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Customer on track to use 30 per cent less electricity

Installing a CFL lightbulb

New light bulbs and a change in laundry habits put Guy Lynch on path to savings

Claudia Kwan
Vancouver Sun editor

At the core of Guy Lynch's decision to become a member of Team Power Smart lies a streak of pure, unadulterated pragmatism — and he's not afraid to admit it.

"I'm not sure if I saw on my bill or online, but I heard about the challenge— that if you dropped your power use by 10 per cent, you would get a reward,"he says. "I was thinking that would be good to pay for some lights. I would be ahead by even more because of saving on my power bill ... and then I could get some more lights!"

Start with lights that get used the most for simple savings

If Team Power Smart members succeed in reducing their consumption of electricity by 10 per cent over a period of 12 months, they become eligible to receive a reward from BC Hydro.

Lynch bought ENERGY STAR® bulbs, and the resulting energy savings meant they paid for themselves. In the first year, he replaced the lights used most often in the home: the ones in the kitchen.

He also made simple changes in behaviour. In the past, he would have heated up an entire kettle of water to make a cup of tea. The rest of the water would cool down and be dumped down the sink, meaning he had used five times more electricity than he actually needed.

Tracking his power consumption with MyHydro tools online helped keep him mindful of what he was doing. One cup of tea became just one cup of water in the kettle.

By year two, Lynch noticed there were many more varieties of CFLs and LEDs available. He purchased more lights — thanks to the savings already achieved — to replace the outdated bulbs in track lights and pot lights. The new ones used a tiny fraction of the power being burned up by the old ones.

"We reduced our power use by 10 per cent in the first year, 10 per cent in the second, and I'm sure we'll make it this year too," Lynch says. "That will make it 30 per cent in total. We've had hundreds of dollars' worth of bulbs paid for, and they'll keep on saving us money — they're a gift that keeps on giving."

MyHydro data shows laundry day one of the biggest energy culprits

Some of the new tricks he's discovered along the way hearken back to a previous time. In tracking his power use on laundry day, he found that washing and drying a load of towels and a load of jeans doubled the electrical load for the whole house.

He got an outdoor stainless steel rack and now hangs things to dry, even in cold weather. On rainy days, laundry goes on a rack inside the house.

"I pull the towels off when they're still damp, and throw them in the dryer with small bits like socks — that way I don't have to hang the small bits.

Then the towels are still fluffy without using so much power."

It's not just about the short-term, day-to-day strategy. Lynch also uses the online energy-tracking tools to see what is happening with his electricity use year to year. BC Hydro's Connected newsletter provides continuing inspiration on additional changes.

Lynch says formally committing to being a part of Team Power Smart has made him and his family generally more aware of good habits, such as turning lights off when leaving a room. He admits there is room for more improvement.

"We have a pretty new dishwasher; we could use it without the dry cycle overnight. That would save a lot of power," Lynch muses. "In the first year, we went on a vacation to Cuba for three weeks, and we realized — after we had already left — that we could have unplugged the power bar for the home entertainment unit."

When it comes time to upgrade home electronics in the future, ENERGY STAR-rated computers, televisions, and PVRs will help him keep meeting the goal of lowering his power consumption.

Team Power Smart offers perks and benefits to members

For anyone considering joining Team Power Smart, membership has its benefits.

He has entered exclusive contests a few times, to try to win prizes such as membership to the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. He got alerts about rebates available to him while remodelling his kitchen, and stocked up on —what else? — light bulbs during Power Smart Month in October.

While he and his family members are environmentally conscious, he says the primary motivation has been dollars and cents.

"It doesn't cost anything to try for the reward — even if we don't make it this year, we'll try again for next year. It's about being a little smarter about your electricity use and saving money at the same time.

"It's a good challenge because we can always do things a little better."

This story originally appeared in the Vancouver Sun.