• Climate hub
  • 2 Feb 2022
  • 4 min read

Top 5 power-hungry appliances

Which appliances use the most power in your home – and how can you manage them more effectively?

By Amy Hamilton Chadwick

Appliances are one of the great conveniences of modern life, whether it’s a basic oven or a PS5. They massively reduce our housework burden and provide incredible entertainment, all at a relatively low running cost. But some appliances are more power-hungry than others, so managing them effectively could make a respectable dent in your power bill.

1. Your heaters

Heating is the biggest cost in the typical Kiwi household, according to Branz research. Although your hot water cylinder is responsible for around 29% of your total power bill, it’s space heaters that take the top spot at 34% of total household energy use.

Portable electric heaters are the most common type of heating appliance in New Zealand homes and cost between 6c an hour (for a 250W heater) to 60c an hour (for a 2400W heater). These are ideal for rooms you use less, but for your main room a fixed heat source like a heat pump will do a better job and be more energy efficient. A kilowatt of heat generated by a heat pump costs around 10c; the same kilowatt from an electric heater costs around 30c.

2. Your fridge and freezer

Keeping your food cold takes a lot of energy – fridges and freezers are responsible for around 10% of all the energy in a typical Kiwi home. That’s the third-largest category of energy use, after heating and hot water. That’s why an energy efficient fridge makes a big difference. The most efficient fridges costs around $50 a year to run, compared with $150-plus for the least efficient, according to the Gen Less calculator.

To get the most from your fridge, make sure it works properly. Faulty fridges and especially freezers are huge consumers of power, with Branz estimating that 7% of New Zealand fridges and freezers are faulty. Check the seal on your refrigeration appliances and don’t leave the doors open – it’s tempting to stare into the fridge wondering what to eat, but try to resist!

3. Your oven and stovetop

Cooking is responsible for around 6% of your power bill, and unfortunately there’s a high proportion of wasted heat in that equation. It’s estimated that only around 10 to 15% of the power used is cooking the food and the rest is just heating up the nearby air.

Induction stovetops are the most efficient, with exposed coil elements the least efficient. For ovens, the most efficient are self-cleaning convection or fan ovens; gas ovens are less efficient. It’s worth remembering that kettles are the best way to boil water and microwaves are far more efficient than other types of cooking because they only heat the food, not all the air around it.

4. Your washer and dryer

Your washing machine is not only a vital home appliance but also a reasonably efficient one, with the cost of a load of washing starting from just 5c. To get the most from it, always wash a full load; use auto sensing for the load size or water level so you’re not using more power than you need to; and choose a cold water wash when possible. If you need to replace it, look for an efficient model, which will cost around $50 a year to run, compared to as much as $240 for a less efficient model. Dryers cost around $1.10 per load, so use an outdoor clothesline to dry clothes when you can.

Bear in mind that your laundry uses about 4% of your standby energy, and there’s really no good reason to keep your washer and dryer on between uses. Get into the habit of switching these off at the wall.

5. Your entertainment systems

The running cost for your television will depend very much on how large it is. An efficient 24” television might cost just $20 a year to run, while a less efficient 98” screen will cost closer to $600.

Entertainment devices do tend to be left on standby, which can soak up a surprising amount of power over a year. TVs aren’t too bad, but Sky decoders, soundbars, gaming consoles, speaker docks and especially multi-function printers (up to $127 a year!) can really add up.

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