Stories & Features

5 ways to take some of the sting out of winter bills

Young boy putting on socks
Lower your thermostat a few degrees to avoid really high winter bills. You can do it without sacrificing comfort, just by wearing a sweater or a hoodie and socks - when your feet are warm, you feel a lot warmer.

How to avoid, or to at least delay, paying BC Hydro’s step 2 rate

If you're a fan of the Canadian Farmers' Almanac, then you should be pleased to hear that the Almanac's forecast for B.C. is for a warmer (and less wet) winter than usual this time around. But one thing is undeniable: it's going to get colder and darker in the coming months, and you're probably going to use more electricity.

Last winter was a wake-up call for all of us in B.C., one of the coldest in recent memory and one that pushed our energy bills to new heights. It was a chilling reminder that when it gets cold, you pay more to keep your home warm and comfortable.

What is the step 2 rate?

Under BC Hydro's Residential Conservation Rate, you pay 8.58 cents per kWh for the first 1,350 kWh you use over an average two-month billing period. Above that amount, you pay the step 2 rate of 12.87 cents per kWh for the balance of the electricity used during the billing period.

The structure is designed to encourage conservation, but for many of our customers, conserving power can be much harder in the coldest months of the year.

There are ways to delay, at least by a few days or even a week, when that higher step 2 rate takes effect. And that can really pay off.

Below are five ways you can help avoid those Step 2 rates without selling your home and moving to Ixtapa.

And if you haven't already, consider moving to a BC Hydro equal payment plan that can spread out the costs of higher winter bills over the year.

1. Track your electricity use, and learn from it

If you're in the very slim minority, your home is so energy efficient that your bills are puny and your home is super comfortable in the winter months. Then again, if that were you…  you wouldn't be reading this. Start by logging in to and getting a detailed look at your electricity usage with MyHydro tools. Take a few minutes to compare your usage, this year and last, to that of similar homes near you. If you're using more than similar homes, you likely have several ways to significantly cut your electricity use. To keep a closer eye on your bill, subscribe to MyHydro alerts, which include a notification when you’re halfway to paying step 2 rates in a given period.

Don't have an account online? Learn how to link your account today.

2.  Lower the thermostat, take shorter showers

If you heat your home primarily with electric heat, that's going to be the main culprit again this winter. Turn down the heat overnight, when you're away from home and – if you have multiple thermostats – in specific rooms and areas when they're not in use. And consider turning the heat down a degree or two even when you're home – it's amazing how thick socks, slippers or a sweater can make even a slightly cooler home feel cozy. Also, longer showers add up to higher bills, so see if you can limit showers in your home to four or five minutes.

3. Kill those drafts

Draftproofing is one of the least expensive, easy ways to save money on your energy bills. Think it would be ridiculous to leave a six-inch square hole in a door? You could lose the equivalent amount of heat through drafts if there's a 1/8th-inch gap around a door. Learn how to draft proof your home.

4. Upgrade to LED lighting

You probably don’t have nearly as many lights in your home as that guy in North Delta who expects to save $11,000 over 20 years by replacing 124 incandescent bulbs with energy-saving LEDs. But if you look around and count them, you probably have a lot more lights than you might think. Here are a few tips for shopping for LEDs.

5. Check out our 21 no-cost tips

We expect you're already using most of these energy-saving strategies in your home. But even if you’re not doing half of them, you could be losing out on hundreds of dollars in energy savings each year. See our 21 no-cost tips.