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Home heating upgrade helps North Vancouver family reduce electricity use by 33 per cent

Image of Adrian Clark with son Cypress outside of their home
Adrian Clark, with his son Cypress, outside his family's North Vancouver home. The Clarks cut their electricity use by a whopping 33 per cent over 12 months to save a big chunk of money and earn a Team Power Smart Challenge reward for their efforts.

New habits and tracking electricity use made the difference over a year

When seven-year-old Cypress wanted to put up holiday lights on the family's home last December, his father said, "No."

"Some things are more important than Christmas," Cypress was told. "Like finishing a Team Power Smart challenge."

Of course, Adrian Clark was joking. Sort of. He and his son did put up a few of their old-fashioned holiday lights. But the display was more modest than it had been in past years, because the North Vancouver family was less than a month away from winning a Team Power Smart challenge.

Starting off the new year right

A week into January, Clark got the news that there would be a $75 cheque coming his way because the Clarks reduced their electricity use by a whopping 33 per cent by the end of their year-long challenge. The opportunity to earn that reward was "absolutely" part of the motivation for starting a Team Power Smart challenge, he said during a phone conversation. But he was also interested in tracking the amount of electricity his family was using throughout the year.

Each time that he received the email reminder from BC Hydro that his bill was available to view online, Clark took a few moments to check his MyHydro data to see his electricity usage. "I was trying to understand which days we used more electricity," he explained.

When the dishwasher was broken over a weekend, for example, he checked to see if not using it made a difference. He also suspects the old wall oven in the kitchen is drawing lots of electricity.

How to win a Team Power Smart challenge

When he started a challenge at the end of 2013, Clark was confident his family would be successful because they had made some changes to how they heated their home.

The single, detached home — single story with a basement — was built in 1919 and while it is primarily heated with a gas-powered boiler and baseboard heaters, there was a single thermostat regulating the temperature for the entire home. That left parts of the home, and the basement suite that is rented out, very cold. Electric space heaters were being used.

"I knew our electricity consumption was high," admitted Clark, who also had safety concerns about the plug-in heaters, particularly when they were left running and unmonitored.

The solution was to upgrade the heating system so that each floor has its own thermostat. The retrofit took place in early November of 2013 and the entire house is more comfortable now, he said.

The impact on their electricity use was instant and dramatic, said Clark. He noticed a 45 per cent reduction when he started checking the electricity use data in MyHydro, and could track their progress against their challenge in the Team Power Smart Member Tool Box.

Since the Clarks started their challenge, the Team Power Smart Challenge program has been reworked to offer better opportunities for long-term savings. The first challenge now offers a $50 reward, with an opportunity to earn another $25 for maintaining your savings for a second year. You also have the option of trying to reduce your electricity use by another 10 per cent and earn another $50 cheque.

Getting the entire family into the fun

A few days later I spoke with Shelley Clark. She laughed when I asked her what it was like during the year of the challenge. "We had a lot of fun with it," she said on the phone.

Shelley said that her husband used the challenge as a way to educate Cypress and his teenage brother, Liam. "He would remind them to turn off lights and unplug chargers from the wall," said Shelley.

Adrian has already started another challenge to maintain their savings for this year. The incentive this time around is $25, but Shelley says Adrian will carry on. "He's not sure how he'll pull it off this time," she said.

"I suggested that we start hanging our laundry to dry. He thought that was a good idea."