Healthy Homes Standards Put Strain On NZ Power Grid, Alternatives Needed

Jan 5, 2023

New Zealand’s national grid will continue to experience serious strain even through summer in part as an unforeseen consequence of the new Healthy Homes Standards that put an over-sized air conditioner in almost every home.

The director of Vital Solar and a leading Auckland solar energy specialist, Cameron Dick, said today that following a few touch-and-go moments during the winter on 2022, national grid operator Transpower added additional capacity after a still-unexplained 3% jump in peak energy demand affected the grid over winter.

Now that summer is approaching a greater amount of electricity is still being used overall due to what Dick terms a “perfect storm” of factors.

“According to recent polls, more than 80% of Kiwis don’t trust the power supply to stay on at crucial moments during peak demand in winter. People are concerned about power consistency throughout the day while also looking at the rising costs of electricity,” he said.

Part of the issue is certainly the lagging upgrades to the national grid. But as grid operators fix their side of the bargain, Dick said electricity users must also recognise that they are consuming more energy than before. However, there are actions they can take to limit this new demand.

“Many people are switching to electric cars and while this is both a cheaper option and better for the climate, it does mean more electricity consumption as car owners tend to all charge their vehicles at the same times each evening.

“On top of this, more people are now working from home. The grid was set up with the assumption that electricity usage would be concentrated in the inner-city areas. But these days, more electricity is needed in the suburbs which adds to the strain on the grid,” he said.

Another factor of increased energy usage is an “unintended consequence” of the government’s Healthy Homes campaign.

Since this legislation passed in May and November this year, thousands of heat pumps are expected to be installed to warm houses during winter and keep them cool in the summer. Dick said some homes may end up installing two or more pumps situated in different locations of the same house.

“The Healthy Home standards dictated that each pump must have an energy output of 7.5kw. But most homes only need a 5kw pump. In other words, a lot of pumps are simply too big for the homes. As you can imagine, this will have a massive impact on the grid, particularly during peak times.

“This is all creating a perfect storm. Something needs to change before next winter,” Dick said.

Dick offered a few tips for limiting home energy use.

1. Heat pump strategy

Now that regulations demand heat pumps, homeowners and renters should consider calibrating how they can use these pumps efficiently. Dick said it is unfeasible for most people to keep their pumps on all day, like they would a heater, due to the expense.

“Thankfully, many heat pumps come with in-built timers so you can better schedule when they turn on and switch off. If they don’t have timers, the smartphone app will have a timer instead. These pumps will also be used during the summer to cool homes, so the same scheduling tactics should apply in the warmer months as well,” Dick said.

2. Avoid peak times

In the UK during the 2000s, the peak time for electricity usage tended to occur at about 7:15pm when the first advertisements were played in the middle of the TV drama Coronation Street. Millions of people would simultaneously boil their kettle to make a cup of tea. Dick said peak demand is still a major bottleneck today even in New Zealand, and for similar reasons.

“Owning an electric car is a great way to save money. But that means extra electricity is used when people charge the vehicles at about the same time after they get home from work. So, to avoid extra costs and putting pressure on the grid, try charging cars after 9:00pm each night,” he said.

3. Be a smart power consumer

Using timers and right-sizing heat pumps are great ways to limit energy usage and keep the national grid safe, but there are many other ways to be a smart power consumer.

“For example, when the sun is shining and a home has installed solar panels, that energy can be stored for use during peak times in a way that doesn’t put pressure on the grid.

“And if a home has collected more electricity than it needs, it can always feed it back into the grid as well, potentially earning money for the household while they do this. That’s a win-win for everyone,” Dick said.

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From start to finish, our solar journey with Vital Solar has been superb. We did extensive research and obtained 5 quotes before (easily) deciding on Cam, Maryann and the Vital Solar team. Cam (MD) is highly knowledgeable about all matters solar, and patiently answered all our questions. (Ours is a tricky South facing site, so there were many questions). Maryann was super helpful and kept the ball rolling with logistics and other queries. We decided to get Sun Power panels with Enphase microinverters and two Enphase IQ 5P batteries. Vital Solar’s installation and service team (including Sam and Keenan) was very professional, helpful and tidy. After the installation was complete, Maryann also helped us get the grid connection sorted. Such great people! We did our solar due diligence, and recommend the Vital Solar team very highly. Thank you guys!😊💯
Suki Harding
Suki Harding
For our small installation onto our villa the discussion, ongoing communication, installation, and final product was all excellent. We highly recommend this company
Tom Robinson
Tom Robinson
Vital Solar are awesome. They will listen to what you want, and educate you where necessary so that you can get a system that works best for you and your home. They take pride in their work and do a tidy job with quality equipment. I had a few extra requests such as a Solar hot water power diverter, and that was provided and installed with no hassle. I've asked for more information about extras (e.g. batteries) since the install, and have received friendly advice and follow up. I would recommend them over the big guys who you will either never hear back from, or they will quote something from their computer without even visiting your site.
Ryan Maxwell
Ryan Maxwell
Cannot recommend highly enough. Vital Solar took the time to understand our issues and come back with excellent information- waaayyyyyy more information than the original installer had ever shared. Which meant we could make good decisions. GREAT service, fantastic communication and just lovely individuals to work with. Highly recommended.
sandy pearson
sandy pearson
Cameron and Maryann are engaged and knowledgeable. Dealing directly with the owner is a distinct advantage, and the fact that Cameron visited and assessed the site before quoting was a key point in our choosing Vital Electric.
Alan Merry
Alan Merry
Had vital come through for a consult, and ended up going with an Enphase system, knowledge with the whole process and incredibly happy with total install.They truly went above and beyond my expectations a awesome crew
Andrew Dick
Andrew Dick
Vital Solar really know their stuff. I appreciated the education on solar as part of the sales process. The Vital Solar installation team, in their Vital Solar uniforms, were professional and kept us well informed as the installation progressed. Having a 25 year guarantee backs up the quality of both the product and the service from Vital Solar, giving us peace of mind. It's been worth paying a bit more with Vital Solar than some of the other providers we approached, to get quality. We're delighted with our new system. Did someone say power prices just went up again - not for us. Thanks Vital Solar.
David Schischka
David Schischka
Cam and his team at Vital Solar were recommended through a mutual friend. Definitely made the right choice to go with them for our residential PV install. A pleasure to deal with.
Luke Gowing
Luke Gowing

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