Beat the power bills with solar, say couple

SOLAR SMARTS: Cathy O'Shea and Chas Farrant at home.
SOLAR SMARTS: Cathy O'Shea and Chas Farrant at home.

A new home was the ultimate trump card against sky-high power bills for one Hamilton couple, who are now soaking up the benefits of solar power.

Chas Farrant and Cathy O'Shea-Farrant decided winter power bills of $550-$600 a month were no longer welcome guests in their home, so they built a house which runs on an average of 80 per cent solar power, and the rest on electricity from the grid.

Farrant predicted their bills will now be around $100 and in about seven years the system will have paid itself off and they'll be making "quite a bit of money".

"The bills made us think - we don't want to keep this up because we are in our mid 50s, so we want to reduce our overheads and reposition ourselves."

The four-kilowatt system will run anything that's operating in the house - so at Christmas time when the couple's combined total of nine children demand ample dishwasher cycles and endless showers, the power bill won't suffer.

"I had been thinking about solar for a while, so I contacted one of the companies and thought our best option was to move house."

Their last home was five-bedrooms, had a fairly high stud and ran on gas and electric heating.

Their new, four-bedroom Flagstaff home has 16 solar panels on the roof. Excess power is put back into the grid during the hot summer months and sold back to Genesis, driving their energy costs down further.

Farrant said they haven't switched power companies, but may eventually go with one that offers higher buy-back rates.

Rates vary between power companies - Genesis buys back solar at between 4c and 7c per kW, while Meridian Energy will pay 25c for the first 5kW of excess energy per day, then 10c per kW for the remainder.

The Electricity Authority has reminded Waikato residents to shop around for a better power deal.

New results show more than 36,000 Waikato households who switched power companies last year saved on average $141 in 2013.

The Electricity Authority has encouraged Waikato residents to check again this year using the What's My Number online tool.

"Winter is a good time to check again since everyone tends to use more power over the colder months. Even if you've already switched, it's beneficial to keep checking your options regularly," Electricity Authority chief executive Carl Hansen said.

Nationwide, the Electricity Authority recorded more than 357,000 residential switches in 2013, compared with 324,000 in 2012.

What's My Number spokesperson Judy Bailey says finding out if you're getting the best deal is quick and easy.

"Some [providers] might be a better fit for you because they offer reward points, while others may check your meter remotely instead of coming to your house," Bailey said.

To find out if you're getting the best deal, visit

Waikato Times