Cybernaut 

The energy savings pyramid

For some reason my power bill keeps going up and up, despite the fact that my home is small, insulated on both sides by other homes, and this winter has been extremely mild. I even switched to a smaller, more efficient hot water tank a few years ago, which should have cut that bill by a good chunk. I use compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) where I can and supplement my heating bill with a natural gas fireplace.

At first I welcomed B.C. Hydro's move to a two-tier system where we pay a lower rate up to 1,376 kilowatts per month and a higher rate for additional energy. The lower rate was supposed to apply to an average home and I believed that my power usage was probably below average given my square footage and all those other things I just mentioned. But I'm actually maxing out at the lower-tiered rate - 5.2 cents per kilowatt/hour - before we even hit the middle of the month and more than half of my electricity is rated at the higher 8.2 cents per kWh.

It's made me think a lot about power usage recently, and right now I'm laying the groundwork for some significant changes. I came up with the idea of creating a pyramid of efficiency savings, which I will then reinvest in my home to cut my energy use even more.

I don't plan on timing every single bulb in my house to determine what my exact savings are, but according to B.C. Hydro you can save about $4.10 per year per CFL on average (14-watt bulb burning three hours per day over nine years, including the initial cost of the bulb).

Therefore, if I invest in 20 CFL bulbs for my house tomorrow for around $70 - and I haven't done the math yet - I should save $82 in energy by this time next year. I intend to use that money to purchase two programmable thermostats and a power bar (based on a sale rate I saw last fall at Costco).

Here's where the math gets theoretical. The thermostats will be placed in two upstairs rooms, which are heated by baseboard heaters that use around 1.5 kWh/hr of power or around nine to 12.5 cents of power per hour, depending which rate I'm being charged. I'll average that to around 10.5 cents, although its probably a little closer to 11.

I estimate that these baseboard heaters are on at least a third of the time from November to April to come up with a figure of - 180 days times six hours per day, times two rooms, times 10.5 cents per hour - or roughly $226 per year.

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