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When considering an alternative energy system, the very first thing that must be addressed is conservation. No matter how your energy is produced, it is cheaper to not use it in the first place.

Every dollar spent on conservation = five dollars spent on generation

With energy prices across North America skyrocketing, we are getting a lot of calls from customers who are on the grid, fed up with electricity or natural gas bills that are much higher than they were a year ago. What can they do? First thing to examine is conservation.

In any given household, a savings of upwards of 50% of the electric bill can be realized with very little effort, really. We are not suggesting that you turn all the heat off, do away with modern appliances and go back to candles! There are a lot of simple things that can be done with minimal effort::


Lighting can often be one of the largest consumers of power in a business of a home. Take a look around during the night time. Entire office towers are lit up. Houses have lights on in every single room. Here are a few simple suggestions:

  • Turn lights off when you are not using them! Install timers or motion sensors on outdoor lighting so it goes on when needed.
  • Use natural light whenever possible during the day.
  • Replace older incandescent fixtures with modern compact fluorescent fixtures (CFL). The newest generation of CFL fixtures produce a very nice light, are extremely long lasting (often 10x the life of a conventional light bulb), start without flicker in all temperatures.
  • Replacing a 75 Watt incandescent fixture with a 20 Watt CFL fixture that is in use for 10 hours a day will pay for itself in just over a year in terms of saved power. That light will then continue to work for upwards of 10 years after, each year saving you more and more money. Even the best RRSP doesn't give this great a return for your investment.
    Please visit the lighting section in our online catalogue for more specific information on products

Phantom Loads

Phantom loads are appliances that use power all the time, even if they are turned off. These loads are most often found in electronics, and anything that has automatic-start, etc. Common culprits are anything with a clock in it, such as a VCR, alarm clock, TV, microwave, etc. But it is not limited to that. Computers, business machines like fax machines, copiers, scanners, printers, debit machines all draw constant power.

  • A simple solution is to use power bars that have on/off switches. Connect stereo systems & entertainment systems to the power bar, and turn the power bar off when not in use. This will not harm your electronics at all.
  • Attach your entire computer system to a power bar or two. If you leave your computer on all the time, at least put the monitor, printer, speakers, scanner, etc, etc on a power bar and turn that off. If you turn your computer off anyway, put it all on a power bar.
  • Anything that has a wall cube transformer. Touch the black box, and they generally are warm. That warmth is wasted electricity. Some power cubes use the same amount of power even if they are not plugged into the appliance, but still plugged into the wall!

These products below will help you determine how much electricity a given appliance is using. Great for intermittent loads such as refrigeration that is hard to determine exact power used.


Heating is generally one of the largest single consumers of electricity. We are hearing stories on the news of people on fixed incomes that are not able to afford electricity for heat. This is a sad point that we have reached. There is, however, lots that you can do to reduce your heating bill.
  • Insulate your hot water tank. You can buy insulation kits at any hardware store. Make sure your hot water tank is located somewhere warm. If the tank is outside in an unheated garage, it will loose even more heat.
  • Use hot water wisely. The first run of hot water that takes a minute to reach the faucet is tremendously wasteful, as this simply heats up the water in the pipes, with only a fraction of that water reaching you.
  • Turn the thermostat down at night and when you are away from the house during the day. Consider installing a programmable thermostat which will heat the house up before you wake in the morning, turn it down during the day, and then warm it up again before you come home from work. This will let you save on heat, yet not have to come home or wake up to a cold house
  • Use insulating curtains on windows during the night
  • South-facing windows that allow the natural energy of the sun to heat your dwelling
  • Inspecting and resolving any drafts that are the result of defective weather striping around doors and windows.
  • Have your furnace and hot water heaters serviced regularly to ensure they are operating at peak efficiency
  • Close off rooms that are not in use, and turn off the heat or block the registers.
  • Consider adding a solar-thermal hot water heating system. Capturing the infrared energy from the sun is a simple, extremely efficient process. A modest-sized solar collector can provide a significant quantity of the domestic hot water used in a home or business.
Links to Government / NGO Sites

The Government of Canada Climate Change Site
This site used to provide specific information and actions that you can take to help reduce climate change, with downloads, videos, etc. a very informative site. Please ask Mr. Harper why he canceled this extremely popular and successful program.

Environment Canada
Environment Canada's mission is to make sustainable development a reality in Canada by helping Canadians live and prosper in an environment that needs to be respected, protected and conserved.

Natural Resources Canada Office of Energy Efficiency
By using energy more efficiently, we can help protect the environment by reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. The Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) is dedicated to keeping Canadians up to date on ways to save energy at home, at work and on the road.

The City of Portland's Office of Sustainable Development
They have produced a 40-page Green Office Guide, which covers the six basic ways in which an office can become more sustainable: lighting; office equipment; paper products; heating and cooling; water; and cars and parking. For each, it spells out the technical low-down, the savings, and gives case studies. A typical Portland office can cut its energy costs by 25%, saving 40 cents a square foot ($4,000 US a year for a 10,000 sq ft office). Portland City Hall added a 'Vending Miser' to its refrigerated beverage machine, costing $198; it saves $75 a year, and pays for itself in 2.5 years (a 38% return). The Fred Meyer Baking Plant fixed its water leaks (709,000 gallons a year), and is saving $3,280 a year. The moral: wasting the planet also wastes money.

Natural Resources Canada Renewable Energy Division
This site contains information on specific projects and incentives that the Canadian Government is currently offering, including REDI (Renewable Energy Deployment Initiative) information and application forms as well as links to RETScreen software developed for analyzing and designing alternative energy systems

Energy Council of Canada
The Council seeks to forge a better understanding of energy issues among the public and private sectors and the country at large , through discussion and exchange of information on all forms and aspects of energy.

A comprehensive site sponsored by the Canadian Government to provide the true cost information on appliances. The sticker price is usually only part of the cost of any appliance. The cost to provide electricity can vary drastically from one style to the next. Be sure that you are informed before making your next

United States Environmental Protection Agency
Energy Efficient homes that save the earth and save you money

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network
Your comprehensive resource for DOE's energy efficiency and renewable energy information. Access to more than 60 links and 80,000 documents

Energy Star
ENERGY STAR-labeled products use less energy than other products, save you money on utility bills, and help protect the environment. Look for the ENERGY STAR label on quality household appliances, home electronics, office equipment, heating and cooling equipment, windows, residential light fixtures, and more.

Watt's Up? A Co-nect energy project for grades 4-10.
Most of us haven't spent much time thinking about electricity, except on the rare occasions when we lose it. We shuffle in the dark, grumbling about the inconvenience until it miraculously reappears. Then we immediately go back to our television watching, our computing, and our laundry and forget all about this very important resource.

But never again will electricity be so cruelly ignored! This four week Co-nect online project gives students everywhere the opportunity to truly appreciate the wonders of electricity.

Through this project, students monitor electricity use in their school, compare this data with other schools, develop and implement a conservation plan, and try to significantly curtail electricity use and spending

Energy Consumption of Major Household Appliances Marketed in Canada - Trends for 1990-1997, April 2000

This report outlines the changes in the energy use and distribution of major household appliances, based on the actual distribution of the various types of appliances marketed in Canada between 1990 and 1997, using data collected through the cooperation of the Canadian Appliance Manufacturers Association (CAMA). Each chapter in this report covers a specific type of appliance: refrigerators, clothes dryers, clothes washers, dishwashers and ranges.

Putting Energy Efficiency to Work for You: A Guide for Small Retailers

This guide provides information on the latest energy-efficient technologies, practices, and approaches that can help small retailers save money and strengthen their business. Implementing some of the efficiency measures suggested in this book can help retailers achieve energy savings.

1997 Survey of Household Energy Use - Summary Report

The Special Surveys Division of Statistics Canada conducted the 1997 Survey of Household Energy Use (SHEU-1997) for the Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) of Natural Resources Canada. This report presents the results of the recent survey while referring to data obtained from other sources, including the 1993 survey. Chapter 1 describes the inventory of houses as determined by this new survey; Chapter 2 describes the characteristics of the thermal envelope; Chapter 3 describes the equipment used for heating houses and the heating habits of their residents; Chapter 4 deals with air conditioning and ventilation of houses; Chapter 5 reveals the penetration rates and characteristics of major household appliances; Chapter 6 describes water heating equipment; and Chapter 7 presents lighting.

KPMG : Solar Energy, From Perennial Promise to Competitive Alternative
(KPMG report, commissioned by Greenpeace, September 1999)

As part of its drive to see fossil fuels phased out in favour of renewable sources of energy in order to prevent further potentially disastrous climate change, it is very important to Greenpeace that solar energy becomes widely accepted and used. However, the big breakthrough for solar energy is still to come. The predominant reason for this is the price of solar technology, and so long as this remains high, solar energy will remain a perennial promise. The extent to which market mechanisms could be used to rapidly produce a competitive price for solar power via economies of scale is a question that needs to be resolved.

The question Greenpeace put to KPMG was: "Can the large scale production of solar panels lower the price of solar energy to such an extent that solar energy can compete economically with conventional forms of energy? And if it can, what action is necessary on the part of government, customers and industry to break through the current impasse?"

The conclusion from KPMG is clear: "Scaling up the production of solar panels is technologically feasible using current technology. To achieve a reduction in the price to the level of conventional energy, production needs to be scaled up to 500 MWp per year. There are costs involved in creating the required market size, and either industry, government, or energy users will have to pick up the cost of transition."

Wind Force 10: A blueprint to achieve 10% of the world's electricity from wind power by 2020 (Report by Greenpeace, European Wind Energy Association and Forum for Energy & Development, October 1999)

Wind power today is a success story supplying electricity to millions of people, employing tens of thousands of people and generating billions of dollars revenue. The benefits of wind power are compelling; environmental protection, economic growth job creation, diversity of supply, rapid deployment, technology transfer and innovation. The fuel is free, abundant and inexhaustible. Yet these benefits remain largely untapped; most energy decisions taken today overlook wind power, and it faces many obstacles and barriers.

We have produced this report in order to update our understanding of the contribution that wind power can make to the world. It is deliberately conservative. The report is a practical blueprint to show that wind power is capable of supplying 10% of the world's electricity within two decades, even if we double our overall electricity use in that time. The collaboration of our organisations highlights the triple benefits that wind energy offers the world: for the environment, for industry and for development
Design & Resources

Efficiency & Solar Pay Off - HomePower Article. This couple improved their home’s efficiency first, and then invested in renewable energy systems that met their budget.

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