Nine energy-saving tips I can’t use

THERE ARE A LOT
OF SIMPLE WAYS
TO ACHIEVE YOUR
10% CREDIT,

it says, this leaflet in our mailbox today. It’s from my local electric utility, Hydro Ottawa, and the provincial government. The deal it’s offering us is that if we use 10 per cent less electricity between July 1 and Aug. 31 this year versus 2006, we’ll not only pay appropriately less on our bill, we’ll also get 10 per cent knocked off some future bill.

FlyerIn Ontario, summer, is peak consumption time (it didn’t used to be, but then everyone got air conditioning; in Quebec, interestingly, winter is the peak consumption period, because of all the places with baseboard electric heating), and the province has had some close calls in the past few years. In 2005, we even had mild brownouts when electricity generation and importing couldn’t keep up with our … uh, thirst for power.

Things are better now, not as strained, but if it’s the long hot summer they’re predicting here, there might be some tense afternoons all the same. So the people responsible for supplying the power — publicly owned companies, generally — have an obvious interest in getting Ontarians to cut back.

We won’t be getting this credit, I’m very confident. Why? We’ve already cut back (or, to be precise, never scaled up). Hydro Ottawa offers some tips for cutting our power consumption, and none of them applies:

  • Use fans instead of A/C, save 25% — No air conditioning here. A fan is blowing over my head as I type.
  • Turn up your A/C thermostat by 3 degrees C, save 15% — No air conditioning.
  • Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows, save 10% — Not really a summer solution, given we keep our windows wide open when we’re home. Presumably aimed at people with air conditioning.
  • Set your pool heater thermostat back by 1 degree C, save 7% — Don’t actually have a pool heater thermostat. Nor a pool, come to that.
  • Use a clothesline to dry your clothes, save 5% — Nor, in fact, a yard. Do you know you’re delivering these to apartment buildings?
  • Run your dishwasher only when it’s full, save 5% — We do dishes by hand.
  • Wash laundry in cold water, save 5% — Already do this. Makes each wash slightly more profitable for the Coinamatic people, probably.
  • Turn off lights/computers/TVs when not in use, save 5% — Could always be better on this, I guess, though the figure probably doesn’t apply if your lights are compact fluorescents.
  • Get rid of your second fridge, save 3% — We only have the one, and it belongs to the landlord.

The lesson? Don’t do the right thing because it’s the right thing. Wait for a bribe. Wait till they’re desperate. Also, if you possibly can, have a pool.

Seriously, what would be wrong with cranking the price of electricity up to the shocking levels it reaches on the spot market when brownout conditions are approaching, and letting the fools who blast their air conditioners and heat their pools and run their dishwashers just because they like the sound — letting them pay through the nose while I swelter cheaply?

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2 responses to “Nine energy-saving tips I can’t use

  1. I’m not sure about the specific weather conditions in Canada (I live in Sydney, Australia) but I think the suggestion to “Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows”, as well as otherwise insulating your house, is a sound one whether it’s summer or winter. If it’s a hot day, in the morning and during the day the inside of your house will be cooler than outside. Stay cool by sitting inside with the windows closed and the curtains drawn, while it bakes outside. When the heat of the day starts to dissipate, and it becomes cooler outside than it is in, open all your windows and doors and let a cool breeze through. That way, you don’t even need to run a fan most of the time.

  2. Fair point. Humidity’s a problem here, alleviated somewhat if the air is moving, but trying to lock in the cool of the night is probably a good idea.

    Still, I have trouble believing that applying this idea with weatherstripped windows versus non-weatherstripped windows in summer would save 10 per cent of the power we use.

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