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Putting MyHydro energy tracking tools to the test: Part 2

Customer using MyHydro consumption tools

Elizabeth Morse
For bchydro.com

A few simple, DIY energy-saving changes added up to 41% savings in just one month

After more than a year of struggling to reduce our household's energy usage, here's my simple message: If we can do it, you can do it too.

First, the backstory. Our energy-saving saga began in the fall of 2012, when I logged in to MyHydro and discovered the ugly truth: we were "above-average" energy users. I found our energy usage had actually gone up 11 percent. Gulp.

Not a welcomed discovery, but it did galvanize me into action. I installed a programmable thermostat in our open living area, and switched to cold-water washing.

Full of confidence, I activated a Team Power Smart challenge from my Members' Tool Box at bchydro.com to reduce my energy usage by 10% over the following year. The carrot? Reduced bills and a $75 reward from BC Hydro.

Taking inventory, taking action

I decided to use the MyHydro energy tracking tools to analyze my family's consumption habits over the month of March 2013. The idea was to uncover our daily patterns and see how we compared to similar homes nearby. Read the story.

It was not a pretty picture: our energy usage spiked dramatically every morning and evening, and we were by far the biggest energy users on the block.

Clearly, we needed to implement more DIY energy-saving tips so we could have a fighting chance at meeting our reduction target.

Space heating: Fixing thermostat gremlins

When I did a random check, I found our programmable thermostat was no longer programmed to turn the heat down at night. Oops. Either some mysterious gremlin was at work, or someone had fiddled with it.

Another random audit — this time of the old dial thermostats in the three upstairs bedrooms — revealed two out of three baseboard heaters were blasting away, with no one in sight to bask in the toasty warmth.

Not a great start, but at least I had found some opportunities to make quick improvements.

Action plan:

  1. Install programmable thermostats in the upstairs bedrooms to ensure the heat was turned down at night.
  2. Add a weekly MyHydro email alert to remind me to log in and view my consumption, which would double as a reminder to check our thermostats' programming.

Anticipated energy savings: According to BC Hydro, I can save about 3% on my heating bill for every degree I set my thermostat back.

Water heating: Curbing my enthusiasm for pre-rinsing

I was already fully loading my dishwasher, using the light cycle, and air-drying the dishes.

But I confess I'm one of those people who wash the dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. And I pre-rinse in copious amounts of hot water.

Action plan:

  1. Buy rubber gloves and a scouring brush.
  2. Pre-rinse the dishes in cold water before loading the dishwasher.

Anticipated energy savings: According to Consumer Reports, pre-rinsing dishes can waste more than 6,000 gallons of water a year. If your water is heated electrically, like mine is, it takes about 22 kWh to heat 83 gallons of water.

Computers and electronics: Shutting off power-hungry devices

I am embarrassed to admit we are about one device away from opening our own electronics store. Survey results: one large-screen TV, four laptops, one monitor, three tablets, four video game consoles — two stationary and two hand-held — one printer, and four cell phones.

Many of these devices — and their respective chargers — sit in constant standby mode, in mute testament to our electricity-wasting ways.

Action plan:

  1. Store, donate or recycle devices no longer in use.
  2. Purchase surge protector power bars so multiple devices can easily be turned off with a single switch.

Anticipated energy savings: For every 1,000 kWh I save by turning these devices off, I can cut $55 from my annual utility bill.

Earning some bragging rights (finally)

Our goal was conservative: to reduce our energy usage by at least 10% over the month of May.

The numbers don't lie. So, with fingers crossed and breath held tight, I logged on to MyHydro to find out how our consumption stacked up.

Finally some good news! Our electricity usage was down a colossal 41% compared to the same month last year. And the news kept getting better. The reduced usage had lowered our overall use by 9% since the beginning of the year, bringing us within spitting distance of meeting our original Team Power Smart reduction goal of 10%.

Humbling, but worth it

Facing up to our wasteful energy usage was a humbling experience, but at least we were closer to a happy ending. As long as we maintain our new energy-saving habits, that $75 reward from BC Hydro is within reach.

And if we can do it, so you can you.

Elizabeth Morse is a Vancouver-based freelance writer and Team Power Smart member. She has agreed to provide ongoing warts-and-all stories about her experiences trying to cut energy waste.