Electricity costs 

Can I save money on my power bills by switching to another provider? 

If you answer 5 basic questions on the Electricity Authority's What's My Number website you'll get a quick estimate of how much money you might be able to save by switching to another provider.

You can then go to the Powerswitch website for more detailed information. Using your current power bill to answer their questions, you’ll be able to estimate your savings and compare a range of pricing plans that might be suitable for you. If you do decide to change your power provider, you can do this through the Powerswitch website too. 

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Does it cost anything to change power companies?

Unless you’re on a fixed rate plan, it should be free for you to change power supplier. It's a good idea to ask the supplier you are leaving and the one you are signing up with whether there will be any extra costs, for example a disconnection fee from the old supplier, a bond to pay to the new supplier, or a fee for changing or modifying your meter. 

If you are on a fixed rate plan (where your power is charged at a fixed rate over a fixed term) and you decided to switch power suppliers before the end of the term, you could be charged an “exit” fee. Your contract should specify whether this applies to you, and how much the “exit” fee would be. (Read our answer to Would I be better off on a fixed rate plan?

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What sorts of discounts do electricity providers offer?

It's well worth finding out from electricity providers whether they have any discounts, or special offers for new customers.

  • Some electricity providers offer a discount on your bill if you pay before the due date.
  • Some will give you a discount if you buy both electricity and gas from them. 
  • Members of Grey Power can get a discount if they sign up with Pulse Energy.
  • Some will provide free electricity for a period of time if you switch to them as a new customer.

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Can my power company charge me for power not billed for a long period of time?

Yes they can. You have to pay your bills, whether they arrive on time or not. However it is up to the power company to make sure you get your bills within a reasonable time-frame. If there is a problem with your bill being really large and you hadn’t received one for a long time, you might be able to negotiate with the power company to pay it bit by bit or perhaps get a discount. Make sure you ask your power company for your bill if it doesn’t arrive on time, or set some money aside each month to pay for your bill when it does finally get to you.

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My latest bill is much higher than normal – there must be some mistake. What should I do?

A number of factors could be behind your bill being abnormally high. These include:

  • It’s been unusually hot or cold, so that you’ve used cooling or heating appliances more than usual
  • You’ve had people stay at your home, leading to increases in usage
  • You have new appliances which use more power e.g. a larger or additional refrigerator
  • You’ve started keeping your appliances on standby rather than turning them off completely (e.g. computers, televisions)
  • You have appliances which have become more power-hungry due to age or a fault
  • Your meter had been recording your usage inaccurately (e.g. because it needed fixing or replacing), or your earlier bills have been based on estimates which were too low – so that you have a shortfall to pay when the accurate readings start to be taken
  • You haven’t been billed for several months (see the previous question) so that when you do receive a bill it is for several months’ usage
  • The bill includes additional charges e.g. disconnection and reconnection fees
  • The meter has been read incorrectly.

If you have a high bill which can’t be explained, contact your provider and ask them to look into it. You can also contact them if the high bill is justified but you think you’ll have a problem paying it all at once, or if there’s a fault with the meter or meter reading.

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What is prepaid electricity and how does it work?

Also known as pay-as-you-go electricity, this is a plan offered by some power suppliers where you pay for your power in advance. It can be a good option for people on low budgets, as it allows them to control how much money is spent on power. However pre-paid electricity can be more expensive than other options.

Exactly how it works will depend on the electricity supplier, but in general: 

  • the power company installs a special meter at your house (they may charge for this)
  • you buy electricity by phone, Internet or through a member retailer
  • when you pay, either you are given a PIN to type onto the meter keypad, or you have a smart card which is topped up, depending on your electricity provider.

Before you decide whether a prepaid electricity plan is right for you, ask the supplier about:

  • their other pricing plans, for example plans for low-usage customers.
  • whether you’ll be able to monitor your power usage (so it’s easy to tell when its time to top up your credit again).
  • what you can expect to happen if you don’t get around to topping up your credit before it expires (they may simply disconnect you, or provide an automatic top-up for you). This is especially important for vulnerable and medically dependent consumers.

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I need to buy a new washing machine but want to make sure it is energy efficient.

There are two labels you should look out for. The first is the energy-rating label, which gives you information on how much energy a product uses so you can compare models. Every white ware appliance and heat pump sold in New Zealand has to display this label. The more stars on the label, the less energy the appliance uses.

There is also a blue ENERGY STAR mark that is an independent international indicator of the most energy efficient products in each category. These models can use up to 50% less power than lower-rated models. 

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What are some ways to reduce power usage in my home?

You'll find a number of power-saving tips on our sustainable living page and on our Healthy homes and home insulation page.