Big electricity bills prompt Victoria woman to save 71%

'Compare Your Home' tool showed average bills of $286 were way too high

Jennifer Maniezzo

In 2010, Julia Mills had a big problem: her BC Hydro bill was averaging out to be $286.06 for each two-month period.

The worst part? The BC Hydro Community Outreach representative didn't realize she had a problem.

"I live in a townhouse in Victoria where I have been paying my Hydro bill for the last four years," says Mills. "Since it was my first BC Hydro account and I hadn't discussed my bill with other people, I was unaware that my bill – and my consumption – was much higher than it needed to be."

Julia joined Team Power Smart and used the "Compare Your Home" tool to compare her home with similar homes in the area. And the results were  jaw-dropping.

Julia was using 6,447 kWh more electricity annually – the equivalent to powering almost 10,000 loads of laundry – than similar sized homes in her area.

Appalled with her poor consumption habits, Julia decided to make a Power Smart pledge

"On June 1, I made my pledge to reduce my electricity consumption by 10 per cent," she recalls. "With the help of my co-workers, I analyzed my home in detail and used BC Hydro tips to determine how I could reduce my electricity consumption."

Julia made the following Power Smart choices in the past few months:

  • Emptied and unplugged her mini fridge;
  • Turned down the temperature on her hot water tank to 60°C (per the BC Plumbing Code)  and fixed the broken insulation foam surrounding the pipes on the hot water tank;
  • Turned off the baseboard heater she found in the crawlspace;
  • Switched to energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs);
  • Washed clothes in cold water only and bought an indoor drying rack.
  • When using the dryer, she also began throwing a dry beach towel in with the wet clothes, speeding up the drying process;
  • Filled Tupperware containers with ice to create thermal mass in the freezer;
  • Turned up the temperature in the fridge (slightly);
  • Turned off the dishwasher's heat dry setting;
  • Unplugged the toaster oven, electric kettle, laptop and cell phone chargers when not in use;
  • Unplugged two of the four cordless phone charging stations;
  • Started switching off the power bar that her printer and radio are plugged into, when not in use;
  • Started taking r fewer baths, shorter showers and turning off the water when she is shampooing etc.; and,
  • Restrained herself from "peeking" into the oven when baking.

"Normally, I wouldn't be excited to receive bills, but for the next two months I could hardly wait to get my Hydro bill to see the result of the changes I made."

With Power Smart practices in place, Julia went from an average usage of 54 kWh per day in July 2010 – the equivalent to toasting 1,890 slices of bread per day or making 216 pots of coffee per day – to 15 kWh per day in July 2011.

"I spent less than $20 making these changes (I had to buy the drying rack), and I saved more than $200 on my electricity bill!" says Julia.

The challenge: maintain the savings

Of course, it wasn't all easy. Making these changes initially is one thing, but maintaining those behaviours is entirely different.

"I have always preferred taking hot baths over showers, so the most challenging decision was to take fewer baths. And, choosing to hang dry clothes instead of putting them in the dryer is more time consuming," says Julia.

Julia's home is still showing on the higher use side of the spectrum, since the "Compare Your Home" tool is based on average yearly consumption, but it's definitely lower than it was before. She expects her home to continue to move further down the spectrum going forward.

Walking with her Power Smart foot forward, Julia notes an important positive outcome from this experience: "After seeing firsthand how effective simple conservation steps can be in reducing electricity consumption, I feel more confident when discussing with customers ways in which they can reduce their own consumption."

But what's even better, if Julia can keep her consumption down by at least 10 per cent over the course of the next year, she will receive a reward cheque for her conservation efforts, in addition to a much more manageable bill.

Join Team Power Smart and make your own conservation pledge.

Jennifer Maniezzo is a writer-editor with BC Hydro's employee communications department.