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Renters can save electricity, increase comfort

Condos along Vancouver's False Creek, viewed from the Granville Bridge
A lot of British Columbians rent and are billed separately for their electricity bills. There are ways to cut that energy use during the colder months.

Amid another chilly winter, tips for striking a balance at home

Grocery bills are up, and the cost of eating out these days... well, best to steer clear of that one. What we can control is how to balance comfort and our energy bills at home.

For most renters, that means big changes such as insulation upgrades and a heat pump aren't in the cards. But there are ways to stay comfy and avoid high winter bills in rental homes. And given the arctic chills that have hit B.C. this winter and last, it's a good time to take stock of how you use energy in your home.

Let's start with a few basics.

Low-cost, no-cost ways to save

How we use energy – and maintain warmth – plays a big role in how efficient we are with it.

  • Close blinds and window coverings to keep the warmth in
  • When the sun shines, open blinds to let the sun's warmth and light in
  • Do full loads of laundry, and use cold water
  • Consider a collapsible drying rack and try hang drying laundry
  • Enable energy-saving settings on electronics, and stream efficiently
  • When sleeping, try setting your thermostat to 16°C
  • Cooking or doing chores? Set the thermostat at 18°C
  • Reading or watching TV? Set your thermostat to 21°C
  • Heat only the rooms you're in, and when you're home

Use heat only where, and when, you need it

Be careful not to waste electricity on empty rooms, especially if you have electric baseboard heating. A few tips to help ensure your heating bill doesn't bite you.

  • When you're away from home for an extended period – or even at the gym for an hour – turn the thermostat down to 16°C.
  • If you're using a portable space heater, be really careful about how long you leave it on. Forget to turn it off and you'll see it in your electricity bill.
  • Wear a sweater or hoodie, and keep your feet warm with thick socks or slippers. No need to crank the heat when you're bundled up.

Consider cooking that meal with a small appliance

Instant Pots, air fryers, slow cookers, and toaster ovens can save you a bunch – up to 75% less electricity – over using the stovetop or that full-sized oven.

And small appliances can be used to prepare almost any meal. There are hundreds of recipes online, and we've done a series of small appliance recipe stories including:

Give a few recipes a try, then see if you can spot the difference in energy usage by tracking it online with your MyHydro account, which allows you to zero in on your consumption down to the hour.

Learn more about cooking with small appliances

Learn to use your gaming console efficiently

If you can avoid using your gaming console to stream your favourite Netflix show, you'll save money on your electricity bill. A gaming console consumes 10 to 25 times more electricity than a TV or streaming device such as an Apple TV, Roku, or the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

When using your PS5, Xbox One or other console, avoid energy waste by:

  • Activating power saving features (check your manual)
  • Skip sleep mode and power down instead
  • Use an energy monitor with a high efficiency rating (Look for the ENERGY STAR® label)
  • Don't forget to power down when you're done

Use MyHydro to track your energy use, and start a 10% Challenge

Knowing how much electricity you're using (and when), can teach you a lot about how to save.

Get helpful insights by creating an online profile and using MyHydro tracking tools, where you can compare your electricity use to outside temperature and  your electricity use during the same time the previous year. You can use it to see your forecast bill amount and compare your usage with other homes nearby to see how you're doing.

If you're a long-term renter and you've been in the same place for at least a year, join Team Power Smart and start a 10% Reduction Challenge. You could earn a $50 reward if you cut your electricity use by 10% or more over 12 months.