Save energy; save money 

Electricity costs rising, but consumers have options

On May 1, the price of electricity went up 8.25 per cent in B.C., representing the first increase in a series of increases forecast over the next four years.

As consumers, British Columbians are not helpless. There are numerous steps that people can take right now to reduce their energy consumption and cut their electricity costs.

According to Ted Battiston, manager of community energy and emission reductions at the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the average single family or duplex home in Whistler uses 26,500 kWh per year. At 2011 rates, the average owner will pay just over $2,000 per year.

Space heating is a significant part of that cost, roughly $775 for the average home. If you have a hot tub it could cost you $500 per year.

If you have electric baseboard heaters and a hot tub, you'll spend 36.2 per cent on heating, 25.8 per cent on the hot tub. Hot water is around 10.9 per cent of the total (about $220 a year on average) and lighting is six per cent (roughly $120 per year). We also use significant amounts for cooking, for the washer and dryer, for electronics, for ventilation, etc.

While it's a good idea to cut your energy use across the board, "heating is a key opportunity area," said Battiston. "According to the 2007 Conservation Potential Review (commissioned by BC Hydro), the biggest reductions that are 'economic' come from space heating, but other easy wins can be found in lighting and household electronics."

So where should you invest your money if you want to cut your electricity bill?

Inexpensive programmable thermostats can cut your space heating costs by around six per cent ($120 per year for an average home). Air leakage sealing - weather stripping and insulation for windows and doors - can save you around 10 per cent ($200 on average). Increasing your attic insulation to R40 will save you about five per cent ($100 or more if your current insulation is rated low). An air-source heat pump, which is an option for people that already have furnaces and heat ducts, can save you 40 to 45 per cent ($800).

Domestic hot water is a fairly big expense. Switching to low-flow showers and faucets could immediately save around 10 to 12 per cent of those costs (depending on usage). Turning off a hot tub could immediately cut your electricity bill by 25 per cent.

Aside from retrofits, Battiston said the easiest reduction in electricity costs is behavioural. "Turning off lights when you leave a room costs nothing," said Battiston. "It's odd that people would never leave a room with the water still running, but they often leave rooms with the lights on."

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