Beat the winter power bill blues

Posted May 14th, 2013 by Claire S

Last night at my Weight Watcher's meeting (ah hem, 5.6kg lost since you're asking!), I got chatting to another member about how jolly cold it's getting here in Auckland (especially when you're wearing a lightweight t-shirt and cotton pants for your weigh-in!). After thoroughly bemoaning the increased cost of keeping a household running over winter, she told me her power bill was a whopping… wait for it… $170! Whoa, I nearly fell off my chair. Seriously? That's positively eensy compared to our average winter fork out of $350 a month. She has the same family size as me, yet half the power bill? Something wasn't adding up here. I began the interrogation!

Okay, first up she had a fire burner, so there was a definite saving there over our hodge-podge of outdated electric heaters. Aside from that, she told me she was a stickler about switching off lights and appliances. It got me thinking. Especially when I arrived home and found every single light (yep, every one!) in the house blazing away. I could smell the money burning! After stomping through the house flicking switches and hollering down the hallway to the family about their evil money-wasting ways (ok, so I have been known to leave the stereo going to keep the dog company… I accept my portion of the blame!), But then, like a bolt out of the blue (of the low-watt, energy saving variety), I came up with a cunning plan.

It was time for a family confab. First, I dug out two power bills. One from summer ($120) and one from last winter ($380 - ech!) so the kids could see just how much we're spending. We then brainstormed ideas on how to cut costs and delved into The Vault to check out even more brillo ideas. Actually, the kids had quite a few good ideas including using a timer in the shower to keep hot water costs down (especially good for our youngest who will shower for as long as she can get away with!), reusing their towels, and switching off the hallway light at time (in favour of a small low-watt night light for DD's room).

In addition, I've told them that every time I find a light left on in their room (or TV, computer or other power-sucking device), I'd be fining them! Our two daughters get a small weekly allowance, so they've been told that for every misdemeanour, they'd be fined $0.50c from their next pay, and for our 19-year-old, his board would be duly increased. Well, that got their attention! I've never seen such a flurry of light flicking!

We're also toying with the idea of making the leap from electric heaters to a heat pump. Our house is soooo cold over winter (wooden floors, large windows!). After doing a bit of research and speaking to a few heat pumped-friends and family, I think the investment will pay off. Firstly, it will be more economical to run, we can dry off lightweight clothes on a rack while it's being used. It will also help keep condensation at bay and it has a timer so we can set it to come on only as certain times. But I'd be keen to hear from others who have one - do you think they're worth the investment?

One thing's for sure, saving power is most definitely a family effort. There's no point in conscientiously switching off lights only to find your teenage son is using the dryer to warm up his underpants.

I'll be interested to see how we go this winter! What's your best tip to encourage the family to switch off?

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January 2013