How we're saving over $200 a year on our BC Hydro bills
Tracking & managing electricity use has worked wonders
This month we kick off the first in a series on how to avoid high winter bills by using bchydro.com tracking tools and managing your electricity use.
In the next month or two, it's likely going to be cold enough that the BC Hydro bill at my home will be three or four times what it was last July, when it was only $26. The key is that I know my winter bills are higher, and I know exactly what I can do to limit that rise.
I know this because, for 10 years, I've been managing my electricity use on bchydro.com, first by taking a 10% electricity use Reduction Challenge with Team Power Smart, and then by regularly checking my monthly, daily (and even hourly) electricity use via MyHydro tools on bchydro.com. It doesn't take a lot of time to do this, and it has paid off in over $2,000 in electricity bill savings.
That's not including the $225 in Team Power Smart rewards I've earned along the way.
10 years ago, we were using way more electricity
When I first added my online profile and linked my bchydro.com account in September of 2007, I was coming off a year in which my family used 8,222 kilowatt-hours (kWh) in electricity at our 1,300-square-foot Vancouver townhome, which is heated by electric baseboards. Like so many British Columbians, heating is by far our biggest energy cost in the winter months.
But once we understood our electricity use patterns, we were able to take action. By managing our energy use, we've mostly had decreases in energy use over the past 10 years, and a few increases (such as the winter my wife worked regularly from home). Our 10-year average electricity use is 6,102 kWh per year, or about 2,120 less than what we used before we got tracking.
Had we never joined Team Power Smart, never used MyHydro tools, and not changed the way we used electricity, we would have spent an average of more than $200 a year more on electricity over those 10 years. And even in the past year – through one of the coldest winters on record – we spent less on electricity in our home than we spent a decade earlier.
Draft proof, turn down the heat, & buy ENERGY STAR?
It's unusual, but we're billed monthly rather than once every two months for the majority of BC Hydro customers. When it gets really cold, like it did last December when our monthly bill rose to a near-record $146, there's no avoiding a higher bill. But if I hadn't taken the time to draft proof the entry doors to our home last fall, continued our switch to ENERGY STAR LED lighting, and turned down the heat overnight and while we were away... that December 2016 bill would have been a lot higher.
How much higher? Look at the MyHydro comparison of my home to that of similar homes in my neighbourhood (below). FYI, those similar homes are likely the other townhouses on our block, which are almost identical to ours in size.
Similar homes to mine spent $90 more than I did in December 2016
Using a monthly MyHydro graph on MyHydro, I was able to determine that the average "similar home to mine" used 797 kWh more than my home last December. Using a "blended residential rate" of 10 cents per hour (a blend of our conservation rate and our step 2 rate), that adds up to almost $90 – or several post-soccer family visits to our favourite downtown ramen place.
OK, so you may be thinking that my family might be impervious to cold, perhaps even related to Dutch daredevil Wim "Iceman" Hof (the guy who once ran a half marathon barefoot above the Arctic circle wearing only shorts). Or that rather than watch TV, we gather (all clad in parkas) under one LED lamp reading books about how to save electricity. Yes, we tend to wear socks or slippers on our wood-and-tile-floored home, but we cook a lot of meals, watch a lot of sports and Riverdale (yeesh, that's my teenage son), listen to a lot of music, play a lot of FIFA on the PS4 (my son, again), and forget to turn lights off (guess who?).
In our home, the rooms we're in are usually 18° to 20°C in the winter, except overnight or when we're away. That's when we turn everything down to 16 to 18. I tend to wear a light hoodie at home, but my son tries to wear a soccer jersey 24-7.
Start tracking now, and take a Team Power Smart 10% Reduction Challenge
Add your online profile, link your BC Hydro bill and start using MyHydro tools on bchydro.com. You may just discover that you're using more electricity than similar homes near you. And with that comes an enormous opportunity.
Draft proof your doors and windows if you haven't already. Upgrade to ENERGY STAR LEDs, manage your thermostat... and join Team Power Smart and start a 10% Reduction Challenge right away. In my family's first year in a Challenge, we earned our reward by cutting our electricity use by 15%. Three years later, we reduced it by a whopping 24% and collected another cheque.
Why not take a shot at a $50 reward on top of what you're going to save on your bills?
Rob Klovance is a writer-editor with bchydro.com and a regular contributor to BC Hydro's residential newsletter Connected.