552 kWh? We can do better

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Power conservationI received a report in the mail from Collus PowerStream giving me an overview of my electricity usage for the one-month period of August. A hot, humid August that no doubt had us running the air conditioner and ceiling fans more often than we normally do (we actually like it warm most of the time).

I really appreciated getting the notice because we care about conservation. I always want to know more about our energy and water use, especially as the utility rates continue to escalate. Anything we can do to keep the bills low is something we examine carefully. I wish our water utility would do the same. *

For that one month, August, we burned 552 kWh (kilowatt hours). In comparison, our neighbours burned an average of 888 kwh each. But out more “efficient” neighbours only burned 395. **

Who these neighbours are is never stated. There is no demographic or other data to properly compare with. Are they full time or part time residents? What ages and do they have children? Do they own and use air conditioners? Do they have electric or gas heating? Electric stoves and dryers? What is the geographic range of the zone that defines them? What does the term “efficient” mean? All of these would help me understand my notice. The information doesn’t really let us compare our use against theirs in any meaningful way.

The annual summary on page two shows we were about the same usage last October (why then?) but we stayed below 400 kWh from then until July, when the heat and humidity soared. We were actually below our more “efficient” neighbours for five of those months and about the same for two. So for seven out of 12 months we were at the forefront of local conservation.

But what could we have done better? It’s hard to understand what we can still do. We’re very conservation-minded for both water and power and have done a lot already.

We have already replaced 95% of the light bulbs in our home with LED bulbs. Our major appliances are all relatively new, all Energy Star rated for good efficiency. Our entertainment system (TV, etc) is on a power bar that is turned off until we use it (which is never earlier than 7 p.m. even on weekends) so the devices don’t draw phantom power. We don’t have a TV on anywhere else in the house.***

My laptop runs on battery power at least 3 hours a day and my iPad is similarly used on battery. We turn off lights in rooms we aren’t using. We have a gas stove and gas dryer, used only during off-peak hours. We replaced our furnace last winter with a high-efficiency one that uses less electricity to run the fan motors. We do laundry and dishes in the appliances only during off-peak times or weekends. My printer is turned off until needed. In winter we keep the house cool, and use a digital thermostat to control it.

About the only other things that run all the time are the modem and phone, neither of which are high-demand power users. Of course we have fridges and a small freezer, but they are Energy Star rated for reasonable efficiency.

Frankly, I don’t know what more we can do. But I’m willing to examine the options if anyone has them. 552 kWh isn’t bad, compared to our neighbours, but I’d like to do better.

~~~~~

* Our local utility, Collus PowerStream has much lower rates than, say, Hydro One, but council is trying to sell our share in the utility to make the rates skyrocket once sold. At the same time, council has unnecessarily raised water rates – against earlier staff recommendations – by 5% and will continue to raise them. Along with two tax hikes in two years, it’s all part of The Block’s war on low-income workers and seniors, and to deter business growth in the community. It is highly unlikely that our water utility will ever do anything so credible as this report because its professional, experienced board was fired and replaced by five inept, inexperienced members of The Block whose interest in water, in consumers, in conservation, in informing the public or the greater good is slightly less that the moon’s interest in your car’s gas consumption.

** A neighbour leaves a porch light on every night, at least 10 hours every night. From its brightness, I suspect it is 100 watts. If it’s an incandescent bulb, that means in a 30-day month it uses 30 kWh just by itself. Based on Collus-PowerStream pricing, that light costs $0.087 per kWh, or $2.61 a month. That amounts to just under $32 a year. In comparison, if it’s for 10 hours a day/month on during mid-peak times ($0.132/kWh) it would cost just over $48. And during peak hours, it would be more than $65. Conservation makes financial sense.

*** We both feel a TV set in the bedroom is too intrusive. TV already dominates too much of modern life; there should be places where it doesn’t get to control our attention. Bedtime is, for us, our time to relax, to read, to chat and to be intimate. TV doesn’t allow those activities; it isolates people.

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