Energy Challenge: Families unplug from tech-driven lifestyle

How do you get a handle on all of those household appliances and electronics? That’s the question the Jones’ and the Parks’ toiled over last week. 

“The Jones’ and the Parks’ have really begun to understand the magic word, “behaviour”, which is what we are really trying to focus on in this competition," said Greg Morandini, a Power Smart engineer who's coaching Team Jones. "We want to help identify conservation strategies that these families can sustain once the competition is over.“We want to encourage life-long habits of saving energy that they can pass on for generations.”

What is the Power Smart Challenge?

Removing the waste

“Max has taken the initiative and cut himself off the Xbox and unplugged the TV,” said Toby Jones regarding his son. “It’s amazing how little the big screen now gets used.”

The Jones’ took the extra step of unplugging all unused televisions in their home. And it turns out, the only one they seem to use is the TV in the kitchen.

When they really began to think about it, the Jones’ realized they had many electronics in their house that were rarely being used or being used inefficiently.

The Jones’ have three refrigerators in their home: a full-sized one and a bar fridge in the kitchen, in addition to another bar fridge in the laundry room. They decided to move all  their “little cold goodies” to the Energy Star-rated bar fridge and unplug the kitchen bar fridge.

“We also turned off the remote phones in the kids’ rooms; they use their cell phones and we have three other phones in the house, which is more than enough!” said Toby.

Families armed with new tips and tools

Coach Morandini, along with fellow Power Smart engineer Tony Mauro, coach for the Parks family, armed the families with these energy saving tips:

For electronics

  • Use power bars to reduce standby power use
  • Old TVs, even just a few years old, consume more than the latest ENERGY STAR models
  • Always recycle old TVs so that they're handled responsibly and so that their electricity impact is entirely removed from the home.

For appliances

  • If you have an old spare fridge, check out BC Hydro’s Fridge Buy-Back program at and they’ll pay you $30 for your old fridge
  • Newer appliances generally use less energy than older appliances. But you can reduce the heating requirements in your older appliances to save energy. For example, let dishes air dry after a dishwashing cycle
  • If you are buying new appliances. remember to check the EnerGuide label to identify the most efficient appliances.

“Power bars are a great easy way to help you remember to turn off your appliances. I recommended that the Jones’ get a “smart” power strip which is tuned in with your remote control,” said Morandini. “So when you turn off your television via the remote, it actually turns off the majority of the smart power strip too.

"These strips are specially designed so that not all of the sockets are affected, meaning you could have your PVR plugged into one of those spots and it would not be turned off when you switched off your television.”

Parks' make great strides of their own

The Parks’ are taking a stand against standby power. They have made sure that all of their electronics are now plugged into power bars and that they are actively taking that extra step to turn the power bar off when not in use.

On the appliance side of things, they are now air drying dishes rather than letting the dry cycle run on their dishwasher. And they're also trying to use the dryer less.

“It’s two weeks into the competition and the Parks’ are still seeing increasing reduction in energy use which is certainly a good thing,” said Tony.

About the Power Smart Energy Challenge

The Parks' are going head-to-head with the Jones' from October 6 to 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.