by Jeremy Murphy

Stop Spending So Much on Energy

In BC we have some of the world’s cleanest electricity – and cheapest, despite what you may think of your bimonthly BC Hydro bill. Our other home fuels like propane and fuel oil aren’t overly expensive either. But we don’t need a crystal ball to know that the cost of energy is unlikely to go anywhere but up in coming years. 

BC Hydro’s rates are up slightly since 2019 and are expected to continue to climb as electricity generation (ahem, Site C dam) and transmission infrastructure is built and replaced in coming years. Fuel prices are also expected to increase one way or another: market forces and/or carbon pollution pricing. 

How to Use Less Energy

We’ve been hearing for decades that the best way to keep our energy costs down is to simply use less. This is still true, but for many it’s easier said than done. Overcoming the inertia and taking some energy efficiency actions will have increasingly large savings over the years, however. The sooner you make some changes, the greater your cumulative savings will be – there is no benefit to waiting.

But where to start? Perhaps the best place is the Bring it Home 4 the Climate campaign. The CRD participates in this home energy efficiency improvement program that offers a free virtual home energy check up through a one-on-one conversation with an energy expert. After submitting a brief form you will be sent a welcome bundle with instructions on how to use the program, including how to connect with an energy expert. Once you speak with the expert, they will send you a virtual check-up report with next steps in reducing your home’s energy consumption.

Next Steps

Chances are, the energy expert will direct you to get an EnerGuide home energy evaluation and make you aware of home energy efficiency upgrade subsidies through BC Hydro, Fortis, and the provincial government. The EnerGuide evaluation is really enlightening: the test will tell you where your home is losing heat through drafts, what energy system upgrades you may need, if your insulation is up to snuff, and more. 

The Bring it Home 4 Climate energy expert will tell you how to book an EnerGuide evaluation appointment. Make it worth the assessor’s while and coordinate with your neighbours to book multiple appointments in one trip to the island. An evaluation typically costs around $500 but it gives you access to amazing home upgrade rebates. The EnerGuide assessor and the Bring it Homes 4 the Climate energy expert can connect you with contractors who can perform any home upgrades – one less thing to worry about.

The Rebates

There’s help in footing the home energy efficiency upgrade bill. The provincial government’s Clean BC program, BC Hydro, and Fortis all offer rebates, and generally, the bigger the upgrade, the larger the rebate. Some are worth thousands of dollars, for example if you upgrade your oil or propane space and water heating system to an electric heat pump. You can also get up to $1200 for each major part of the house you reinsulate and up to $100 per window or door upgraded. It’s like you’re being paid money to save money on energy use. This handy chart summarizes the provincial rebates available.

The federal government also offers rebates through the Greener Homes program which will partially cover costs of green home improvement retroactive to December 1, 2020. Eligibility is dependent on getting an EnerGuide home evaluation.

Quick Fixes

The home evaluation and upgrades will take a little effort and time to complete. These upgrades start paying themselves back immediately, though, so don’t wait to get started. While that’s happening, here are a few other quick things you can do to reduce your energy use and save money:

  • Get smart power strips for your TV, stereo, and other electronics. Electronics keep using energy when they’re off. Smart power strips know when the devices aren’t being used and switch them off completely.
  • Do you really not have LED lightbulbs for your ceiling lights and lamps yet? They used to be expensive, now they’re not. They last several years and sip electricity while giving you lots of light. Waiting for your current lightbulbs to burn out first? Don’t – sooner or later those bulbs will fail but you will start saving money right away if you replace them now.
  • Use the cold water setting on your clothes washer. For regular washing, it will do just as good a job as hot while saving you money and making your clothes last longer. 
  • Bonus points: line dry your clothes. It only takes a few minutes to hang them, they smell better, and they’re not damaged by the intense heat of your dryer.
  • Use foam tape, weatherstripping, and expanding foam to draft-proof your windows, doors, and wherever plumbing is coming into your house. A little effort here can make a huge difference to how warm your home is. 
  • Get heavy curtains or blinds to help insulate your windows and deck doors, keeping more heat in during the winter and out during the summer.

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