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In B.C.'s north, Team Power Smart strikes a chord

Patrick Egan of Prince George hangs a shirt to dry indoors. He recently won a pair of tickets to the 2010 Winter Games after joining Team Power Smart.

Posted by Rob Klovance

Here in Vancouver, we were shocked last winter by snow that actually stuck around and temperatures that dipped below zero for days on end. Imagine what it was like in the northern half of British Columbia, where the temperature in Fort St. John dived to -40°C on January 2?

Now imagine looking at your monthly bills for heating during the Big Freeze of 2008-2009. And think about how much you could save, and how much more comfortable your home might be, if you made it more Power Smart.

With just that in mind, homeowners in B.C.'s north are joining Team Power Smart in growing numbers. And a lucky few have even won tickets to the 2010 Winter Games.

"The winter can get pretty bad here" said Gail Whenham of Dawson Creek in what is an understatement in a community that actually went two degrees lower than Fort St. John – down to -42°C – last January. "But we have seen our energy bill drop over the years as we've been making energy upgrades. Not only are we saving money, we have also increased our comfort level in the home."

It's always great to hear that a contest winner is especially deserving. Gail and Lynn Whenham have been upgrading their Dawson Creek home's energy efficiency for years, starting with switching to CFLs and replacing a 30-year-old washer-dryer combo with an ENERGY STAR-rated set. But the big change came in 2008, when the couple bought an energy-efficient furnace, citing "short term pain for long term gain".

British Columbians can join Team Power Smart by signing up online or by using the Team Power Smart kiosk at community events attended by BC Hydro Outreach staff across B.C. It's our goal to have 210,000 members by the time the 2010 Winter Games begins, and if all members delivered on the 10% reduction goal, it would be enough to power the Games.

Meanwhile in Fort St. John...

Claudette McDowell's mid-winter energy bills can top $500, so she has decided it's time to add insulation to her Fort St. John home and weather stripping to the garage. And she's also planning a trip south next February after joining Team Power Smart and winning 2010 Winter Games tickets.

Which event will she be attending? That hasn't been determined yet, but she's pretty specific about what she wants to see.

"Two of our local boys from Fort St. John, Denny and Jay Morrison, are competing in the Olympics for speed skating," she says. "They have been an inspiration to the younger skaters in our community. Our youngest daughter who is 7 years old is a speed skater so she hopes the tickets are for speed skating."

How to be "green" in Prince George

Patrick Egan is a natural fit as a Team Power Smart member, as saving energy is pretty much part of his lifestyle.

Egan is an avid recycler, rides his bike to work, hangs his laundry to dry, uses a microwave as much as possible and sweeps instead of vacuuming. And after last winter, he has added insulation to the doors of his place and will continue to only turn the heat on when he's home, and only in the rooms he's using.

"It's easy to control what areas of the house you heat, by closing the registers," he offers, as a tip.

As a 2010 Winter Games ticket winner, he's also a natural. He attended the Calgary Olympic Winter Games and worked for the B.C. government during the Beijing Olympics. The highlight from his trip? Touring the Beijing Games' facilities and attending track and field events in the Bird's Nest.

Sometimes, a sweater's the best option

Heating issues aren't as important in the Lower Mainland, but Jenny McCulloch (in top left of photo) still plans to keep her BC Hydro bill down. And in her case, that means wearing an extra layer of clothing rather than turning up the heat.

Rob Klovance is managing editor of bchydro.com.