British Columbia

More than a quarter of British Columbians would give up spouse for smartphone

While large appliances in our home are becoming more energy efficient, smartphones and other small electronics are taking up more power, according to BC Hydro.

BC Hydro says obsession with personal electronics is shifting household power use

One in five people surveyed admit to sleeping with their phones and one in four said they would be willing to give up their spouse for a full day if it meant keeping their smartphone. (Shutterstock)

From that exhilarating feeling brought on by the alert of a new text message to the countless hours spent scrolling through Instagram feeds — it's all contributing to a dramatic shift in household power use.

According to a report from BC Hydro, power use from small electronic devices, such as phones, laptops and tablets, has increased more than 150 per cent since the early 1990s, from seven per cent to 17 per cent.

The report found more than three quarters of British Columbians own a smart phone and they spend an average of of 4.6 hours a day on their devices each day. As a result, more time is spent charging these devices.

Hoping to understand users' habits, BC Hydro surveyed more than 400 people — and the results are telling.

Many may never admit it to their partner out loud, but one in four surveyed said they would be willing to give up their spouse for a full day if it meant keeping their smartphone for 24 hours.

At night, it turns out one in five people surveyed admit to sleeping with their phones.

That number jumps to a whopping 70 per cent in the 18-to-24 age group.

British Columbians would be willing to give up a lot to keep their smartphones for 24 hours. (CBC)

It used to be that refrigerators accounted for the largest portion of power use in an average B.C. home, but appliances have become more energy efficient.

While that has resulted in a decrease in consumption, small electronics like smartphones, laptops, gaming devices and even coffee makers are making up for the gap.

Looking ahead to a 'smart' future

In the near future, BC Hydro expects the consumption of electricity from small electronics will surpass that of big appliances.

But there's some uncertainty around how the popularity of these devices will affect usage rates. While the smart TVs, smart lights and smart speakers are more energy efficient, more people are using these products than ever before.

"Over 50 per cent of British Columbians are looking to purchase a smart home device over the next year," says BC Hydro spokesperson Tanya Fish.

Smart devices are growing in popularity but it's not clear if that will increase or decrease power usage overall. (Amazon)

Electric vehicles to skew numbers

As if consumption data isn't shifting enough, University of British Columbia Professor Martin Ordonez predicts change will be even more rapid as electric vehicles get thrown into the mix.

"What we are spending today at the gas pump will be transferred to the electricity bill."

He believes BC Hydro will have to take a number of steps to be able to handle such a massive increase in power need.

"Utilities in general are not ready," Ordonez said.

Read more from CBC British Columbia


Anita Bathe

Host, CBC Vancouver News at 6pm

Anita Bathe is the host of CBC Vancouver's flagship newscast. She remains committed to working in the field, telling stories that matter and giving citizens a voice. Bathe is a multiple RTDNA award winner, a recipient of the Jack Webster Fellowship and she's won several BCAB awards for her in-depth reporting on breaking news. She also won the 2022 Canadian Screen Award for Best Local Host.


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