Knowledge is (less) power

Anne Wignall is on a mission to reduce her peak time electricity usage to zero. And thanks to her solar system, battery, and Electric Kiwi’s MoveMaster plan with a free Hour of Power, she’s getting closer to reaching that goal.

For Anne Wignall, limiting the amount of energy she uses is about doing her bit for the environment and reducing her costs. Living in Christchurch, she’s also conscious about the security of energy supply in the event of natural disasters.

Because of the day-time power generation from her solar system, the flexibility of supply from her battery and a separate solar hot water system, her power bills are modest. In fact, thanks to the summer sun and the high solar buyback rate on Electric Kiwi’s MoveMaster plan, her account has recently been in credit—even with an electric vehicle to charge.

Helping customers reduce their peak time usage with MoveMaster is a huge motivation for Electric Kiwi. Because the plan comes with cheaper off-peak rates and half-price overnight rates from 11pm to 7am, it helps households reduce their bills. Shifting usage to off-peak times also means they are more likely to be using electricity that comes from renewable sources.

That’s something Wignall is passionate about. She uses timers on her clothes dryer and dishwasher to ensure they only run at off-peak times and during her free off-peak Hour of Power. The Nissan Leaf in her garage is also charged during the Hour of Power. In fact, because she also takes advantage of free local charging points, Wignall says powering her EV hardly costs her a thing.

Mastering the Hour of Power

Wignall, formerly a science teacher, describes her energy usage habits as “just the right thing to do”.

“I wanted to charge the car overnight because it’s better for the country—plus, it’s good money-wise too. I make the free hour of off-peak power 3am most of the time because no one else is using energy then. When you do things on timers, you can do it any way you like. It just makes sense.

“I normally score above 92 per cent off-peak. My goal is zero kilowatts per hour between 7am and 11pm but I haven’t hit that yet. Possibly under one kilowatt per hour is achievable. I enjoy playing the game.”

Wignall has always been conscious of her environmental impact and wants to do her bit to limit the effects of climate change. But the devastation of the Christchurch earthquakes have also influenced the investments she’s made in making her home as energy efficient as possible.

“My first reason for wanting solar was the security of supply. The second reason was climate change, and the third reason was saving money,” she says. “Solar makes me happy, though it’s not for everyone. If you use most of your electricity during the day, it makes sense to generate it if you can. But I know it can take quite a few years until it’s paid for itself.”

Saving with solar-powered hot water

Wignall attributes much of her money-saving success to her solar-powered hot water heating, which is why she encourages others to do what they can to reduce these costs.

“On the main roof is a solar hot water panel, together with a microprocessor controlling the hot water cylinder. As soon as I figured out how to do it, I set the water cylinder to only heat the water overnight (from 3am) if the sun did not do the job during the day. We shower and wash clothes in the morning, so on the rare occasions where the water isn’t piping hot at 9pm, it doesn’t matter,” she says.

“I set my Hour of Power to match my hot water setting, then I set the house battery to charge for that hour, and have a timer for my car so it charges then, too. Charging my car for an hour per day covers about 70 per cent of my needs. The rest I mostly get from free chargers in select car parks like my local supermarket. It seems to me that paying to charge EVs is now optional… at least for someone driving 50 kilometres per week.”

Keeping warm for less

While her summer bills are low, winters in Christchurch inevitably lead to higher costs, despite Wignall’s best efforts to utilise the solar and battery that’s been fully charged with cheap overnight electricity rates. But the heat pump is sometimes used at peak times. That’s why Wignall encourages everyone to insulate their homes as well as they can—including double-glazed windows and draft stoppers—and ensure internal doors are closed so that they can focus on heating the most-used areas of the house.

“Do as much as you can to insulate your home because every little bit helps in both quality of life and reducing energy costs,” Wignall says. “This goes for people renting their homes, too. You could easily hook linings to curtains to help keep the cold out.”

Use the tools at your fingertips

Wignall understands that her circumstances are unique and that not everyone is able to invest in their homes the same way she has. She wants experts—and energy retailers—to do more to inform customers about their power usage habits and tell them where efficiencies are possible. She loves to use the Electric Kiwi app and other resources to monitor her usage and make adjustments where she can.

“I think the most valuable tool I have is the app on my phone that tells me, every five minutes, the power generated, power to and from the battery, and power to or from the grid. It shows me what appliances use lots of power and which don’t. For example, I know my vacuum cleaner uses lots of power, so I try to use it on sunny days,” she says.

“People need more information about their personal energy usage, people need to know what uses a lot of energy and what doesn’t—everyone who pays for electricity needs to understand how their water is heated and when. Knowledge is power. It can help people alter their behaviour.”

Electric Kiwi customers have access to a range of helpful insights through an easy-to-use mobile app. They can monitor energy usage over time, nominate and change an Hour of Power, as well as manage account and billing information. See more:

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