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'Throwing in the towel' wins Kamloops resident home makeover

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"Power is Precious Pointers" contest winner Sheila Anderson got the thrill of a lifetime when celebrity designer Jillian Harris visited her Kamloops home to offer stylish and energy-saving tips and advice. Anderson's Grand Prize package also included an energy-efficient lighting makeover and home appliance package.

It was an ordinary June morning when Sheila Anderson logged onto her email. But one of the messages was anything but ordinary — her name had been randomly selected from more than 3000 energy-saving tips submitted from across B.C., making her the grand prize winner of the "Power is Precious Pointers" contest.

Co-sponsored by BC Hydro and Global TV BC, the contest encouraged British Columbians to submit their energy-saving ideas for a chance to win weekly prizes or the ultimate Grand Prize package — a Power Smart home makeover featuring a consultation with celebrity designer Jillian Harris, as well as an energy-efficient lighting makeover and home appliance package.

"I was watching Global TV and the contest caught my attention because I always try to be energy conscious," said Anderson. "I don't usually enter contests, but this time I thought, 'Why not?'"

So the long-time Kamloops resident went online and submitted her favourite energy-saving tip, one she's been practicing for years: wash laundry in cold water, and, to cut down on dryer time, put a dry towel in the dryer with the wet clothes.

This simple tip can yield huge energy savings. After the refrigerator, an electric clothes dryer typically uses the most electricity of any appliance in a home. Heating water accounts for 90% of the energy consumption of washing machines [PDF, 145 Kb].

Sustainable design tips, from a pro

"The prize that interested me most was the design consultation with Jillian Harris," said Anderson, who is retired and shares her home with husband. "I really needed advice on upgrading my kitchen lighting and improving my laundry room. But I never thought I'd actually win! My friends are happy for me, but also a little jealous."

Former Bachelorette on ABC, Harris is a Vancouver-based interior designer and lighting specialist. After stints co-hosting HGTV's Handy Man Challenge and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Harris recently agreed to helm Love It or List It Vancouver, which will feature families struggling with homes that no longer suit their needs.

"When BC Hydro approached me to get involved in this contest, I was thrilled," said Harris. "I've always tried to focus on sustainable design — re-purposing and salvaging pieces and choosing energy-efficient products and options. A little can go a long way. I like to tell my clients that if they choose an LED bulb for a fixture, they won't have to change it until their kids or grandkids are grown up and off to university. That really amazes them!"

Harris spent an afternoon at Anderson's home in early June. The pair worked their way through the house, room by room, with a special focus on the kitchen and laundry room.

Small lightbulbs, big changes

Anderson's main bugaboo was the ceiling fixture in her kitchen — fluorescent tube lighting original to the 19-year-old home.

"We had been wanting to replace it for years, but didn't know what to replace it with," said Anderson. "Jillian explained how we could retrofit the existing fixture to use more energy-efficient CFL bulbs, or if we're willing to do some drywalling and painting, we can put in recessed potlights with LED bulbs, which are the most energy-efficient. I think we're going to wait and put in the potlights."

Jillian made suggestions on how to configure the laundry room, as well as which lighting and appliances to choose throughout the house.

"Her suggestions didn't always involve a big change," said Anderson. "Something as simple as switching bulbs in the master ensuite — we were using halogens, which are very hot and use up a lot of energy — can make a big difference."

Energy-efficient laundry to get even easier

Fittingly, as Anderson's winning submission involved reducing energy while doing laundry, one of her prizes is a brand new, ENERGY STAR® laundry pair. She'll keep using her winning tip — washing in cold and adding a towel to the dryer — but looks forward to saving even more energy with her new energy-efficient appliances. ENERGY STAR clothes washers use about 30% less energy compared to regular washers, and they use over 50% less water.

"I'd always been energy conscious and wanted to reduce my footprint as much as possible," said Anderson. "After this experience, I'm even more aware and hope to reduce my energy use even more. Winning this contest and especially winning the consultation with Jillian was just like a MasterCard commercial — priceless."

"The fact is that energy-saving lighting fixtures and appliances can also be stylish and modern," commented Harris. "With this contest, I hope we've been able to influence even a few people be smarter with their power, and also help them realize that they don't have to sacrifice aesthetics."