Raising a family takes a lot of energy. Here are some tips for saving money on your power bill while still keeping everyone warm, dry and well-fed.
A young family is likely to use a lot of electricity in the kitchen, and ovens are the biggest consumers. A typical electric oven draws about 2000 watts, compared with 700 watts for a microwave and 230 watts for a slow cooker. In other words, it costs roughly 50 cents per hour to run your oven (more for larger ovens), 18 cents per hour for your microwave and only five cents per hour for your slow cooker. That pre-cooked rotisserie chicken at the supermarket now seems like an even better idea for dinner!
Tips for saving energy while cooking:
• Go all 1950s and have a baking day. Or simply try to bake more than one thing when you have the oven on. For example, if you’re cooking a lasagne for dinner, make biscuits that can be baked once the lasagne comes out. You can freeze the surplus.
• Use the fan-bake setting on your oven as this disperses the heat more efficiently, demanding less power from the oven.
• Cook double the quantity in your slow cooker or in your oven and freeze a meal for another night.
•Instead of filling the kettle to capacity every time, boil only the water you need.
Water heating is one of the biggest demands on energy in a typical New Zealand home. Installing a gas hot water system or even a solar water heater will save you money in the long run, but if neither of these are options, try these ways to save:
• Ease your shower flow by replacing your shower head for one with a more efficient flow rate.
• Take showers instead of baths and bathe babies in smaller baths — the Tummy Tub, for example, is excellent as it uses hardly any water and the water stays warmer for longer in the smaller area.
• Wash laundry in cold water.
• Rinse dishes in cold water in the sink (with the plug in) instead of insing them under running hot water.
Around the house
• Replace incandescent bulbs with energy-saving bulbs.
• Teach the children to turn the lights off when they leave a room — when they can reach them of course!
• Turn off appliances such as televisions and DVD players at the wall instead of leaving them on standby. This will save a small amount — perhaps $10-20 over a year. A more considerable saving can be gained from turning off your computer.
• Heat the main family living area first and shut off any rooms you are not using.
• Make sure the kids are wearing enough clothing. Layer up with merino and warm socks and slippers. Teach kids to dress to the conditions, rather than merely cranking up the heating system so they can wear T-shirts all year round.
• Don’t dry clothing on indoor racks in unventilated areas. You will use up any energy you have saved to then get the moisture out of your home.
• Invest in a heat pump, they are widely considered the most efficient way to heat your home. Running a typical 6kW heat pump with a four-star energy rating for six hours a day costs less than $11 per week (energywise.govt.nz).
The winter months can mean more washing for young families but alas fewer sunshine hours for getting it all dry! We asked the experts at Panasonic for the low-down on clothes dryers:
Is it better to run the dryer only when full?
This depends on the dryer. If it does not have a sensor then the clothes are dried using a timer function, which is very inefficient. Most dryers these days, however, have sensors that detect moisture levels and adjust the drying time accordingly. Panasonic’s NH-P70 heat pump dryer, for example, has intelligent twin sensors to continually monitor the dryness of the clothes. Ultimately, the more you put into a dryer the longer it will take, but the more efficient the machine the less it will cost in power consumption.
Three main dryer types are available:
Vented (tumble-dryer), condenser and heat pump. What is the difference?
Vented and condenser dryers work by heating air with an element and then blowing this through the drum, which is inefficient due to the heat source.
Heat pump dryers work by using the heat pump’s heat exchange — first heating the air, then blowing it through the drum, and finally passing the hot moist air back through the heat exchange where it is cooled and the moisture is removed before it is heated again to repeat the cycle in a continuous loop.
So in dollars and cents, a vented 7kg tumble dryer (with a two-star energy rating) will cost you about $1.57 per load. A 7kg condenser dryer (also with a two-star energy rating) will cost you slightly less at $1.55 per load and a heat pump dryer, such as the Panasonic NH-P70G2WAU, with a six-star energy rating, will cost only 69 cents per load.