Stories & Features

Step into the smart home by joining the HydroHome trial

The HydroHome trial provides participants access to Powerley app to manage their home electricity use.

Apply today to join the many B.C. homeowners trying out smart devices

What's it like to live in a smart home? A pair of BC Hydro customers already on the HydroHome trial – which is recruiting a new group of customers this month – say it's an eye-opener that has immediate benefits.

Among their observations from several years living with mobile energy tracking and control, smart thermostats, lights, and switches:

  • Smart lighting does what kids and teenagers don't do: turn off lights in empty rooms.
  • Smart thermostats can save money and keep a home more comfortable.
  • Real-time energy monitoring, on your phone or tablet, teaches you how to save.

"I really don't see a downside to joining the trial," says Dennean Gould, a Campbell River resident who joined the HydroHome smart trial in 2018. "It took a little bit of time to install the devices, but it was pretty straightforward. And we love the convenience and the automation. I've always liked to keep things on a schedule, and now I can set up a schedule for our home. And we've become less wasteful."

Gould estimates that electricity bills in his 2,400-square-foot home are down about 20% since the smart home devices were introduced to the home. He says part of those savings can be attributed to an upgrade of his home's heat pump to a newer, more efficient one, but he's convinced that keeping a closer eye on energy use – and ensuring that electricity isn't used when it's not needed – have helped.

You can apply online today to join the free HydroHome trial, which includes access to a downloadable app that offers helpful monitoring, tips, and feedback on home energy use. You also have the option of adding a smart hub and/or a variety of connected devices to fully explore the potential of the smart home.

Interested? Register to join the HydroHome trial today.

We're also recruiting customers, including those already in a HydroHome trial, for our Peak Rewards trials that offer rewards for reducing energy use during times of high power demand in B.C. Get details on the trials, which include an electric vehicle smart charging trial and a connected home trial, on our Peak Rewards page.

Image of a HydroHome app user accessing vacation settings
The HydroHome app gives you scheduling and control of connected devices in your home, even when you're away on vacation.

Operating lights and heat remotely is ideal during vacations

Dennean Gould and wife Shelley love to travel, and they now find themselves in command of their home while their away – and as they return.

Using the HydroHome app on their phone, they can schedule lights to go on and off at certain times. And when they return home, they can arrive at a pre-heated and well-lit home.

"It's nice to be able to turn lights on, like the light at the exterior door, so that when we come home we're not stumbling around in the dark," says Dennean. "That remote access has been great. Sometimes it's nice to just be able to monitor your home while you're away. And it's great to be able to adjust the temperature so that you return to a warm home."

App offers real-time monitoring and control

Asked which smart device he likes best in his home, Bruce Mills doesn't hesitate. It's the ability to monitor his electric hot water usage.

The reason? The HydroHome app's ability to show real-time information has allowed him to see just how much electricity the hot water tank uses. And armed with this information he has found ways of reducing that cost in his household.

Mills is also big on the real-time energy tracking offered by the app, which he says has changed the way he thinks about energy use.

"I've got the app on my iPad, and I've got it on my Android phone as well," says Mills, who lives in Fanny Bay on Vancouver Island. "I'm looking at it all the time, even if I'm out walking in the morning. We've got smart switches downstairs and upstairs and we're always checking to make sure the lights are turned off. And with the smart settings, you can schedule the lights to go at certain times.

"And our connected light switches downstairs are great, because we have our grandkids coming here quite often and they're notorious for leaving lights on all the time. We also have motion sensors for the lights down there, and they'll only stay on for five or 10 minutes once there's no one in the room."

Mills also has Ecobee smart thermostats that were initially included for some customers as part of the pilot program.

The trial is all about experimentation, and a chunk of it is around determining which smart thermostats work best, including when paired with baseboard heating that's so common in many parts of B.C. The trial now offers Stelpro and Sinope smart thermostats that are compatible with electric baseboards.

"Our heat comes on about half an hour before we get up in the morning in the winter time, and it goes down a few degrees overnight," says Mills, who is part of a growing number of homeowners on Vancouver Island who is now using a heat pump for heating and cooling. He still has electric baseboard heaters, but he says they rarely come on to provide backup heating on the coldest days.

The current list of devices compatible to the HydroHome smart home pilot includes:

  • Amazon Alexa smart speakers
  • Aetoc energy monitor
  • Thermostats (eight different brands)
  • Smart light bulbs (six different brands)
  • Dimmers (GE, Jasco)
  • Lighting switches (three different brands)
  • Load controllers (GE, Jasco, Sinope)
  • Outlets and plugs (seven different brands)
  • First Alert smoke alarm
  • Smart door locks (Kwikset, Schlage, Yale)
  • Motion and door/window motion sensors (six different brands)
  • Water/moisture sensors (three different brands)

Register to join the Hydrohome trial today.

Learn about Peak Rewards trials for those with electric vehicles and/or connected homes.