How we cut our electrical usage by 28%

When BC Hydro put in a two tiered rate system in which customers were charged power at a low price for a small amount, but about 50% higher for everything above that, I thought it was finally time to look at reducing consumption.

Over the last 7 months, our consumption has declined 28%  and because we always exceed the small minimum, the savings are all at the higher price.  Literally every month since last December has had a significant reduction over the same month of the previous year.

Here are some of the things we have done in the last year or so:

1. When we were due for a new clothes washing machine, we got a high speed front loader.   Clothes come out of these high spin washers with far less moisture in them than the old washer, reducing drying time considerably.  The dryer no longer runs for hours on end.

An electric dryer can use a lot of power so it also pays off to make sure it is venting freely, that the vent pipes are clear and the lint catcher is always cleaned off.  That way the moist air gets exhausted freely.

2. Change out all bulbs which use incandescent or halogen to LED.  That pays off very quickly, especially the lights you use a lot   As CFL’s need replacing, replace with LED but that change doesn’t pay off so quickly.

See my post on LED lights here:

3. Dishwasher.  I turned off the heated dryer.  I have a feeling we save a lot there.  Since I usually do the dishwasher duties, I’m pretty sure my wife hasn’t even noticed yet!

4. Hot water tank.  Years ago we added a natural gas HWT as a feeder to the main electric tank.  The idea was to increase volume but also to preheat with gas (the main temperature change) so the electric tank didn’t have to take it all the way from cold to hot.  Today, I have increased the temperature on the natural gas tank to nearly maximum and decreased the electric tank to “barely tolerable”.  That means the electric tank will rarely come on and becomes more of a storage tank because of the temperature differentials between the two.

Consider the feeder idea if you need more volume of hot water, or consider changing to a natural gas HWT when your electric tank needs replacement. That is, if a gas line is easy to run to your HWT.  They also have to be power vented these days so that could be a challenge in an existing home.  Gas is more expensive to install upfront but will last longer and will save considerable amounts.

5. Programmable thermostats.  If you have any electrical heating, a programmable thermostat will give you space heating only when you need it.

6. Gas cooking.  Gas will be cheaper than electricity forever now that gas producers have figured out how to get gas out of shale.  While we use an electric stove, we also barbeque a lot.   For now, I am using a huge propane tank that I got when I bought a generator from someone, but the next time I get a new gas HWT, I will get the installer to run an outlet for the barbeque.  Nowadays, running gas lines is a lot simpler because they use flexible lines instead of steel pipe.

7. Computers and similar devices.   We seem to have a fair number of computers around the house.  I make sure they are all programmed to go into Sleep mode in an hour or less.

8. When traveling for an extended time, we will not only turn off the water main to eliminate a serious water problem from occurring, but I will also turn off the electric hot water heater.  Fortunately we have the gas HWT so our hot water recovers quickly when we get home, but if your HWT is in good condition, it should recover fairly quickly anyway.

9. Last year, our old electric HWT had a leak so we replaced that.  No doubt it is much more efficient from both the insulation point of view as well as elements not being as corroded.

10. Fridge.   We had an old small fridge, probably 25 years old, for supplementary use.  When it started making noises unbecoming to a respectable fridge, I replaced it with a new one, and no doubt power usage is probably half.  Our main fridge, nearly 20 years old and has served us well, will be another power saver when we replace it.

That’s about it.  Nothing has required any significant lifestyle habit change.  It’s all easy stuff.   It amounts to over $800/year in savings.  Other than the LED lights that should be changed out immediately, if you changed things as you needed them (like when your old clothes washer needs replacement), then your upfront costs will be minimal.


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