Home Forums General Discussion Extraordinarily high power bill

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    Panapa Ehau

    Kia ora everyone

    My name is Panapa Ehau. I did the HPA training earlier this year and have done around 20 assessments in my local community since then. I am loving being able to help whanau who are living in my community. All the assessments have been straight forward until this property I assessed two days ago.

    The house is used for emergency housing for people waiting to move into a Housing New Zealand property. The turnover of tenants is usually between 3 – 6 months. The current whanau there have been in the property for four months. It is a 90m 2 house that is north facing. It is not insulated. The first two photos attached are of two powerbills ($500- $550) from this property which is what they have been receiving since they moved in. The second is from the property they were in prior to this property ($150). Both houses are uninsulated and simialr in construction and layout. It seems to be an extraordinary difference so am seeking some guidance of possible causes. This is the first powerbill that i have seen by this company and could not explain it to the whanau. They have an inbuilt wood burner that is used. The whanau consists of two parents, a 4 – 6 year old and a 5 month old baby and have been all sleeping in the lounge to be close to the heat source. They have two heaters, an electric and an oil fin heater (photos attached) which they use at night for between 8 – 12 hours depending on how cold it is. The whanau put extra blankets over the windows and doors that let in the cold drafts. They have a fridge and freezer which were purchase 4 years ago so are relatively efficient. The hot water cyclinder is a 40 year old electric that is uninsulated with no lagging on the pipes. They turned down the thermostat when they moved in. I could not find anything that would be using a significant amount of electricity. They are frugal with their electricity use.

    I tracked down the previous tenants who also said they had high power bills at the house (the wife wasn’t home so I wasn’t able to get a copy of one of their power bills).

    I have a house of similar age and condition with the major difference being i have insulation under the floor in the roof and we have triple layered curtains. Our monthly bill is just over $100 so their bills of $500 per month seems extraordinarily out of place.

    Any thoughts on why this bill maybe so high would be much appreciated.

    Have a great day!


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    Phil Squire

    Hi Panapa

    I reckon it’s the electric heaters. 2 of them running say 10 hours/day will rack up that kind of bill. 2 heaters x 10 hours x 2.2kW/heater x $0.30/kWh x 30 days/month = $400. BUT…

    I don’t understand Just Energy’s measurements of power use on the “Controlled” meter. I note that it uses exactly the same amount as the uncontrolled and just wonder if there’s some double counting going on by Just Energy? Do they actually have two meters in the house and if so how do they end up using exactly that same amount of power? Something seems a little fishy there. You’ll see their previous house had two meter types and the hot water is different and appears to be in the correct ratio to the uncontrolled power usage.

    Cheers, Phil

    Eion Scott

    The two heaters are 2.2kW and 1kW according to the pics. So 96c an hour if both on full. So $288 a month running 10 hours a day. But even still, I agree with Phil there’s something strange going on with the way they’re estimating the bill. Could the July bill have been a lot lower (actual).

    Sarah Grant

    Hi Panapa! Great to see the efforts you’re going to for your community, and I hope you’re enjoying things.

    If you like I can pass these bills through (confidentially) to my fiance, who is a Senior Energy Consultant specialising in tariff errors, to see what he has to say about the charging? Although he works primarily with commercial customers he has a wicked knack of being able to spot charging errors.

    I also note there doesn’t appear to be a prompt payment discount and in fact there’s a hefty ($1 a day) late payment administration charge – just what someone who requires HNZ assistance needs huh?!


    Roger Woods

    Hi Panapa.

    Great to see you’re using those skills to help the community.

    I see the April/May bill is much lower than the later winter ones, which would support the heaters being a greater cost as they are used more.
    However, in that bill the uncontrolled and controlled usage amounts are quite different,(449 vs 180) as you would expect.In the later bills they are exactly the same, which seems unlikely.
    I’d be checking with Just re this.
    Also hard to see what proportion the hot water is – the few I’ve done have been greatly effected by hot water use – shower heads particularly. It would be interesting to see flow rate for that and how many a day.



    Panapa Ehau

    Thanks everyone for the feedback

    The tenants said they were using their heaters at the previous address, not to the same extent but still they were in use.

    Roger – I measured the water flow of the shower and its only 6 litres per minute. I will follow up to see how many times they shower and how often they use the bath.

    Sarah – it would be much appreciated if you could get your partner to have a look at the bills.

    Eion – The other bills for the winter have been about this amount so i don’t think the high bills are due to them being estimated.

    Phil – i will follow up to see if they have two meters running.

    Thanks again everyone

    I will come back with some more info soon


    Ian McChesney

    Hi Panapa
    I think you have a significant issue with the accuracy of the power bills because most of them are estimates.

    The power bill from the previous property is also not a good guide because the first reading on 17/4 was actual but the next reading on 16/5 was an estimate.

    On the current property the reading on 6/6 was an estimate, 10/7 was an estimate, 15/8 was actual, and the latest 12/9 is an estimate. So it’s really difficult to work out what is going on (but does explain why the readings from each of the two meters were the same on some of the bills – the power company just being lazy with their estimates).

    I note that the actual reading on the 2nd meter on 15/8 was less then the estimate on 10/7, so hopefully they got a discount on that part of the bill for July/Aug.

    In terms of analysis of consumption I would suggest that you get the family to record their meter readings every day (at roughly same time) over the next week or so to get an idea of actual use at this time. From the power company you should also get a period of use between two actual readings as the basis for some analysis of usage patterns.

    Best wishes

    Phil Squire

    Yes, perhaps it is extreme laziness in the estimates to estimate controlled and uncontrolled as the same. But I still reckon they have algorithms to estimate energy use. And arriving at exact levels for both meters seems off. Still worth checking how/why they would estimate in such an obviously random manner.

    Sarah Grant

    Hi All,

    Ross looked at the bills last night and agrees completely with Ian. He also mentioned that people need to be careful to take an initial reading when they move into a new place because there is the option for outgoing tenants to provide a self-read to get their final bill (and hence the opportunity for dishonesty in the reading – putting some of the last power use onto the next tenants). This may not have happened in this case but it’s worth letting the tenants know about for future reference.

    I think it’s so unethical to estimate both meters at the same amount (as Ian said the controlled reading on the second missing bill was lower than the estimate of the month previous so should have resulted in a refund on that portion). Just Energy should have been able to extrapolate when estimating the third bill based on how wrong they got the previous estimate of the controlled meter usage – doing this would have saved them a bunch of money and they might have been able to pay the bill in full instead of being hit with a penalty!

    Bring on smart meters!

    Ian McChesney

    Hi all
    Sarah makes a really good point about how unethical it is for the retailer to give a ridiculously high estimate of use, which could then be a major reason why a household cannot pay the bill on time and gets landed with a penalty payment.

    Panapa, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to make a general enquiry to contacts I have at the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commissioner about what redress customers have in this situation (I won’t use any of the details of your client)? I just think it would be useful for us all to know.

    Also, it seems like this is the ideal house for an energy efficiency makeover. Is this something the house owners will be open to? (I realise EnergyWise energy service provider options may be a bit thin on the ground way up on the East Coast)



    Really interesting discussion guys. So pleased to see the Hub is affording this kind of discussion and support for advisors on the ground. Panapa, I’d be interested to hear the final outcome of this when it’s known

    Panapa Ehau

    Kia ora Ian

    Housing nz owns the house and it is used by Te Runanga o Ngati Porou as an emergency house for people who are waiting to be placed in a state house. I was surprised to find out that HNZ owned the house as it is not insulated which is not up to their standards for housing conditions!I have asked the housing manager to follow this up and she was suppose to have had a response back to her by Friday. As of at his morning at 10 am she had not heard anything back.

    It would be much appreciated by myself and the current tenants if you could make some general enquiries with your contacts.

    I agree that this would be an ideal house to do an energy efficiency makeover. I have organised for double layered curtains from the the Red Cross curtain bank in Gisborne. Is there a process for an energy efficiency makeover?

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