Winter energy savers

November 21, 2001

For consumers vexed by fixed-price, long-term gas and electricity prices, spooked by variable rates and the uncertainty of an open electricity market, the prospect of another winter is bound to test the pocket even further. So what better time than now to share with you a list of helpful resources offering ideas on energy efficiency and wallet conservation? After all, fair weather is the best time to prepare for foul.

Canadian sites are highlighted

American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)

Take energy use into account in your household purchasing and maintenance decisions with help from ACEEE’s publications Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, US$8.95, and The Most Energy-Efficient Appliances 2001, US$4.00 (available for order online). The site also features ACEEE’s backlist of consumer guides and reports on energy efficiency. On the freebie front, ACEEE offers click-on tips for saving energy in the home, although information is geared toward the U.S. market.

Cal Consultants Ltd./Canadian Gas Association

This Web site on behalf of the Canadian Gas Association, offers consumers a Canada-wide “Home Tune-up”; a quick list of ways Canadians can reduce their share of greenhouse gas emissions, and save money at the same time. Cal’s site also lists contact details for further information and free publications on climate change and energy efficiency.

Center for a New American Dream

A new online program called “Turn the Tide,” demonstrates the powerful impact of small behavioural changes by offering consumers a novel way to protect the environment. A project of the Center for a New American Dream, participants are given nine simple, ecologically smart ways to change their lives, from cutting car trips to cancelling junk mail. Each member fills in a personal online log so the site can calculate how many resources the member saves. According to a Washington Post interview with Eric Brown, communications director at the Center for a New American Dream, 1,700 people have signed up for the initiative so far and current participants will save “over 5 million gallons of water, and prevent the release of over three-quarter million pounds of carbon dioxide over the course of a year.” Turn the Tide is open to Canadian residents (participants must fill out an online form and some questions, for instance, “Did you vote in the last three presidential elections?” are obviously not applicable). There is no cost to join, save time and effort (but think of the millions of gallons of water and pounds and pounds of carbon dioxide you’ll save).

Energy Ideas Clearinghouse

Energy Ideas Clearinghouse is a Washington State University energy program and its Web site,, offers consumers a useful guide-at-a-glance to saving home energy. The site also features a Tip of the Day and a search-by-topic option for information on a variety of energy subjects, including appliances, electrical systems, heat recovery, lighting, water heating, and more. provides help with specific energy problems, to boot.

The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI)

ICLEI is an international agency for local governments, aimed at achieving tangible improvements in global environmental and sustainable development conditions through cumulative local actions. That aside, consumers will be intrigued by the organization’s audit Web site, which boasts a “fun” element with its Online Home Energy Audit. Just fill out the online form and submit. Behold! A customized online report giving information about your current energy use and the potential costs and savings associated with the installation of various energy-saving measures in your home should be forthcoming. A major bonus for Ontarian consumers is that the ICLEI audit assumes that the user lives in the province and uses weather data and energy prices specific to Ontario. Subject to funding constraints, ICLEI will endeavour to expand the audit for use in other parts of the world and, the rest of Canada, presumably.

Natural Resources Canada: Office of Energy Efficiency

Billed as Canada’s one-stop service for energy efficiency, this extensive government Web site is designed to assist both consumers and business. On offer is a guide to help consumers calculate home-heating costs, a guide for manufacturers and dealers on promoting the efficiency rating of heating and cooling equipment, and information about appliances (note, the type of appliance you choose says something about the life you lead).

Other options of interest include information on vehicles. Natural Resources Canada has developed an Auto$mart Program to provide Canadian motorists with helpful tips on buying, driving, and maintaining vehicles with a view to reducing fuel consumption and saving money. Browsers can use the site’s Tip of the Week to sharpen their knowledge of energy trivia (i.e., force yourself to take public transport; a single city bus is the transportation equivalent of 40 vehicles, saves 70,000 litres of fuel, and keeps 9 tonnes of pollutants out of the atmosphere each year). The Office of Energy Efficiency can also be contacted at 1-800-387-2000 for more information along the lines of searching out air leaks in the outer shell of the house; insulating, caulking and weather-stripping, and; getting the most out of a furnace.

U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network (EREN)

This colourful U.S. Department of Energy site is devoted to tips for saving energy and money in the home, topics include insulation and weatherization, heating and cooling, water heating, windows, landscaping, lighting, and appliances. The information given is for the U.S. market and, in some cases, of limited use, but the site’s overall design and usability makes it fun to navigate and prompters such as “Is a wind turbine right for you?” are hard to resist. The site also offers an Energy Tip of the Month feature.

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