay extra to dry your clothes during peak hours.