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Lessons on LEDs, emergency prep, from Shuswap Lake

Melody Mateev's Magna Bay home
Melody Mateev's home in the community of Magna Bay on Shuswap Lake relies on upgraded insulation and windows, plus a switch to LED lighting, to reduce electricity use.

Team Power Smart member talks energy savings, being prepared for emergencies

Melody Mateev is officially retired from her former job as a designated public safety coordinator for an Alberta utility company. But just because she's relaxing at a home near the shore of B.C.'s stunning Shuswap Lake doesn't mean she has a relaxed attitude toward safety or energy efficiency.

Shortly after Melody and her husband Dan moved into their new home in Magna Bay in 2018, she had seen enough. It was time to march to the local hardware store to stock up on LEDs.

"We noticed right away the [former owner] had all these big incandescent bulbs outside," says Mateev. "And we knew LEDs would be the key. We started changing every light in the house to LED, and we noticed a drop in our bills."

Mateev added that tips from Team Power Smart have helped her find ways to reduce her bills by over 30%, thanks in part to draftproofing the home's windows and doors. She has also insulated all the water pipes in the home and upgraded the attic insulation.

But even today, Mateev is amazed at her energy bills.

"After the move, I couldn't believe how low my power bills were compared to what they were in Alberta," she recalls. "I went onto [] and checked everything out. I saw this stuff about Team Power Smart and thought 'Darn right, I want to join so that I know what other steps I can take to save electricity.'"

She continues on the path to more energy savings and is currently in a 10% Reduction Challenge that could earn her a $50 reward if she can hit the 10% reduction over 12 months. Right now, she's at 6%, and expects to creep closer to her target as she unplugs devices and lowers the heat while away from home for a few weeks later this winter.

If only Mateev could transfer her Power Smarts to the renters who book her first-floor suite via Airbnb. Renters aren't always that mindful of how they use electricity, which is why she now has a timer for the bathroom fan in the suite.

Power outage preparation and empathy for restoration crews

Mateev's time working for an electrical utility helped her understand the importance of emergency preparation, the need to have emergency supplies, and the ability to stay safe, warm, and fed for an extended period.

"There's a bit of this expectation that the power won't go out," she says. "It's like, What do you mean the power's out? What do you mean you can't get to it right away? People don't understand that in a major outage, there's a lot of stuff going on, and it's not always very easy to get around. There's only so many crews available, and there can be tough conditions."

We prioritize power restoration based on safety considerations and critical infrastructure. Crews deal first with anything that poses a public safety risk, such as a downed power line, then take on any critical or municipal services. After that, they focus on large outages to bring the greatest number of customers back before focusing on smaller outages and individual homes.

That can leave customers in rural, isolated areas waiting longer to get their power restored. Mateev experienced that when a devastating 2020 New Year's Eve storm left 160,000 people in the central and southern Interior without power for 36 hours or more. She recalls that her small community came together and helped those in need, including a group of locals who had no heat but congregated at the home of a homeowner who had access to a generator.

"My neighbour down the road had a four-kilowatt generator, so his water pump was working and he would give me five gallons of water each day," she recalls. "And I made the best apple pie of my life on the barbecue, for New Year's Day dinner."