Comparing our household’s electricity use, summer vs. winter

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B.C. Hydro’s website allows you to track daily electricity usage. It’s part of the utility’s effort to encourage conservation. If you know what you’re using, you might use less of it, the theory goes.

Here’s what I discovered about our summer vs. winter use, how we compared with the mysterious “similar homes nearby,” and how we’re faring with keeping our average daily use below 22.19 kilowatt hours. The price of electricity once you go beyond that average during a two-month billing period is much higher (7.52 cents a kWh for Step 1 versus 11.27 cents a kWh for Step 2). I wrote about this earlier.

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Summer 2014 power use chart
Last week was a relatively typical one. We’re often a bit below our neighbours, except on Saturdays and Sundays, when the laundry is done (cold-water washes, electric dryer) and there’s a surge in cooking, though some of that cooking is happening on a propane-fueled barbecue. Our daily power use was mostly below 20 kWh. (We’re the light blue bars, the similar homes nearby are dark blue.)

Winter 2014 power use graph
In the first full week of January, when the average outdoor temperature was between 0°C and 8°C, we used a lot more power because we heat our home with electricity via a heat pump. Our daily use was around 50 kWh. Using our summer no-heat numbers as a guide, heating likely accounted for 30-plus kWh daily in that January week. We used more on the Sunday and Monday, when it was colder. I have no idea how the similar homes nearby are heated, and B.C. Hydro probably doesn’t know either. We've never told them how we heat our place.

In both summer and winter, we’re using roughly the same amount of electricity as our neighbours, which is somehow reassuring. We’re not weird. It would be better if our bills were a lot lower than the neighbours’, but we’d have to freeze to accomplish that, or at least wear more sweaters. Or have a super-insulated house with passive solar features.

Step 2 power use graph
And here’s a chart for what we’ve used since the beginning of the current billing period. The line is at 22.19 kWh, the Step 2 threshold. Four relatives visited in mid-July, so there was a surge in laundry, showers and cooking, all powered by electricity. We're on track to stay below the higher-cost threshold in this billing period. We don't have a hope of doing that in winter.

For those concerned about privacy, the charts might be disconcerting. You can make a pretty good guess about whether someone is home and whether they are busy doing stuff.

B.C. Hydro has taken some steps to protect privacy. You need billing information to set up access to your data, and you need an ID and password. So, it’s about as private as your ID and password can make it.

Of course, if you stick the charts up on a blog, it’s not private at all. I’m sacrificing a little of my privacy so that you can compare your stats to mine. Sort of like dissecting sports stats, except for electricity geeks.

You can sign up at bchydro.com for access to your electricity use data.

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