What I learned from MyHydro: heat and laundry drive my electrical bill
Tracking electricity use online makes it easy to figure out how to save
As the temperature dips, my electricity bill goes up. Saving energy at my Vancouver townhouse is all about cranking up the baseboard electric heating only when I need it, then turning it way down overnight and when we're away.
And perhaps we can be a bit more careful about how often we do our laundry, hang-drying clothes whenever possible.
This much I learned from a little time spent tracking my electricity use on bchydro.com. Thanks to data supplied by smart meters, MyHydro tools – including the ability to compare electricity use against outside temperatures and against similar homes in the neighbourhood – are available to almost anyone who takes a few minutes to create an online profile and link their BC Hydro account online.
Particularly in the winter, hundreds of thousands of customers like you check everything from hour-by-hour electricity use to year-over-year comparisons of how much power they've used. And that information can pay off in changes in how we use electricity, and can prod us to follow through on no- and low-cost changes – from draftproofing windows and doors, to avoiding anything other than full loads of laundry – to keep our bills in check.
What happened on Sunday, December 27?
On a Saturday in early December, I used a paltry 10.12 kilowatt-hours of electricity, which cost me just less than a Canadian dollar. That's because I was away on a weekend road trip with the family, and had all but shut off the baseboard heating (and all the lights) inside our home.
Then on Sunday, December 27, my usage spiked to 56.06 kilowatt-hours – the highest one-day total for the month. So what happened?
Well, after returning from my son's early morning hockey game, my wife and I were home most of the day. The temperature outside averaged 2.6°C (another fact I found on MyHydro), so we had needed quite a bit of heat. And we did two loads of laundry, a load of dishes in the dishwasher, played for awhile on the PS4, and watched a couple hours of TV.
Spikes in usage more affordable in B.C. than around the world
So it all added up. Still, someone in Germany is crying as they read this: my Big Electricity Day cost me $6.88 Cdn – or about a third of what it would cost in that mainly coal-powered European nation.
It's all because of our hydroelectric dams. Like most places around the world that can rely on reservoirs for storage, electricity costs here are much lower than places that use coal or gas to keep the lights on.
Here are a few other things I learned from tracking my electricity use in December:
- Comparing average outside daily temperature to daily electricity use throughout the month hammers home the fact that heating is the big energy user in our home. As the dotted temperature line dips, the blue electricity use bars grow higher.
- Our biggest hourly spike on Boxing Day was in the morning as we cooked breakfast then watched the dastardly U.S.A. beat Canada 4-2 in the opening game of the World Junior Hockey Championships.
- Using the 'compare to similar homes in your neighbourhood' option in MyHydro, we discover that only once in December did our daily use eclipse the similar homes average. That's confirmation that we're doing a pretty good job of using electricity wisely, and a direct result of having completed three successful Team Power Smart 10% reduction challenges – and pocketing $200 in rewards for doing that – in the past six years.
Rob Klovance is managing editor of bchydro.com.