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Cut down your energy consumption this summer by getting outdoors

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Michael Matak says a great way to save energy and money this summer is simply to embrace the great outdoors.

Summer fun can be a great way to reduce electricity usage while the weather cooperates

Posted by Michael Matak

Summer weather is here, and it's bringing hotter-than-usual temperatures this year. Although it's easy to be drawn in by the appeal and comfort of a nicely air-conditioned home or office, you can also beat the heat by taking the time to enjoy all the exciting outdoor activities that B.C. has to offer.

There are so many fun and engaging activities that give us a mental break from our busy lives, and an opportunity to use less electricity at home.

Start by playing in B.C.'s outdoor playground

Our province is truly one big playground and you don't have to look far to find outdoor adventures. It doesn't matter where in B.C. you call home; there are always plenty of ways for you and your family to enjoy the summer months outdoors.

A personal favourite of mine is to simply spend a day at one of BC Hydro's several recreation areas. If you're looking to escape the frantic pace of Vancouver, Buntzen Lake offers various nature trails for hiking and mountain biking, a cartop boat and canoe launch, picnic tables and grass play areas for family get togethers, and even a designated dog park with lake access for our furry friends. The best part about all of these activities is that the total kilowatt-hours that they require is absolutely zero.

For the rest of B.C., check out our top-10 best of BC Hydro recreation areas for some of the best places to kick back and relax, electricity-free.

Be smart with your power when you leave the house

With many of us spending more time enjoying our summer outdoors, make sure that the electronics and devices in your home aren't needlessly wasting energy. Before you head out for weekend getaways, or even day trips to our local trails and parks, consider turning off or unplugging as many items as possible to eliminate wasted electricity and cut back on your bills:

  • Air conditioning: In the winter months heating can account for a large portion of energy bills. During the summer months, using air conditioning to maintain a cool temperature can account for up to 50 per cent of your energy consumption. When leaving your home for longer periods of time, turn off your air conditioning and draw blinds and close window coverings to minimize heat gain in your home.
  • Standby power: Unplug any appliances with clocks, small kitchen appliances such as microwaves or coffee makers, chargers, TVs, stereos and especially your PVR which can cost up to $18 a year to operate. You can also use power bars to eliminate standby power consumed by several devices at once.
  • Water heating: If you're away on vacation this summer, consider turning your water heaters down or even turning them off completely. For electric heaters, set your tank to the lowest possible temperature or turn it off at the breaker. For gas heaters, turn it off or simply use the vacation setting. There's really no point in keeping all the water in that tank heated if there's no one around to use it.
  • Refrigerators and freezers: If you're leaving on an extended trip, consider emptying your fridge completely and turning the thermostat to the warmest setting. Or empty it, unplug or switch it off at the breaker and prop the door open. If you can empty your freezer, unplug it too.

Michael Matak is a community outreach representative who helps customers in the Lower Mainland learn how to save energy and money.