12/05/2013 14:43 EST | Updated 02/04/2014 05:59 EST

Worried about hikes in BC Hydro costs? Try these tips

Your BC Hydro bill is about to go up nine per cent this April when the first of several rate hikes recently approved by the B.C. government come into effect. 

Altogether B.C. residents will pay 28 per cent more for their electricity five years from now.

Chris Higgins from LEED Canada and Morgan Jensen from JBS Home Improvement gave us these tips to keep your bill as low as possible.

1. Change your habits

Reduce so-called phantom loads by turning appliances like TVs, DVD players, and stereos off completely. Many of these items in your home remain in a standby mode to speed things up when you decide to use them.

"Although they don’t draw much power when not in use, phone and tablet chargers should be plugged into a small power bar which can be turned off when no one is home," says Morgan Jensen. 

Unplug appliances in the kitchen too

"Unplug the Keurig coffee machine, or any other small appliance that is used infrequently throughout the day," says Jensen.

"Many new kitchen appliances now come with a power saver mode allowing you to turn them off during the day, disengaging the clock and any digital display, thus saving energy. We don’t need four or five clocks in the kitchen."

Reduce water usage.

"Consider a low-flow shower head," says Higgins. "If you live in Vancouver you can get a whole water saving kit ($30 value) for $12." 

Use the washer, dryer, and dishwasher responsibly, doing only full loads.

"Avoid many of the extra features such as the heat boost option on the dishwasher or the extra long wash cycle on the washing machine," suggests Jensen.

"If you’re able to, soak laundry loads overnight after a short agitation cycle. Stop the dryer before the cooling cycle, once the clothes are dry."

"Make energy saving a fun game by empowering the kids to police you, the adults in the home," says Jensen. Start a money jar or chart and follow these simple rules:

- When the kids catch an adult leaving a light or TV on or some other energy infraction, the adult has to add to the jar, whether it be a quarter or some sort of points.

- When the kids are caught, the opposite happens, money is removed or points are taken away.

- At the end of a specific period of time, whatever is in the jar is used for a night out, to buy a game, order pizza, or whatever the kids want.

"Obviously the kids will be motivated to increase that jar’s contents by being both responsible themselves and diligent in their policing of their parents," says Jensen. 

2. Change your home

Replace lights with LED’s and install dimmers. New LED’s can be dimmed and have very long lives. They use up to 80 per cent less energy.

"Dimmers are a great way to reduce the amount of energy lights use," Jensen says.

For electric hot water tanks, reduce the temperature one degree a day until you reach a comfortable level.

"If you turn it down too much, simply reverse the process for a day or two until it’s hot enough again," says Jensen.

"You can use the same process for electric baseboard heating, turning down the thermostat one degree a day until you feel it’s just a bit too cold for comfort. Then turn it up one degree or two."

Replace appliances with more efficient options. Next time you replace your fridge, look for the most energy efficient model that is designated Energy Star, in the smallest size that will work. 

"The fridge is the single largest energy using appliance in your home," says Higgins.

"Similarly when replacing a clothes washer or dishwasher look for an Energy Star model.  Clothes washers that front load typically use less water, which reduces your water heating cost as well."

"If your furnace is more than 15 years old, consider upgrading to a condensing natural gas furnace," recommends Higgins. They can be over 98 per cent effective.

If your hot water tank is more than ten years old consider upgrading to a condensing tank-less system that wall mounts.

"Many older tanks are only 50 per cent efficient meaning only 50 cents of each dollar you spend on fuel is turned into heat," says Higgins.

"With many condensing tank-less models the efficiency is about 95 per cent, so 95 cents of every dollar spent on gas is turned into heat."

​​3. Go the extra mile

Spend an hour draft-proofing your home. Look at exterior doors and windows.

"If you have a fireplace, you should prevent heated air from leaking out," Higgins says.

"If the fireplace does not have a good damper  then a fireplace balloon is a great option."  

Consider installing a sealing and insulating sheet around outlets.

"For homes with electric heat, check the attic and crawl spaces for the proper insulation and ventilation, and increase it where needed," adds Jensen.

Larger appliances in the home, like the fridge, washer, dryer, and freezer, are big energy users and need to be cleaned and maintained to remain as efficient as possible.

"Dryer ducting should be cleaned and vacuumed on a regular basis," says Jensen.

"With a family of four for example, the dryer should be cleaned four times a year." 

Clogged dryer ducting not only uses more energy by making the dryer run longer, but it’s also a fire hazard.

"Refrigerator motors should be vacuumed or blown out a couple of times a year as well, and the same goes for freezers," recommends Jensen. "Any build up in the motor or cooling fins causes heat and reduces the appliance’s efficiency."

Install drain water heat recovery. 

"This captures up to 60 per cent of the energy in hot water from your shower and uses that energy to preheat the cold water going into the hot water heater," says Higgins.

If you are renovating consider re-insulating the walls and attic.

Get an in home energy audit. 

"It costs just $150 to $300 and you may be eligible for incentives," says Higgins.