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Power use: It's the little things that add up

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19 June 2024, 6:56 PM

Power use: It's the little things that add upCheck the flow rate on your shower head, says energy expert Michael Begg. Photo: RNZ

If you want to bring your power use down, take a look at the way you use your smaller appliances, says Community Energy Action senior energy advisor Michael Begg.

How about putting the jug on?

"We can see on most of our kettles, they have a gauge on the side. So, if we're only making tea for two, then we only need to fill it as far as that."

Begg has been teaching people about energy efficiency for 40 years.

And of course, the more water there is, the more steam is created - and moisture is not our friend, he said.

"If we're boiling the jug, pop the rangehood on for 30 seconds when it's getting towards the boiling stage, because we want to try and reduce the amount of moisture in our rooms."

What about ovens? Don't ignore the microwave, he said.

"A very, very good appliance used for all sorts of things. And they don't use a lot of energy, they're short, sharp and to the point and work really, really well."

A conventional floor-standing oven takes a lot of energy to heat up, he said.

"We've got a very big oven there with a really big element on it, and it's quite slow compared to cooking something in a microwave."

With older ovens check the seals are in good nick and that the thermostats are all working well, he said.

Michael BeggMichael Begg Photo: RNZ

Not everyone needs a large stove, he recommends a benchtop oven for small households.

"Because the oven is so small, when you look at the capacity of the little oven, I can preheat it to 200c in under ten minutes"

He also rates slow cookers which he thinks are under-used here in Aotearoa.

"I heard that in the States, for example, most homes would have at least two slow cookers. And they are very, very good because they use hardly any power at all."

The hidden power sappers

Begg is often called upon to get to the bottom of electricity sapping mysteries, and more often than not the old, wheezing fridge-freezer in the garage is the culprit.

An old fridge-freezer can cost as much as $200 a year to run, he said.

Begg has seen some garages with two or three fridges or chest freezers.

All well and good if those they are packed with produce you've grown, or meat you've hunted.

But a fridge ticking away with a six-pack of beer and an empty freezer is leaking dollars, he said.

"Older ones are using a lot more electricity, and the less in them, the more energy they use."

Look out for a newer, smaller bar fridge with an energy efficiency star rating, he said.

Do re-arrange the furniture

Is your fridge in the right spot?

Begg sees the fridge in modern homes often placed in direct sun.

"Sunshine on an appliance is just going to create a higher energy use."

And in bedrooms, keep beds away from external walls that are often uninsulated, try an internal wall instead, he said.

"I always recommend having the bed head up against an internal wall it can stop issues such as mould and cold occurring."

If space is constrained, and you do have to go against an external wall, pull your bed slightly away from the wall, he said.

We can introduce dampness into our home unwittingly, he said.

Clothes on a dryer inside being a common source of moisture.

"We get home and that washing may be dry. But where's all the moisture out of the washing gone?"

Don't forget to ventilate, he said.

Hot water can be a power leak

Hot water is being used seven days a week, 52 weeks a year and Community Energy Action said up to 30 percent of our power bill is hot water.

It's worth looking into the pressure in your cylinder, he said

"If you have high pressure cylinder, and you've got an ordinary showerhead, the flow rate from that showerhead can be quite high."

"I have measured some that have had flow rates of 30 litres a minute. So, in a 10-minute shower, there's 300 litres of water."

You can check your flow rate with a bucket test, he said. See how much is in the bucket after 15 seconds and multiply by four.

Ten to 12 litres a minute is fine, he said, 15 to 20 or even as much as 30, then you need to address that - a low flow shower head is a good solution.

Michael Begg's energy saving tips

  • If you're planning to sit down with a cuppa, consider just how many cups you or your guests will drink and only fill the jug with the amount you need.
  • Don't ignore the microwave or slow cooker.
  • If you do have beer fridge, consider how much that fridge is costing you and maybe upgrade to a more efficient one.
  • Try as often as possible to take your washing outside to dry.
  • Consider moving things around appliances furniture within your house to get the most efficient use out of each thing.
  • Take a shorter showers - and check that flow rate.