Energy efficient appliances

Electricity meters give you a measure of control

Electricity meters vary in size, sophistication and price – from under $30 to several hundred dollars – but they’re all useful for raising awareness of what energy you consume. They’re also great for helping people recognise patterns of habit that they were previously unaware of.

There are a range of plug-in power meters that retail for less than $30 at most New Zealand hardware stores. Designed to be plugged into wall sockets, power meters measure whatever appliance is then plugged into them.

They also allow users to measure the specific cost of power usage by entering electricity costs at the time. The Elto Power Meter  and OWL are both good examples of such devices.

Whole house monitors allow you to monitor and analyse your entire household energy consumption 24 hours a day. 

Making the most of energy efficient appliances

The New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) estimates that appliances consume about 40 percent of the average household’s electricity bill – that's a big pool of potential savings.

Simple ways to control your energy consumption when it comes to appliances – from dishwashers to lighting, heating, computers and audiovisual equipment – include:

  • improving the efficiency of existing appliances (including heaters)
  • making energy-wise purchase decisions
  • limiting the operating times of appliances.

Improve the efficiency of existing appliances

Ensure the settings on your appliances meet your needs and that you’re not using more than you have to. For example, the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) reports that fridges and freezers use more power in a year than any other appliances in Kiwi homes – about 10 percent of an average household's electricity bill.

As a rule of thumb, your fridge should be set between 3°C and 5°C (the freezer between -15°C and -18°C) for safe food storage. In winter though, you might be able to get away with a slightly higher temperature setting (still within the 3°C - 5°C safe threshold) – external temperatures work in your favour during these times.

You might want to check if the fridge and freezer seals need replacing. Put a torch in the fridge, turn off all the lights and check for light seepage through the seal.

Make energy wise purchase decisions

How you use appliances, and how you maintain their condition, are key factors in controlling your energy use. It’s also best to choose your appliances wisely from the outset.

Choosing appliances most suited to your needs, including heaters, is easier than it sounds with tools such as EECA’s online running cost calculator.

Used or old products purchased off Trade Me, for example, may be cheap to buy upfront but often consume more energy than up-to-date appliances.

When selecting appliances, look for the New Zealand blue ENERGY STAR mark, which is awarded to energy efficient products. You can also check the energy rating label to see which appliances offer the most efficiency for your budget (the more stars, the better).

It’s also important to do your research around which designs are more energy efficient. For example, front loader washing machines reportedly save on power

Only the top quarter in any category of appliance qualify for the ENERGY STAR 

If it’s not being used, switch it off

Limit the operating time of appliances. Install a low-cost timer (if possible), or be sure to purchase appliances with adjustable timers and thermostats.

These enable you to pre-set ‘on and off’ times for maximum efficiency. For example, most heat pumps have timers so you can start them before you get up in the morning. You’ll have a warm room when you rise, and the pump will switch off as the sun naturally takes over the heating.

Think about steps you can take, like washing with cold water, and eliminate standby time with the use of devices like SmartStrips®