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Power Smart helps customer earn bragging rights and a reward

Image of Kristy Steefkerk's kitchen

Savings from small actions add up to 18% electricity savings, plus a reward

By Vancouver Sun editor Claudia Kwan

In the beginning, Kristy Streefkerk's interest in becoming a Team Power Smart member was purely about the bottom line. She noticed her power bill creeping up by an extra $30 every two months, and decided it was time to act.

"All I had to do to sign up was search 'join Team Power Smart', and then type my email address into the online form," she explains. "It was basically a 'one-click' task."

That instantly made her eligible to enter monthly contests to win prizes, gave her invites to exclusive events, and allowed her access to a big tool box of tips to save energy and money.

In Kirsty's case it also meant signing up for a reduction challenge to reduce her power consumption by 10 per cent over the course of a year in order to qualify for a reward cheque from BC Hydro.

That part did not go exactly to plan.

"My boyfriend moved in, which meant doing more laundry, twice as many people in the space using lights and whatnot. Combine that with the fact that I didn't pay as much attention as I should have, and I think I actually increased my power use by 10 per cent. Yikes!"

Year 2 was a completely different story. Streefkerk learned how to use the MyHydro energy tracking tools available on bchydro.com. It pinpointed power use on an hourly basis, identifying periods of high consumption.

Baseboard heaters the culprit for high energy use

She realized how much the baseboard heaters in the home were costing her.

Turning down the heat — especially when no one was home — made an instant difference.

It also created a direct relationship between energy use and cost. The tool showed Streefkerk what her projected monthly bill would be based on her usage habits. For instance, turning the heat down by just two degrees would mean a savings of $38 over the course of a year. Shortening her showers by a couple of minutes would drop it by another $30 annually.

She got more and more creative in little ways to reduce how much energy she was using — and how much she would have to pay.

She started checking her dryer partway through the cycle to remove items that were already dry.

Streefkerk switched out some of the bulbs in her light fixtures from old incandescents to LEDs, and installed new weatherstripping to make sure heat wasn't escaping outdoors. If she was at home by herself, she grabbed an extra blanket and kept the heat low.

"At one point, I Instagrammed a photo of the thermostat, showing that it was at the same temperature as the wine fridge," she says with a laugh.

"Every day, I would go into work and brag a little about how much I had decreased the projected monthly bill!"

Savings each month, plus a reward

In 2013, she cut the household's electricity use by 18 per cent — creating a direct savings each month, as well as allowing her to claim the  reward.

By going public about her commitment to Team Power Smart — posting on Facebook, demonstrating how MyHydro worked to colleagues — Streefkerk also inspired others to sign up. Friends would proudly tell her of the ways they had found to conserve energy, such as unplugging computers and other items when they were not being used.

Streefkerk and her boyfriend have now moved to a new home. It also has baseboard heaters, which may be changed out at some point. She is considering upgrading to programmable thermostats, and is diligent about turning lights off. Doors are kept closed in rooms which are rarely used.

Her secret to success, she suggests, is in developing small habits that add up to big energy and monetary savings — and which collectively are allowing Team Power Smart members to conserve on behalf of the environment.

"Ultimately, it's about becoming conscious about what you're doing," Streefkerk says. "At a worst-case scenario, you become aware of how much power you're using. At a best case scenario, you save money andreduce your consumption of electricity.

There's no way you can really fail."

Call her a Team Power Smart member for life; Streefkerk says the rewards of becoming more energy efficient are too great to ever give up.

This story originally appeared in the Vancouver Sun.