Prince George mom who saved 30% back on the savings path


Detailed information via a smart meter will help family meet its target

Six months into her first year chasing the reward offered to qualifying Team Power Smart members who saved 10% or more, Brenda Hooker was doing great. She and her son, 14-year-old Carsten, had managed to reduce their electricity use by almost 30 percent.

Then an accident in April 2012 left Brenda with a serious concussion. She was off work for four months. In that time, the savings evaporated.

"I had stopped doing all those little things that had made such a difference," Brenda says on the phone from her Prince George home.

The good news is that Brenda is back on the savings path and is excited about the new tools – available later this year – her recently installed smart meter will enable. Armed with detailed consumption information, she'll have a better chance of reaching her Team Power Smart goal.

A look back: How she saved 30%

A year ago, Brenda joined Team Power Smart and started looking to reduce her power consumption.

Brenda replaced her hot water heater and took advantage of BC Hydro's fridge buy-back program to get a new ENERGY STAR® model.

And both she and Carsten made simple changes to their daily lives. Brenda started doing laundry in cold water and hanging it to dry. Carsten started using a kitchen timer to keep his showers to 10 minutes or less (he's still using it more than a year later). They kept the thermostats turned down.

In only a month, the two had used 41 kilowatt hours less than the same month a year before. That saved them $13.

Recovering at home, watching the bills rise

The accident threw Brenda for a loop in more ways than one. She was suddenly spending her days at home, not at work. "I was home for four months," explains Brenda, "using so much power than I had before."

Her baseboard heaters were on more often and so was the television. Because she was recovering from an injury, Brenda stopped hanging laundry and hand washing some of the larger dishes in the kitchen.

It was August before she was able to get back on track with her power savings plan. By the end of October, when her year was up, Brenda and Carsten were back down to just over where they started. As a result, they didn't hit the 10% target for the Team Power Smart reward.

"I'm disappointed we didn't hit our target," says Brenda, "but pleased we could get back on track."

'If you fall off, it's easy to get back on'

The experience, Brenda says, taught her a couple of things.

First, she says she realized how much of a difference small changes — like shorter showers and turning off lights — make, and how much of an impact they can have on a bill.

Second, "Being Power Smart is like riding a bicycle. If you fall off it's easy to get back on and do those changes again."

Turning down the heat and hanging clothes to dry, Brenda says, can all make a difference. Before her accident, she looked forward to logging in to her account online so she could check her monthly consumption. "I was pleased to see how much our consumption had gone down," she said.

And with a new smart meter — it was installed in November — Brenda is excited that she'll be able to see how she and Carsten are using electricity in even more detail.

Smart meters will enable new tools to save energy and money

In mid-2012, BC Hydro is launching a new free and secure online account website which Brenda can check every day to get information about power use the day before, down to the hour. And the feedback will be provided not just in kilowatt hours, but in dollars, so Brenda will know just how much she saved by replacing that old fridge.

This information can be downloaded, too, for those who want to bring it into a spreadsheet for household budgeting. The new online account will also provide you with estimated energy cost projections based on actual consumption patterns, and optional automatic updates when you are nearing your targets.

New conservation tools can help you reduce your energy use by up to 15 per cent.

Back on track, tracking her consumption

By September, Brenda was feeling much better and was back to work. That involved preparing for this fall's civic elections, when she was elected to the school board. "I'm humbled and honoured to be representing School District 57," she says.

While she's only been in her new job for a month, making sure the Team Power Smart lessons are included in Prince George schools will be a priority for her.

"It's so important not just for the province, but our school district," Brenda says. "The less you spend on utilities, the more you can spend on students."

And she's signed up for another year of the reward challenge. "For me, it's important," says Brenda. "If we all do our part to conserve power, it gives B.C. an advantage."