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Energy finder™: Compare electricity & gas suppliers

Potentially save hundreds on your energy bill. Here at finder, we’re committed to helping you find the best deals, and energy and gas are no exception.

We provide a comparison of electricity, gas, and solar deals so you can discover the price and structure to suit your needs. Firstly, it’s always useful to have a recent bill from your current provider when looking at energy suppliers. We do a great job of comparing deals with energy providers, but if you already receive a better deal than anything on offer, it’s good to know you can stick with what you have.

Moving house and not sure what to do?

If you’re moving house, you need to let your energy provider know. When you move to a new location, you have the choice to either switch from, or keep, your current provider, as long as they supply energy to the new area.

Typically, it takes up to three business days to be connected, so it’s best not to delay this until the last minute otherwise you may leave your family in the dark!

How do I compare providers?

When you are looking to switch electricity and gas providers, it’s best to have your new (or future) address close by as this will determine which providers can service your property, and what deals they can offer.

You need to know what type of contract you’re looking for before you begin. There are different types of energy contracts available in New Zealand – fixed and flexible. Your particular circumstances will play a role into which option you choose, so if you’re not sure, ask the retailers for more information. Let’s look at the difference between the two:

Fixed contract

With a fixed-term contract, you sign up with a retailer for a fixed period and lock in a set rate for the course of the deal. A fee typically applies if you want to end the contract before it expires, so make sure you check the terms and conditions before you swap suppliers. Fixed-term agreements may provide security when electricity prices rise, but bear in mind if prices fall you may be stuck paying a higher rate.

Flexible contract

A Flexible contract gives the retailer more opportunity to change its rates but does not require you to commit to a fixed term. You are free to end the contract at any time, without having to pay a fee. They are more responsive to market trends in price, and if the rate is falling, this is okay, but there is the chance the price will continue to rise, and this could add up to a significant cost over time. Make sure you keep an eye on the price you are paying and to compare it to other retailers. If they are offering more attractive rates, contact your retailer to see if they can match their offer.

What are some things to consider when choosing a provider?

There are many aspects to consider when deciding on an energy provider: Bundle deals (if you are purchasing electricity AND gas); exit fees and whether they consider concessions. Retailers/providers offer a variety of deals to suit your household, so having a good idea of your household energy need beforehand can help the process along?

Which package do I already have?

Some energy providers, like Genesis, will install solar panels at your address (for a fee). However, if you already have solar panels installed at home, then it makes sense you would look to switch to an energy provider that offers packages for solar customers (Contact and Mercury are among other solar providers in New Zealand).

Do I need my bill to get a comparison of quotes?

Yes, having your last electricity/gas bill is helpful when receiving quotes from providers. At the very least, it can suggest an estimate of your bill and a payment period.

Are there establishment fees for starting a contract with a new company?

It depends. For gas and electricity, fees apply if you don’t already have a meter or connection to the gas mains. In this case, it might be quite expensive to get the necessary infrastructure and connection. If you are switching to a new company, from a pre-existing relationship before the contract is up, there may be associated exit-fees. Contact your current energy provider to learn more about these.

Are there any fees for switching electricity or gas companies?

Sometimes. There are often fees for switching between companies, and some deals within the same company have associated exit fees while others will not. To find out whether your provider has exit fees, you can call them or check out your package details online.

How much can I save on energy, realistically?

There is a lot of variability in energy usage, and households can save significant amounts by optimising their energy plans. The higher a household’s energy usage, the larger the potential saving, so it depends on your current usage. “Consumer Powerswitch” can help compare electricity and gas plans.

If I have solar panels, does this limit my options with energy retailers? Sometimes. Electricity retailers may offer specific plans for residents with solar power. When selecting a plan, you have to notify your retailer of your current solar system setup.

Solar hot water

What are solar hot water systems and what’s the difference between “flat-plate” and “evacuated tube” designs?

Solar hot water systems catch energy from the sun, store that energy in water for later use around the home, like hot showers and dishwashers. These systems take the pressure off the traditional gas or electricity-powered hot water systems like boilers.

  • Flat-plate systems consist of a flat glass plate covering copper pipes. These pipes hold water, which are heated by the sun, and then transported to a storage vessel.
  • Evacuated tubes are just that, tubes with a vacuum component for insulation. As with flat-plates, the sun heats up the copper pipes, but thanks to the 360° nature of the tubes, the tubes catch more sun than the flat-plate panels. Evacuated tubes are usually more expensive, but are newer; more efficient; durable and easily fixed.

Where can I go to get a quote on solar hot water?

Companies such as Smart Energy Solutions and The Alternative Energy Company can provide quotes for solar hot water. For more information, you can also go to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), which is committed to improving the energy efficiency of New Zealand. It encourages the use of renewable energy like solar power.

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Solar panel systems

Which components make up a solar panel system?

You need the solar panels themselves, an inverter for converting the energy, potentially a battery to store the energy and if on the ground, a mount to bear the equipment.

What type of solar mounting systems are there?

You can install solar panels on the roof, in which case you may need to reinforce it. Alternatively, you can mount panels on racks on the ground, which is usually the choice for larger set-ups. More sophisticated systems can be multi-functional, doubling as an awning or sunlight, so they absorb sunlight and offer shade.

What is the best solar ground-mount racking system to use?

Able Solar, Reid Technology and Solar Electric Technology offer an array of ground-mounted options. The durability of many ground-mount systems can be improved by fixing them to the ground using a pile or anchor pile as required.

What do you need to know about batteries for solar?

When selecting a battery, there are a variety of factors to consider: How quickly the battery loses its capacity; how many charges it can take before it loses capacity; how much return you receive in energy, as a proportion of how much you input. Also, it is a sensible idea to have enough storage to cover you for between 3 and 4 days.

What do inverters do?

Inverters convert the direct current (DC) energy, made by the solar panels, into alternating current (AC) energy to be used by your household. A small amount of loss can occur during this process.

What is the difference between AC and DC and how does this apply to appliances and solar?

AC is the current that arrives in your home or business via the power lines. This current periodically changes (or alternates) its direction of flow. AC can travel through the grid for a cheaper cost than DC. Photovoltaic cells (solar panels) have an output which is DC and must be converted to AC to be usable. “Inverters” perform this conversion.

Which inverters should I purchase for my solar system?

Inverter manufacturers usually specify a percentage of DC electricity that is converted to AC electricity, often around 94%, by their converter. If you can pay for a slightly more expensive inverter, it is worth it, as if they are higher quality they tend to yield more AC electricity.

What is a solar micro-inverter?

A micro-inverter individually converts the output of each solar panel. Each output is then combined. A micro-inverter can be superior to a typical inverter system, which converts the cumulative production of all solar panels. Poorly performing panels can hamper this process. This setup is ideal if some panels are partially in shade throughout the day.

What are solar scams?

Yes, believe it or not, “green schemes” or “solar scams” are out there. SCAMwatch described at least one version of the scam, as offering rebates for solar systems after an initial upfront payment.

Some of the scammers perform the charade of being solar system salespeople before rushing on an impromptu deal, catching the victim off guard.

You can avoid these scams, by asking questions and gathering as many details about the “company” as possible.

Do solar suppliers and installers vary in their reliability?

Of course. There is a selection of companies out there willing to sell solar tech to you, and/or install it. You need to carry out plenty of research before diving into a solar installation, and don’t rush into anything – Especially if it’s at the insistence of door-knocking folk!

What solar panels should keep an eye out for?

There are a variety of solar panels out there, and they are continually increasing in efficiency and decreasing in price, so make sure you shop around for the best deal.

What happens if I see cracks or other signs of damage on my panels?

Turn off your solar system and contact the supplier, as you may find the warranty covers this.

How much do solar panels cost?

Anywhere from one hundred to many thousands.

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Case studies

Case Study: Mysteriously high electricity bill

Meghan receives an uncharacteristically high electricity bill, hundreds of dollars above her typical one. It may be an inaccurate reading from her supplier or it could be due to high-appliance usages, which could be leaky, which is usually the case 99% of the time. Meghan takes her observations to her ombudsman in Auckland, and it turns out to be a faulty electricity meter. Though this is a rare occurrence, it is good to know the reason behind such an increase in price.

Case Study: Seasonal bill totals

Finlay is looking through his past bills and finds that his recent usage is more expensive than usual – over double his regular energy usage. However, he is comparing two bills from different seasons. Winter and summer require different energy use, ie, extra heating and cooling. Make sure you compare two bills from the same time of year.

Case Study: Import/export meter on solar systems

Kam and Maja are informed by their solar installer that they can activate the system before their import/export meter is installed. This is bad advice. They receive blips in their bills, some in their favour, some not, and it can’t be accurately rectified by their retailer, due to the breach of meter protocol. Make sure you check your energy suppliers guidelines on this matter to make sure what applies.

Case Study: Strange bills on solar

After not receiving a bill for some time Rini, a solar panel owner, contacts his supplier to enquire. He then receives all his previous bills at once, totalling over $1,500. Before his photovoltaic (PV) panels were installed a year ago, he was being billed regularly and as usual. Rini then takes his case to “Utilities Disputes”. Upon investigation, it turns out his solar system has reversed his billings: He is being charged for his contribution to the grid, and credited for his usage. Rini’s energy retailer recognised this issue and cancelled all his bills, but they forgot to reissue them. This results in the $1,500 bill he received. After “Utilities Disputes” became involved, Rini’s suppliers instantly remedy the situation.

Case Study: Fallen behind on payments

Frances and her family fall behind on their payments. She contacts the retailer and makes a deal to pay back the deficit. Though the retailer agrees, they still switch off Frances’ power. Though the retailer quickly realises their mistake and turns it back on, Frances takes no risks and goes straight to “Utilities Disputes”. They ensure her power is indeed turned back on, and she is rightfully compensated for her spoilt refrigerator food.

Case Study: Unable to pay energy bills

Joe, a self-employed shepherd, has outstanding payments on his energy bill. As he is unable to pay, the electricity retailer shuts the power off. For Joe to get it back on, the retailer makes a payment plan with Joe, but due to his irregular income, he is unable to commit to it. Joe seeks help from “Utilities Disputes”, who work with him and the retailer to arrive at a payment plan that is achievable.

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Other important questions to ask

How fast can my electricity be connected?

If you already have a meter, it will take around three business days. It may take longer if you don’t.

I’m moving house, what do I do?

Step one is to find out whether your new residence has an electricity or gas connection. To determine whether you have connected gas or electricity, you can contact an energy retailer (such as Contact Energy) or an energy distributor, the companies that upkeep energy infrastructure such as power lines and gas pipes, eg Vector. For a new property with no electricity, it can take up to three weeks to be connected. However, if your utilities are already connected, step two is to set up a contract with a new provider.

What is the difference between an energy “supplier”, “distributor” and “retailer”?

  • Suppliers: Suppliers generate the electricity or gas, via various green and not-so-green processes.
  • Distributor: Distributors take the energy from the suppliers and distribute it to residents and businesses. The distributors are often responsible for maintaining the infrastructure including power lines, pipelines, etc.
  • Retailer: Retailers are the companies who sell you the power from the distributors, and whose names you are probably aware of: Contact Energy, Trustpower, Meridian Energy, Mercury NZ Ltd, Genesis Energy etc.

How is energy measured?

  • Gas: Gas is measured by its capacity to release heat energy, and this unit is called a joule (J), which may sound familiar, as the amount of heat energy released from food. For example, it requires 4.2 joules to heat 1 gram of water, by just 1℃. Your gas usage is measured in thousands of joules (kilojoules – KJ) or more likely millions of joules (megajoules – MJ).
  • Electricity: Your electricity usage is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). A kilowatt is 1000 joules used up in a second. So a kilowatt-hour is a 1000 joules used every second for a whole hour. That’s 1 kilojoule x 60 seconds x 60 minutes = 3,600. So a kilowatt-hour uses 3,600 KJ (or 3.6 MJ).

What are the peak hours for electricity and why do they exist?

“Peak” hours refer to the times when there is the most strain on the electricity network. The times roughly correspond to:

  • Peak times. 5-8 pm weekdays.
  • Off-peak. 10pm-7am all days.
  • Shoulder. Intermediate times between peak and off-peak.

What are retail electricity tariffs?

How much you pay for the electricity you use, and the cost of it being brought to you.

What are feed-in tariffs?

How much you earn from the power you generate and supply with photovoltaic panels (PVs)

Why do tariffs exist and why does electricity cost?

Network charges cost a lot. They consist of: The cost of bringing electricity from the generator to your house; the inherent value of electricity and the cost associated running the retailer. However, there are schemes where customers are rewarded for going green, and these costs are incorporated into further tariffs.

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