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Family leans on consumption info to cut use by over 80 per cent

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'We were lucky to have this chance to look at our energy usage'

Posted by Tony Mauro

British Columbians get reminded each October, during Power Smart Month, that power is precious. But how many of us start out on the road to conservation, only to quickly fall off, sometimes even before the next bill arrives?

Let's take a closer look at the Parks family of Coquitlam, winner of October’s Power Smart Energy Challenge.  Not only does their amazing 82 per cent cut in electricity consumption during that month serve as inspiration, it also underlines how access to consumption data helps people save.

In the Parks’ case,  monitoring a frequent feed of consumption information — data collected by a smart meter during the contest period — led directly to big changes in the household. That's part of the reason we at BC Hydro are so excited about smart meters. These meters will enable new conservatin tools that will provide more information about energy use, which can add up to big savings for you.

By the way, the Parks’ success was not an anomaly. The other family in the Power Smart Challenge competition, the Jones’ of North Vancouver, cut their electricity use by 81 per cent in October. 

‘It was a key to helping us win!’

The quote from Deborah Parks, says it all.  Knowing how much power they were using every hour — thanks to data from their smart meter — played a big role in influencing the Parks to make more changes. They could actually see how their actions were paying off.

Throughout the month, the two families in the challenge were each given a weekly report that showed how much energy they consumed by the day. They were also given a more detailed report that covered consumption for each hour, each day. 

The Parks took this information to heart, keeping a family journal that documented activities such as when they did laundry and when they watched TV, and the changes they had made. In that way, they were able to discover which changes — and which devices — made the most impact on their consumption.

“[Access to detailed data provided] all the family members with education,” said David Parks.  “It was easier for everyone to think the same way and not waste electricity. It changed the mindset of everyone, from ‘I’ll put the lights off later’ to ‘do it now, I can turn them on later when I need them’.”

Coming soon to a computer near you…

The Parks wanted to know when they could get that consumption information, via a smart meter, after the contest ended.

So they were happy to hear that in mid-2012 with a new meter installed, they'll have access to  consumption data through a free and secure online account.

This new tool will offer you the following:

  • Your hourly consumption information in kilowatt hours (kWh) and in dollars – up to the last 24 hours;
  • Your estimated energy cost projections based on actual consumption patterns;
  • Your consumption data for further analysis.

These features will make it possible for you to take control of your energy consumption and start reducing where it makes sense to them.  Just like the Parks family.

 “We’ve been lucky to have this chance to look at our energy usage and to have the whole family learn about it,” said David Parks. “ I used to joke that I’d come home and have to walk around turning off all the lights, and now everyone is thinking about it.”

Tips from the Parks family

Here are a few of the things the Parks family did en route to their 82% savings:

  • After realizing how much energy was being used by devices turned off but plugged in, they used power bars to turn off groups of devices.
  • Rather than use the clothes dryer, the Jones' hang-dried their laundry.
  • The dishwasher was only run with full loads. When a single dish needed cleaning, a quick rinse in the sink was good enough.
  • The Jones' cooked large meals every few days and then ate leftovers in the following days, reheated in a microwave to reduce the use of the stove and oven.

 Tony Mauro is a Power Smart engineer and regular contributor to Unplug This Blog!