Editorial: Turn On Your Heat Pump

Editorial: Turn On Your Heat Pump

It’s time we all grew up and turned our heat pumps on. I will die on this hill.

To all the power Scrooges out there, I get it. The early stages of flatting are a hard fiscal slap in the face. You hear the phrase “cozzie livs” (boomer translation: “cost of living”) thrown around while you swan about your cosy, air-conditioned halls, but you don’t truly feel the reality of the words until moving into your first flat. 

Suddenly, every cent spent is so, so precious. The Glassons hauls you boasted in first-year and fashion-walked in front of mates are swapped out for the thermals your mum bought you after you enrolled at Otago Uni. Skipping hall dinners in favour of a Macca’s run when the menu didn’t quite hit turns into nibbling on toast you scraped bits of mould off (“it won’t kill me”). You wince every time a new bill needs to be paid (who else didn’t realise you needed to pay for bins?), and thank God that you don’t live in Auckland where water bills are a thing.

Most of us move into new flats during summer, when supermarket herbs last longer than a week on the kitchen windowsill and your extra blanket stays folded up at the foot of the bed. But with daylight savings now behind us, and the weather beginning to turn, power bills are creeping higher. Showers become longer; the dryer is used more frequently; electric blankets are switched on at night – for those lucky enough to own one (if not, I’d recommend asking Santa for one next Christmas). And, inevitably, there’s the Heat Pump Talk.

The divide between pro and against heat pump users is reminiscent of American Republicans and Democrats. Seems like a drastic comparison, but one I’m willing to make. “Just wear more layers!” come cries of heat pump objectors through coughs and sniffles. If you follow the clouds of their breath, you can spot them squatting beneath their mountains of blankets, purple fingers clasping a third mug of tea for the afternoon to loosen them up enough to type an essay. I shouldn’t need to tell you that fingers should not need to be thawed out like a chicken breast. It’s gone too far. 

In second-year, my flatmates and I had the typical flat tiffs of four students on the bones of our asses about power conservation. We practically knew the price of every appliance per hour. I’d be nervous to use any appliance at all, extending to hair straighteners and dryers. We’d have flat meetings to come up with power-saving strategies like alerting the flat to when the jug was boiled. It was being used too much, apparently. We set time-limits for showers – a song and a half, and “everything” showers had to coincide with the hour of power. 

The turning point for my flat was when we found ourselves huddled together around the oven in the kitchen, door shut, savouring its warmth. We were self-aware enough to call it what it was: a miserable fucking scene. The decision was made then and there to bite the bullet and turn on the heat pump. 

And it was glorious. The change was immediate. The dingy little flat turned from a shack into a home. You could take a layer off instead of putting an extra one on when walking in the front door. Sitting on the couch didn’t suck all life and energy out of you like some goddamn furniture-shaped dementor. The extra money we spent on using the heat pump was probably money that would have otherwise gone toward an extra drink for an alcohol blanket, or a Student Health bill for that perpetual cold.

It’s totally understandable in the current economic climate for flatters, new or otherwise, to baulk at the idea of using the heat pump. You can practically hear the money draining from your bank account with every pump of hot air. I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head what the cost was per week of using the heat pump, however it definitely wasn’t more than the difference between a box of RTDs and a Nitro – a weekly choice you probably already make. 

And let’s be real. Blasting the heat pump on 30 degrees during the hour of power does fuck all. You can always go to the library if you need to study somewhere without your fingers freezing on your keypad, it’s true, but you inevitably have to go home to a cold flat – unless you have the good sense to cuff a sneaky link who lives in a Uni Flat. But if you can see your own breath in your flat, you should be turning on the heat pump. The difference in your well-being will be astronomical.

This article first appeared in Issue 6, 2024.
Posted 8:25pm Friday 5th April 2024 by Nina Brown.