COASTAL LIVING: Electricity rates offer chance to upgrade

NANAIMO – Rising electricity rates are either a curse or an opportunity.

Rising electricity rates are either a curse or an opportunity. Which one is true for you likely depends on your perspective.

Higher prices for electricity are especially difficult for lower and fixed-income folk. Thankfully, such renters and homeowners can qualify for free energy-saving products and/or services through B.C. Hydro and Fortis Gas. The service is called the Energy Conservation Assistance Program.

Homeowners will also soon be able to borrow money from B.C. Hydro or Fortis in order to pay for energy-saving upgrades – eliminating the Number 1 barrier to energy upgrades.

Higher prices are the main motivation to reduce energy consumption. Some homes have halved their bills. More energy-efficient homes are also more comfortable, improve in value, and stay warmer longer during a winter storm power outage. Energy security is a good thing.

Apart from the benefits to our natural environment, making energy-efficiency improvements to our homes and businesses reduces the need for much more expensive new sources of energy later on. As a result, raising prices today can result in reducing price hikes in the future.

Currently the province subsidizes the cost of home energy audits. They cost less than $200 after the subsidy, and are often empowering.

Do you have a fireplace? Make sure you close the damper after having that fire for your Christmas company. More than half of all fireplaces have their dampers open at any given moment – chimneys are called “air conditioners” in other parts of the world.

Windows waste a lot of heat – they can be the worst culprit. Close your drapes at night and in un-used rooms.

Have baseboard electric heat? Replace your old thermostats with Energy Star models and save up to 10 per cent on your bills.

Ditch your old incandescent lights. Use compact florescent bulbs or LEDs.

I now use a dish-type radiant heater to warm me up rather than trying to heat up the whole house – my bill dropped at least 10 per cent.

Conclusion: You can either complain about higher prices or do something about your usage.

The only advantage to getting hot under the collar is that you might get warm enough to turn down the furnace.