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Wifi thermostats, upgraded insulation, pay off in Saanich

Baldwin home in Saanich, B.C.
Alan Baldwin's Saanich rancher is more comfortable than ever, thanks to smart thermostats and a big insulation upgrade that was made easier with BC Hydro rebates.

'I'm just delighted that my bills are lower'

As a retired guy on a tight budget, Alan Baldwin welcomes any reliable advice he can find that might reduce his home energy use. That's why he's a Team Power Smart member and an avid reader of the monthly Connected newsletter.

"I always read that stuff and find little gems in there," says Baldwin, who shares a 2,000-square-foot rancher-style home in Saanich with his wife Nancy.

A lot of the things Baldwin finds valuable are no-cost tips around the likes of how to save energy in the kitchen or when you do your laundry. But he's also willing to invest to upgrade his home's efficiency, if that investment pays off in greater comfort and lower bills.

A couple years back, Baldwin jumped at the chance to take part in a BC Hydro home energy trial that equipped his home with wifi-enabled programmable thermostats. This came on the heels of an insulation upgrade made less costly by BC Hydro's insulation rebates.

Both moves made him a big fan of BC Hydro.

"I don't know why, but, turning the thermostat up and down was something that we never did religiously," says Baldwin. "But when this [thermostat trial] came along, it was 'Bob's your uncle' – the thermostats looked after themselves. I was so impressed, because while I'm something of a Luddite when it comes to computers, we were able to turn the heat on in the house while we were on holidays and turn it off and on while we were away from home. And when we were coming home, I was at the airport and I turned up the heat. Boom, our home was nice and cozy by the time we arrived."

For the insulation upgrade in Baldwin's home, which was built in 1985, Balwin says he got back about $900 via rebates. Immediately, his house felt warmer, and combined with the smart thermostats, he says his electricity bills have fallen steadily since 2017.

"I'm just delighted that my bills are lower and my home is more comfortable," he says. "The BC Hydro rebate program is so easy to use. They give you a list of certified contractors that you can go to, and I found a great one. "

Baldwin admits to making a few missteps. He says that while the installation of a small gas stove has offered some additional comfort in winter, he's now leaning towards the year-round benefits of an electric heat pump. Last summer's heat dome was a big push in that direction, especially when he saw how his son – whose home was cooled by a heat pump – remained comfortable even as record high temperatures hit B.C.

"We should have gone with the heat pump right off the get-go," he says. "You know, if you live long enough, I guess you smarten up eventually. We're just going to put our nickels away and hopefully put a heat pump in."

Did you know? Many smart home products add convenience and comfort to your home. But for energy savings, wifi thermostats are at the top of the list for helping deliver energy savings.

'We learned that trick from you guys'

In the cool months, Baldwin says he and Nancy shut down heat to the rooms they're not using. And in the kitchen, they've learned a thing or two about saving energy.

"In the past, because there's just the two of us, we would do our dishwashing by hand," he says. "But after reading about making better use of our dishwasher, by filling it up before turning it on, we use less hot water. And the dishes are actually cleaner than by doing them by hand. We learned that trick from you guys."