Put simply, a smart home is a house that has two-way communication between its appliances/devices, and the national electricity grid. This service is not fully available yet in New Zealand, but has the potential to reduce unnecessary energy use, save you money, and relieve pressure on the grid.

What is a smart home?

In a smart home, electrical appliances are expected to be able to connect to a ‘flexibility service provider’ that helps manage your electricity use based on the needs of your household. For this to work, your appliances would either have ‘smart’ technology built into them, or be plugged in to a ‘smart’ plug.

Steps you can take now

Tackle your ‘quick wins’

  1. 1

    Wrap your hot water cylinder

    Wrapping your hot water cylinder in an insulation blanket can help it retain heat for longer.

  2. 2

    Switch to LEDs

    Changing to LED light bulbs can dramatically reduce you lighting energy consumption.

  3. 3

    Monitor heat pump use

    Only run your heat pump when you are at home and ‘heat the space you are in’.

  4. 4

    Compare prices

    Check out independent advice from sites like Powerswitch to make sure you are getting the best deal you can from your electricity provider.

Assess your existing appliances

The transition to smart appliances has been happening behind the scenes for a while now, and lots of kiwis may already own appliances that can easily be made smarter to use less energy.

Hot water cylinder

This consumes around one-third of the electricity in the average kiwi home. It is constantly working to keep your water heated, even when you’re not home to use it.

One action you can take now to improve this is installing a smart thermostat to map your hot water use, which will automatically turn your cylinder off or down when hot water isn’t needed.

Talk to your electrician about which smart thermostat is suitable for your hot water cylinder and make sure the one they recommend has the correct communication capability.

Heat pump

All heat pumps sold in New Zealand over the past ten years can easily be made ‘smart’ and there are 900,000 of them installed in kiwi homes.

Contact your manufacturer to find out what it takes to make your heat pump smart. They can also give you advice on low-cost ways to get your heat pump ready to communicate with a flexibility supplier when it becomes available.

Look at your energy use and costs

It makes sense to focus on where most of your energy is used. The average home’s energy bill is made up of around

  • 1/3

    hot water

  • 1/3

    heating and cooling

  • 1/3

    everything else

Install smart plugs

‘Smartness’ can be retrofitted to existing appliances by plugging an appliance into a smart plug. For example, you might set up a load of washing before you go to bed, and your smart plug can switch it on when electricity is at least cost ensuring your load of washing is ready to hang out the next morning.

Smart plugs can cost around $20 and can be used to optimise your appliances to run when demand on the grid is low, and electricity is at its cheapest.

The role of the home energy management system

A fully functional smart home will include a home energy management system (HEMS) which is a simple device that does all the thinking for you. The HEMS monitors all of the smart devices in your home network and ensures that the most optimised choices are made.

For example, if you are a busy family of five, your HEMS can decide where and when electricity it is most cost effectively used, such as:

  • The family EV, which will be ready for another busy day of action, even if it’s charged overnight – when electricity is cheapest.
  • Your heating and cooling, which can be timed for when you get home or wake up in the morning.

Smart home solutions providers (who can supply HEMS or help you connect your devices to a HEMS) are readily searchable online.

Looking ahead

The majority of appliances and technology installed in kiwi homes are not yet ‘smart’ or need simple upgrades to retrofit smartness. However, things are changing quickly in New Zealand – with smart appliances becoming more available.

The biggest energy and cost savings could be unlocked with the introduction of a flexibility service provider, who could help broker the two-way communication between your home and the grid on your behalf.

  • Your home to the grid

    The energy required by your home can be communicated to the grid, so that your energy use can be ‘optimised’ – meaning you only use what you need when you need it, at a time that minimises your costs without impacting your lifestyle. This also helps New Zealand’s grid and electricity distribution systems are also optimised reducing costs for all users.

  • The grid to your home

    The energy that is provided to your home will be influenced by the overall demand on the grid, the cost of electricity at the time, and the amount of renewable energy available. If the grid is experiencing high demand, your smart appliances that don’t require energy at that time can choose to switch off, dial down or shift to a period of lower demand.

Buying a smart EV charger

A smart electric vehicle charger can manage the electricity drawn from an EV by reducing the rate of charge, or by delaying a charge to a period where electricity is cheaper. The 'smartness' of these is still largely unregulated, and not all wall chargers have the right level of smart functionality, so make sure to do your research.

It pays to go electric

Powering your home with efficient, electric appliances can save you in energy costs – and slash your carbon footprint.  

We’ve done the math on key household energy uses such as heating, water heating, cooking and driving. The numbers show that the most efficient electric options make sense financially – both in terms of monthly running costs and overall lifetime costs. 

Discover how your household might stand to benefit from going electric. 

What to ask when buying a smart appliance and why

Smart Homes Guidance - Publicly Available Specification (PAS)

EECA has commissioned Standards New Zealand to produce a PAS for Smart Homes, to help New Zealanders understand what is involved in making their existing home ‘smart’.

PAS are voluntary guidance documents developed by Standards New Zealand. This provides information to help New Zealanders understand what a ‘smart home’ is, and how to prepare to live in one.

Read more about the Smart Homes PAS - Guidance for Smart homes | EECA(external link)

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