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Ladysmith duo cuts electricity use by 51%

Posted by Nola Poirier

When I read in the special Power Smart insert to British Columbia Magazine that Dianne Bowman and Terry Mulholland from Ladysmith reduced their energy use by more than 41%, I had to find out more about how they did it.

I was curious about what kinds of changes had made the most difference and what had inspired Dianne and Terry to really start saving. I think I expected that I might learn some juicy new tip that really cuts down on energy use, but Dianne’s story taught me even more than that.

Reacting to the conservation rate

Dianne told me she started saving energy after initial worry over BC Hydro’s two-tier rate restructuring, also known as the conservation rate. She decided to get proactive about her household’s energy use, admitting it was at first mostly for financial reasons.

Now, she says, her feelings of anger, worry, and frustration have shifted to feelings of empowerment.

“I joined Team Power Smart in September, 2008 and set a 10% reduction goal. We started with the easiest, least expensive changes.  As of March, 2009, our Power Smart saving is 51%.”

If that isn’t inspiration enough, there were other things about Dianne and Terry’s story that got me motivated.

The first was in hearing how seemingly little changes, behavioural changes that made a big difference. Some of their behaviour-oriented tips include:

  • "We modified cooking habits: we use the microwave instead of using the oven, and pressure cooker instead of a stock pot. When baking, I make double batches and load both racks to reduce oven time.  And I turn off the oven or stove a few minutes before cooking time is complete.
  • We replaced most lighting with CFLs - and turn off lights when leaving a room.
  • We plugged computers and peripherals, TV electronics, and sound system into power bars and turn them off when not in use. Even “Dribble“, our 15-year-old pet turtle, joined Team Power Smart. His equipment is plugged into a power bar with a timer.
  • We wash laundry in cold water, full loads only, and we resurrected an outdoor clothes line which always gets used in good weather. Clothes come off the line smelling wonderful. 
  • If we have to use the dryer, each piece of clothing is shaken out before tossing into the dryer to reduce drying time. For heavier damp items, we lay them on a stainless steel indoor rack to finish drying.
  • We monitored the electric meter reading, which provided positive reinforcement."

"Behavioural changes soon became second nature," she adds, "and we were rewarded with reduced power bills."

Some of their one-time action tips include:

  • "We adjusted temperature controls on the hot water tank, fridge, and freezer.
  • Our low flow shower head is excellent, and provides remarkable water force. If it had a shut off on the head, it would be even better.
  • Bathroom taps have reduced flow aerators.
  • We bought inexpensive foam sleeves for water lines that run through an unheated crawlspace.  And we cut up foam sleeves for insulating hot water tank pipes. A quilted “silence” tablecloth became the insulating blanket for the hot water tank.
  • We took advantage of BC Hydro’s rebates and replaced Christmas lighting for huge power savings.

Hearing about things that worked for her was informative and encouraging. And then, when she told me where she got her ideas for how to cut back, she shared a big juicy tip that we all can benefit from.

“I found tips from all over the (BC Hydro) website, including Green Guides. I found good ideas from the monthly newsletters and news section including 'Unplug this Blog' with your blog entries. To target more ideas for our home energy requirements, Google searches found other state and province utility websites for ideas.”

But the last resource she mentioned was the real clincher for me:

“One of the best sources for information is from our retired generation. Many of these folks lived a more frugal lifestyle, and can provide lots of sensible suggestions and teachings. For example, my 96-year-old grandmother told me last fall how to best hang clothes to dry on the outdoor clothesline.”

To my mind that’s the biggest tip of all – sharing our ideas. And it doesn’t have to be limited to learning from our wise elders (though they are a rich source of information) -  we can all learn from each other and set examples with behaviour. There are some big problems facing us that will definitely be better resolved with the thoughts and actions of many.

A huge thank you to Dianne and Terry for saving energy and for sharing their story.

If you have some tips you want to share, or want to tell us your energy story, send an email (and a photo if you have one) to powersmart@bchydro.com. And if you haven’t already, you can join Team Power Smart to help you save energy.

Nola Poirier is a freelance writer and a key contributor to bchydro.com's Green Guides.

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Source: BC Hydro News