Last week, Joseph Darby, CEO and Financial Adviser at Milestone Direct Limited, shared tips to saving money during the winter months. In the final article of his two-part series, Joseph provides more helpful penny-pinching advice to help you through the cooler months.
Lower the water cylinder setting
The water cylinder can account for up to 25% of your utility bill. Many people don’t know that water cylinders can be set. Set the temperature to a reasonable level to save money all year and ensure there’s no risk of burning from hot tap water (which reportedly only takes one second at 70 degrees Celsius).
If you’re a DIY guru (and know what you’re doing), you can insulate electric outlets and light switches to prevent heat loss; use expanding spray foam to seal between the metal outlet box and the sheetrock, then trim off the excess and replace the cover.
Turn off the lights
Keeping the lights on in your home may not be expensive on a per-watt basis, but it sure does cost money over time. To save as much as you can, turn off lights any time you leave your house – or even when you leave the room. Turning off lights when you have plenty of natural sunlight can also help keep your electric bill down over time. The bottom line: If you aren’t using a light, turn it off.
Use portable heaters sparingly
Small portable heaters might be cheap to buy from a shop, but they’re usually quite costly to run. For safety reasons they aren’t suitable to use when you’re not home or when you’re sleeping, and need keeping well clear of curtains, sofas, beds, and other items. They might work well in rarely used rooms though.
Only use portable heaters in the room you are currently in, and it’s best to only use them if there’s no alternative heat source, such as a fire or heat pump.
Replace lights with LEDs
LED light bulbs use up to 80 per cent less energy than incandescent bulbs, while producing the same amount of light. Plus they last much longer. Over their lifetime, you can save nearly $300 for every standard 100W bulb replaced by an LED. If you have CFL or Halogen bulbs, replacing these with LEDs can also generate good savings.
If you have downlights installed prior to 2012, or if you can replace the bulb in them, change them to modern LED downlight fittings that can have insulation fitted over them. For every 1cm gap in insulation, you can lose up to 30% of insulation performance.
Maintain heat pumps and appliances
All your appliances are machines, and just like a car, they need a little tender love and care to operate well. Check your manuals or Google your appliance model numbers to see how often and what kind of minor upkeep they require. This could include cleaning dust from heat pump filters.
Cleaning the filters will keep it operating efficiently – which saves power – and it’ll also help you breathe cleaner air too. Appliances such as fridges, freezers, and washing machines can benefit from clearing dust from behind the appliance and any air intakes or outlets. The less dust you have blocking the mechanics of these devices, the more efficiently they’ll run (saving on your energy bill) and the longer they’ll last. For example, a fridge works by running coolant through all those little pipes on the back – if they’re dusty, the coolant doesn’t cool down as well, so the fridge must work harder to compensate.
If you’re using a dryer, remember to clean the lint filter on every load. A buildup of fuzz slows down the dryer.
Shut the fireplace
Make sure the flue is closed when the fireplace is not in use. If you have a glass screen, close that, as well. Open fireplaces allow heat to escape.
Taking a short shower with an efficient showerhead not only conserves water, it’ll also save on power bills. Look for an efficient shower head with a three-star water rating and choose your favourite four-minute song to shower to.
Run appliances off-peak
Some electricity companies offer cheaper electricity rates during the night, when the demand for electricity is typically far lower than it is in daylight hours. Running appliances at off-peak times can shave dollars off monthly energy bills, depending on your power provider.
Cooking is a large use of energy, there are plenty of ways to make savings here:
- Cover pots – water in a covered pot heats faster and uses less energy. This might also help keep down moisture levels in your home.
- Use only enough water to reach the top of vegetables or other foods being cooked.
- Cook with clean pans. Lots of black stuff on the outside surface of pots and pans blocks heat from reaching the food inside, so cooking time is longer. Scour and scrub after each use.
- Use the appropriate burner. Put small pans on small burners and bigger pans on big burners to save energy.
- Always cover items in the refrigerator. Failing to do so releases moisture and causes the compressor to work overtime.
- Leave room in the fridge and freezer. These appliances work most efficiently when the cold air inside can circulate, i.e., they’re not jam-packed with food. Also, be sure there’s enough clearance behind the appliance to let air circulate.
- Wait until there’s no more room on the racks before starting the dishwasher. The energy used is the same regardless of the size of the load.
Invest in quality curtains and blinds
Double-layer floor to length curtains with a close-fitting track can work as effectively as double glazing on your windows to retain heat and reduce your energy bills. Lined and well-fitted roman blinds or honeycomb blinds also keep the heat in well.
Check if you’re eligible for the Warmer Kiwi Homes grant
To help offset some of the costs involved with creating warmer, healthier homes, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) is offering Warmer Kiwi Homes grants. The four-year government programme helps cover two-thirds of the cost of a heat pump, pellet burner or wood burner (up to a maximum of $2,500), as well as underfloor and ceiling insulation. Check your eligibility online.
The bottom line: making savings this winter
Instead of cutting back we usually encourage investing and growing income as the best ways to get ahead. That said, the events of the last year or so have been tough for many, so staying ready for the unexpected by trimming expenses could be a clever move.