By Ron Young –
You play the programs on the solar T.V… That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it!
With apologies to Dire Straits for paraphrasing their 1985 hit, “Money for Nothing,” I write this article to answer the question most frequently asked of me in my business: “How the #@^¿ do I get rid of BC Hydro?”
With continually rising costs of electricity and the anticipation of future increases many people naturally look for a way to get out from under the weight of obese electricity bills.
Many are led to believe the simple answer to their burgeoning power bills is to simply put up some solar panels and suddenly the problem is solved; you can tell the power company to go away.
Sales professionals are taught to “sell the sizzle not the steak” meaning a sales person should tell the customer what the product will do, not what it is; or as the sales guru for a major drill company put it—‘we’re selling holes, not drills.’ The mainstream media does a great job of selling the sizzle of solar because stories about solar are exciting and hopeful and make us feel good about the future. But when we get down to the steak of the matter, i.e. the cost, then the excitement may quicklydie.
It’s an ironic sort of twist for me to be talking about this because I’ve been involved with solar power systems long enough to remember the days, not so long ago, when I had to spend most of my time convincing people that solar actually worked. Now I spend a lot of time convincing people, ‘yeah, solar works great but it may not be for you if all you’re thinking of is economics.’
That leads me to the second most frequently asked question I have in my business: “what’s the payback time?” or in other words,“how long before I’ve paid it all off and get free electricity?” Or wait… maybe the second most asked question is, “are there any government subsidies?”
So here’s the bottom line: for the average household, to put enough solar in your yard or on your roof to eliminate your electricity bill in British Columbia today, you will have to spend probably a minimum $25,000. It may take you 15 – 20 years to pay that off with the savings from not getting an electricity bill and there are no government subsidies. The reason the answers are not more exact is we don’t know how much BC Hydro is going to increase rates in the future and also because each person has different uses for electricity—there is no average.
Sadly, there is no “Money for Nothing.” You can’t replace your electricity bill with cheap solar panels subsidized by government and sail off into the sunset. But the good news is, at present, BC has the second lowest electricity rate in North America. After you finish yelling at the paper (or computer depending on where you are reading this) about why your electricity bill so high, you should run to the nearest mirror and have a long hard look.
It’s no different than if you’re lumbering down the road in a jacked up pick-up truck with oversize wheels and a 500 hp V10 engine and trying to figure out why your gas consumption is so high.
You have to make some personal lifestyle changes to reduce your electricity consumption and lucky for us, there are many ways to do that in the early days of the 21st century …and it’s only going to get better.
Most people ‘spill’ way more electricity than they should through careless practices so here are some ideas:
- Change your light bulbs to LEDs. You can save $400 – $500/year in energy cost.
- Buy energy efficient refrigerators and freezers and don’t just rely on the salesman to tell you what is energy efficient (remember their job is to sell the sizzle). Do your own research. The Natural Resources Canada website has an excellent up-to-date listing of the most efficient appliances and when you’re shopping, demand to see the Energuide label on appliances so you can understand the best choices.
- Seal up the leaky spaces around doors and windows, insulate your walls and ceilings, and make sure you have at least dual pane windows. Insulate your hot water tank and hot water pipes; remember your hot water tank is the biggest energy pig in your house. Better yet, consider an alternative such as the Heatworks Model 1 hot water heater (we sell them). The Heatworks is an innovative new product that delivers hot water on demand at the point of use instead of keeping 40to 60 gallons of hot water heated 24 hours all day every day.
- Switch off unused appliances and in some cases you have to unplug them because some coffee makers and most television sets have sneaky always-on circuits that quietly suck energy $ out of your wallet—even when they are turned off!
These are just a few of the ways you can get a grip on your energy consumption and lower your electricity cost because even though our rates are low in BC they won’t stay that way. What’s worse, we are subsidizing our low rates with our
children’s future by building massive hydro projects like the Site C dam. Encourage your governments at all levels to kick-start the solar revolution by providing incentives and subsidies like they have in countries throughout Europe and Asia.
“You play the programs on the solar T.V.
That ain’t workin’… that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and electricity for free!”
Ron Young is a renewable energy professional that designs and sells solar, wind, and micro-hydro systems. He operates the earthRight store in Williams Lake, BC and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright Ron Young 2015