Before the winter freeze rolls in and ups heating costs across the Lower Columbia, FortisBC is encouraging utility users to zero in on energy-saving solutions.
Drafty homes, inefficient lighting and aging heating equipment play a significant role in increasing energy costs over the winter and can disproportionally affect British Columbians in older, less energy efficient housing.
FortisBC, in partnership with BC Hydro, offers free programs designed to improve energy efficiency and help lower energy bills for natural gas and electricity income-qualified customers.
“It’s concerning to see some of the most financially vulnerable people are living in homes that are very inefficient, drafty and could be paying more than they need to on energy bills when there are programs to help,” said Anda Telman, FortisBC program manager.
“We want to help these customers manage their energy bills, especially during the fall and winter months, which is why, together with BC Hydro, we offer income-qualified customers free individualized support.”
A recent report published by the Sustainability Scholars Program at the University of British Columbia shows that some B.C. households face higher energy bills due to factors such as energy inefficient housing and economic inability to improve energy performance.
Home and water heating account for about 75 per cent of home energy use in B.C. and improving energy efficiency within these areas can be a big help in reducing monthly energy bills.
There are two programs available to help eligible income-qualified ratepayers improve the comfort of the home and reduce the amount of energy used for heating water and the household.
The first program is called the Energy Saving Kit (ESK), which provides a range of energy efficient products that people can install themselves. The second option is ECAP (Energy Conservation Assistance Program). ECAP offers hands-on help and the potential of higher-priced upgrades, such as appliance replacement.
In a joint program, FortisBC and BC Hydro offer a free ESK to income-qualified homeowners and renters. The ESK contains items customers can install in their homes such as water efficient showerheads, LED light bulbs, outlet and switch sealers and window film.
Once installed, these products can help customers decrease their energy use and monthly energy bills.
In the last two years, more than 35,000 ESKs were distributed across the province and the energy efficiency measures installed helped save enough natural gas to heat around 800 homes for a year.
Through ECAP, eligible customers work with an energy coach who will identify areas for energy efficiency improvements specific to the home and provide customers with tips on how to maximize the energy savings so customers can continue to see energy savings year over year.
This program provides eligible customers with a wide range of energy efficiency upgrades for their home free of charge, from energy efficient refrigerators and high-efficiency furnaces to simple, yet effective, upgrades such as weatherstripping, LED light bulbs and faucet aerators.
Between 2019 and 2020, more than 50,000 LED light bulbs were installed through ECAP saving more than 2,700 megawatts of electricity. Compared to traditional incandescent light bulbs, this is the equivalent energy use to power almost 260 homes for a year.
In addition, during this period, the installation of almost 10,000 faucet aerators and more than 4,500 energy-efficient showerheads is helping customers conserve almost 40,000 litres of water every year, the equivalent to filling 16 Olympic sized swimming pools.
To participate in these programs, customers must meet income and eligibility requirements outlined in the terms and conditions, including having a residential natural gas account with FortisBC or a residential electricity account with either FortisBC or BC Hydro. To learn more visit: fortisbc.com.