A new way of doing business

Martha Muzychka
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Are we warm yet? Rolling blackouts, unplanned outages, unexpected demand for energy, wicked cold snaps: all these and more have occupied our minds and our conversations since New Year’s.

I could write a lot more words on these topics, as there is still quite a bit left to say, but some very fine words have already been shared. No, today, I am going to talk about energy conservation.

I still remember the energy crisis of the ’70s. I remember my parents’ admonitions to put on a sweater, to turn off lights when I left a room, to turn down the heat before I left the house, to close windows properly and to keep doors closed to minimize drafts and keep heat in.

As an adult, with my own home, I still follow all those guidelines. As a renter, I became accustomed to not having heat on until the first of November, and as a rule, I turn off all the heaters in the beginning of May, unless spring comes earlier.

Because of work schedules and some odd hours, I have also become used to running a dishwasher late at night, and doing laundry in the very early morning.  I also own two beloved crockpots, and truth be told, while they are energy savers, I use them in the winter as stress reducers.

In the last five years, I have had occasion to replace my washer, dryer, and dishwasher after my previous ones, well used and appreciated for more than a decade, decided it was time to give up. After a great deal of research, I chose to buy new energy efficient models and when the fridge and stove decide to give up the ghost, I am going to buy new EE models as well.

I am telling you this not because I think I am a sterling example of conservation, but because there are in fact many, many people out there like me, doing all the right things to save energy, including regular maintenance and investment in our personal infrastructure, such as ensuring our windows are tight, our roofs don’t leak and our weather stripping is still secure.

During the rolling blackouts, we were offered a number of suggestions.

Seeking to do more than just the obvious, I went online to see what else could be done.  

I found some new ones, including this great one to reduce heat leaks. Have a few old rags or towels lying around, waiting for a decision to use, toss or give away? Roll them up and put them along your window sills to keep out the drafts and keep in your heat.

But what really astounded me was what I learned on Ontario Hydro’s website. Along with the energy awareness and conservation tips with which we have grown so familiar, was the advice to use certain appliances such as dishwashers or dryers at offpeak times. Now we were told this to reduce the demand,  but in Ontario it also reduces your personal costs.

Ontario Hydro understands that people need incentives, and while education and commitment to the environment go far, so does a little sweetener like a cheaper rate.

Imagine if we could get a bill from Newfoundland Power or NL Hydro that showed us our power usage and the improvement we could see in our rates if we were offered differential charges for peak and offpeak times?

But Ontario doesn’t stop there. There’s a link to a coupon page offering discounts to Ontario residents for things like bulbs, dimmer switches, hot water heater blankets, pipe wraps, weather stripping, programmable power bars and so on. (As a matter of fact, coupons or no coupons, I got some great ideas here on things that will help me reduce my power bill even further.)

So, my suggestion is this: along with a closer scrutiny of how we invest in, maintain and distribute our power, let’s look at ways we can reward customers for their investment in and commitment to energy conservation.

Martha Muzychka is a writer and consultant who has long taken to heart the lessons taught

by Reddy Kilowatt. Email:socialnotes@gmail.com.

Organizations: Ontario Hydro, Newfoundland Power

Geographic location: Ontario

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