Unplug this Blog!

My year of monitoring electricity consumption using MyHydro

Woman switching to an LED light bulb

Increasing awareness and decreasing usage with MyHydro

Posted by Jacqueline Lambert

Last year, I finally moved out of my parents' home and into my first apartment. I was excited about my newfound independence, but worried about paying rent for the first time, not to mention an electricity bill, cable bills and every other expense that came with this rite of passage.

My roommate and I have similar values when it comes to sustainability, so we knew the one bill that we'd be able to manage more closely was our electricity bill.

We're pretty good at remembering to unplug our laptop and phone chargers when we aren't using them, and turning off the power bar where our television and DVD player are plugged in. We even try to take four-minute showers, using a timer to keep us on track.

We moved into our 1920s apartment in January. Although our home has lots of character, it's lacking modern efficiency measures, so we were pretty worried about heating costs through winter. Using the MyHydro tracking tools has helped us monitor how much electricity we use, and even estimate how much heating costs each day.

Our unit is centrally located in the building, so we've been able to keep warm by taking advantage of how high our neighbours are cranking their heat. If we do get a bit cold, we just curl up with our energy-efficient heater — a blanket.

Managing my electricity use, managing my stress

MyHydro has even helped manage more than just my electricity use. I stayed at my parents' house one weekend, while they were off travelling somewhere exotic, and I decided to use the oven. The next day, just as I arrived back in Vancouver, I had the feeling that I'd left the oven on.

All set to catch the bus back to the suburbs to check on it, I remembered MyHydro. I signed in and checked the previous day. The chart showed clearly where my electricity use increased when I turned on the oven, and where it went back down when I turned it off. MyHydro saved me the cost of bus fare and the hassle of a three-hour round trip.

Image of the Charles Bridge in Prague

Electricity use close to home, and around the world

I've logged in to my MyHydro account each week to check our electricity consumption, and there aren't usually any big surprises. Sure, there's the occasional spike, like when I decided to get creative with my cooking and use my slow cooker. Once it increased because my poor roommate was home sick watching TV and boiling water for pots of tea all day.

We definitely notice our usage goes down when one of us has been away on vacation.

I recently travelled to Europe, visiting Berlin, Cambridge and Prague — and it was interesting to see what other countries do to save electricity.

I did laundry at my friend's flat in Cambridge, and I got to experience using an all-in-one washer dryer combo for the first time. The front-loading machine not only saved me time, but the fact that it fits snugly in a cupboard saves my friend a tonne of space. The appliance also uses less water and less electricity than the conventional models we have here. There is an extensive spin cycle, allowing clothes to dry quicker, which means it needs less time on the drying cycle.

I've seen a few of these in stores here in B.C., but they're much more popular in Europe, where homes are smaller and space is at a premium.

My hostel in Prague was very resourceful. The energy-efficient lights were always turned off and some even used motion controls. All the outlets were controlled by switches, so they only worked when the switch was in the on position. I chatted with a local who revealed that he pays more than 10 times monthly than what I pay bi-monthly, making him extremely cautious with how much he uses. Of course, rent is much cheaper in Prague, so I didn't have too much sympathy for him.

New Year's resolution: lower electricity consumption

My roommate and I decided this past weekend that we're going to continue living together in this apartment for another year. That means we now have a year's worth of electricity consumption data tracked, and we can start a Team Power Smart challenge. I'm hoping that using the MyHydro tracking tools will keep us on track to save 10 per cent, and earn the reward cheque that comes along with that.

Jacqueline Lambert is a member of BC Hydro's digital communications team.