The home makeover guru who'll slash your energy bills by hundreds of dollars
Ramona Salvador has such a good offer shell bring you free lightbulbs and tips to slash hundreds off your power bill people can suspect its a scam. Salvador provides home energy makeovers for Ecobulb, a company that receives council, government and community funding to help families reduce energy use. Her insights are even more important at the moment, with the rising cost of living leaving family budgets tight even before winter. About 20% of the countrys electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels, including gas and coal. The share rises during peak times, such as winter evenings when people switch on heaters and cooking appliances. Reducing power consumption especially during peak periods could significantly reduce emissions. Energy-saving work has taken Salvador all over New Zealand, and into more than 500 homes. During a recent assessment, she estimated one family could save more than $1200 a year following her advice. Thats around about the average. All up, Ecobulb has conducted more than 7500 assessments across the country, from Kaikohe in Northland to Ashburton. Salvador hopes more councils will consider providing funding to help their communities. Salvadors biggest win was a family spending $2400 more than they needed on energy. She enjoys the opportunity to help people. This is my dream job. The Ecobulb team typically uses Facebook to reach out to communities where the assessments have been funded. That generates a lot of interest, Salvador said. I think its more noticeable now with the cost of living theyre trying to find any area to save, somewhere they dont have to take food out of their kids mouths. In Christchurch, Aranui resident Sara Farmer received Salvadors help. The family moved into their home last winter. Spending $90 per week feeding the new houses pellet fire, they were keen for energy-saving tips. But Farmer a natural pessimist was a little concerned the offer was legit. Whats the angle? she wondered. But she was won over: I was just surprised there were no strings attached. They gave me some good tips, free lightbulbs and a showerhead. Happy days. Salvador has experienced scepticism before, needing to reassure families its all completely free. But once word of mouth gets around, peoples caution doesnt last long, she said. The makeover shaved an estimated $550 off the Farmer familys power bills. Farmer was so impressed she joined Salvadors team for a spell, providing energy makeover advice to others in her community. The cost of living in New Zealand is so high, Farmer said. New Zealanders get ripped off for everything. Part of Salvadors work is myth-busting: such as correcting the misconception that its more efficient to leave your heat pump running constantly. Youre still using power, she said. Shell also ask families for the temperature they use for the heat pump some set it as high as 28C. Im thinking what? Salvador advises families to use a lower temperature, to save power. But that may not be appropriate in draughty houses, she said, where plenty of heat escapes through poorly-insulated ceilings, walls and windows. That heat pump will never turn off, because its still trying to get up to that temperature. Here are Salvadors top tips to cut your energy bills: Always buy LED lights. These bulbs use a tiny fraction of the electricity of traditional ones. So while they might cost slightly more upfront, theyll shave even more off your electricity bill. Use a slow-flow shower head. Hot water is a large contributor to energy bills. Lower-flow heads limit water use, meaning your hot water system will also reduce its demand. Clean your heat-pump filter. Heat pumps are a highly efficient way to heat your home. But youll lose a part of that efficiency if you never clean the filters. Removing and vacuuming the filters every three months should keep the system operating smoothly. Turn off that beer fridge. Little-used appliances can cost upwards of $50 per year to run. Be particularly wary of fridges and freezers that have been in the family for years, as these inefficient devices will guzzle power. Even switching off well-used appliances at the wall between uses can make a noticeable difference. Our weekly email newsletter, by the Forever Project's Olivia Wannan, rounds up the latest climate events. Sign up here .