Power Smart Energy Challenge: Meet the families

North Vancouver's Jones family is ready to take on the Parks family of Coquitlam in the Power Smart Challenge.

It's only a few days since they've been selected for the Power Smart Energy Challenge contest, and fighting words are being thrown down by the rival families.

"They think they can keep up with the Jones'? Good luck!" laughed Toby Jones, who professes to be the team captain for his family.

The Jones' are one of two families chosen to compete in the Power Smart Energy Challenge contest held in partnership with Global TV. The Parks' will go head-to-head with the Jones' from October 6-31.

The families were randomly selected from a long list of applicants for the contest, which features a winner's prize of a $6,000 home entertainment system featuring a 46-inch ENERGY STAR® LED TV.

The household which reduces its electricity use by the largest percentage over the challenge period will get the new TV, plus a variety of other energy-efficient electronics. They'll also each have a Power Smart engineer as a coach throughout the contest period.

For updates on the contest, check or follow us on Twitter @PowersmartBC.

The Parks family of Coquitlam looks confident as it readies for the big showdown.

Meet the contenders

The Parks Family from Coquitlam consists of two adults and two teenage girls, aged 15 and 18. Living in an older home that was built in the 1960s, the Parks are looking for ways to reduce their energy usage for both conservation and financial reasons.

"The biggest motivator for entering the contest was the financial aspect. Our energy bills are quite high, often $300. I was inspired reading about the woman who dropped her energy bill by 71 per cent. Now, I don't know if we can do that, but to be able to decrease our energy bill would be great," said Deborah Parks.

The Jones Family from North Vancouver consists of two adults, a 16-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl. They're looking forward to being introduced to energy efficient behaviour changes.

"I'm excited about how the contest will provide an objective opinion, through the coaches, on our consumption behaviour. I think having someone other than me that can point these things out, adds some credibility. I'm really interested in how we can improve," said Toby Jones.

Families have some work to do

Both families rate themselves as middle of the road when it comes to how green they are currently, but they already have made efforts to make conservation a priority.

"My husband grew up with the idea that you put on a sweater when you're cold, so we try not to turn our furnace on until October 1," said Deborah Parks.

In addition to this Power Smart behaviour, Deborah notes that her family watches their water usage and are pretty good about turning the lights off, although she admits her kids are better at it than she is.

"We've installed a solar system up at our cabin and I think that's really made us aware of how basic appliances, such as toasters and vacuums, can take up so much energy. It's also given us a greater appreciation for all things green," added Deborah.

Toby Jones gives his family a six out of 10 (10 being the greenest) when talking about his family's commitment to sustainability. "We use CFLs and try to be cognisant of the lights. We've also installed double-glazed windows but I don't think the kids take it as seriously."

Biggest barriers to success

"The biggest barrier for us will be the cost of using power – if you don't see the bill you don't pay attention to it," explained Toby.

He cited his extra fridge, plasma TV and Jacuzzi as some high energy-consuming items in his household. These work in conjunction with certain behaviours, such as running an electric steam unit too often, playing lots of video games and running the dishwasher when it's half empty.

"We all have to work hard if we want to win, but I think my wife will have to work the hardest because she does take care of the household and I think some of the big changes need to be made there," said Toby.

Water use seems to be the biggest barrier for the Parks. Deborah has not one, but two, washers and two dryers. And with two daughters, there are a lot of showers.

"The oldest does like to shower for longer periods of time," said Deborah. "But she's become very much aware of sustainability issues. She went to Europe on a high school field trip and didn't realize she would have to buy water.

"I think that's when she became aware of how fortunate we are and how much we use. I'll probably have to work the hardest because I like things that save me time and electricity affords certain conveniences."

Who's taking home the prize?

When asked why their families were going to win, the Jones' self-proclaimed, competitive spirit rose to the top: "We've already started strategizing and making lists of things we should be looking at and areas where we can save," said Toby.

The Parks' took a milder approach. "I think we have a lot of areas to improve upon, which will make it easier for us. That, combined with my strong-willed daughter (who will definitely be the enforcer) and for me, the financial incentive, will all encourage us to find savings we can use elsewhere in our life," said Deborah.

"I wish the other family the best of luck. In the end, the awareness of the power that we use is a prize in itself. I'm just happy we have the opportunity to learn more about how we use our energy," added Deborah.

Stay tuned for weekly updates on how the families are progressing in reducing their energy consumption.