Author: Yogi Schulz

Our increasing utility bills are a clear indicator that energy costs are rising. Expect the pain to continue into the future. As an important energy producing region, Albertans are benefiting more from rising energy prices than the consuming parts of Canada. This fact is small comfort to families and businesses whose finances are being strained under the impact of higher costs for natural gas.

What technologies can we exploit to cut natural gas consumption and thereby cut energy cost for our homes and businesses?

Overall Opportunity

Home and business owners can reasonably achieve a 50% reduction in energy consumption by making various improvements. To achieve this reduction, owners will have to make investments that will take from 3 to 7 years to reach a break-even point. If energy prices continue at their current record levels, the break-even point will of course be achieved at the lower end of the range.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

The cheapest and easiest-to-install energy saver is low watt compact fluorescent bulbs. With a screw base that fits an existing incandescent light bulb socket, compact fluorescent bulbs operate on a quarter of the energy used by incandescent bulbs and last ten times longer. From his personal experience, Ken Hogg, a Calgary-based energy efficiency consultant, has shown that the higher-tech bulbs reach a break-even point after only two years. In high-usage areas, the break-even point can be 18 months.

Thermostat with a Timer

Another simple idea is a thermostat with a timer that keeps the temperature lower when premises are not occupied. Such a thermostat can reach a break-even point after only one year. Peter Mirosevic, President of CRW Ltd., a Calgary-based renovation contractor, regularly recommends higher-tech thermostats to his clients.

Solar Hot Water Heater

A more high-tech idea to reduce energy consumption is installing a solar hot water (SHW) heater coupled to a power-vent, natural gas water heater. The saving is over 50% of the natural gas typically consumed by non-SHW units. SHW heaters reach a break-even point after about 10 years. The break-even point is shorter for families with more teenagers who tend to shower longer and more frequently.

Solar Panels for Space Heating

The next high-tech idea is solar panels for space and water heating. For a state-of-the-art example of this technology in use on a community-wide basis, visit Sterling Homes at the Drake Landing subdivision in Okotoks. These homes use 90% less natural gas for space heating and 60% less for water heating than conventional homes. The first families are scheduled to move in in early 2006.

Keith Paget, the Manager of Special Projects at Sterling Homes, indicates that “the subdivision is a demonstration project. The $5.5 million in added cost for the energy efficiency upgrades as well as the energy capture and distribution components is being contributed by various governments through grants. There is no extra cost to the house buyer”.

The Drake Landing residents will pay a monthly energy fee of $60 that is comparable to the natural gas bill they would have incurred in an ordinary home. The energy fee will cover the operational and maintenance costs of the energy delivery system infrastructure.

This level of investment in higher-tech energy conservation does not yet provide a break-even point. It does provide each home owner with the knowledge that they are producing fewer greenhouse gases than their neighbor.

Low-Tech Ideas to reduce Energy Consumption

Low-tech ideas to reduce energy consumption include a high-efficiency furnace, more insulation and windows that reduce heat loss in our generally colder climate. Courtney Oishi, a Program Manager at Climate Change Central, points out that the fastest way to save energy is to “turn lights off when they are not in use, turn down the temperature after hours and increase awareness of energy consumption”.


As natural gas prices at the meter continue to rise, assessing the benefits of these high-tech energy consumption reducing ideas becomes more viable and perhaps urgent.

If you’d like to receive a list of web site links to more detailed information related to this column, please send me an e-mail.

In my next column we’ll look at high-tech ideas for conserving energy for transportation.


American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

Association for the Conservation of Energy

California Energy Commission
Education oriented energy web site Some parts excellent for students and children

The Chicago Green Bungalow Project

Do-it-Yourself – Weatherizing

Energy conservation in the home

Energy Efficiency Information for Homeowners Excellent set of related links

Energy Savers

Home Energy Conservation

Home Energy Magazine

Home Energy Saver

International Institute for Energy Conservation

James Dulley

Renewable Energy

SmartHome Forum

Homes and Businesses – Canadian Resources

Alberta Ecotrust Foundation

Alberta Solar-Heating Project First in North America

Built Green™ Alberta

Canadian Geothermal Energy

Canadian Industry Program for Energy Conservation (CIPEC)

Climate Change Central
John Rilett
Program Manager

Ontario Ministry of Energy
Tips to Help You Conserve Energy and Save Money

Construction Technologies
Geoffrey Lyford
Project Coordinator

Earth Energy Society of Canada

Enerflo Geothermal Technologies Ltd.
Duane Nagy

ENERVISION ENERVISION is a not-for-profit organization solely owned by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association-Alberta (CHBA-Alberta).

Enviro Custom Homes, Inc.

EcoLiving Fair

Energy Solutions Alberta

Enertyr Solutions Inc.

From the ground up: Warming up to geothermal energy
October 1, 2005
Yvonne Jeffery – For the Calgary Herald

Office of Energy Conservation

The Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE)
Residential: Housing, Appliances and Equipment
Transportation: Buying, Driving, Maintaining, Alternative Fuels

Renewable Energy Deployment Initiative (REDI)

Renewable Energy Solutions
Ken Hogg 238-9389
Sees huge benefits in fluorescent bulbs
Typical bulbs when they’re on for the average of 1000 hours per year,
75% saving compared to incandescent
$2.50 each for 60 watt equivalent fluorescent bulbs
45 watt saving for 1000 hours = 45 kw per year @ 10 cents per kw $4.50 per year
Payout in under 1 year.

Teaches in renewable energy technology U of C Continuing Education
Consulting on biogas to reduce greenhouse gases or produce electricity for utilities

Sedmek Inc. is an Alberta corporation specializing in the design and installation of renewable energy systems for residential and commercial applications. The company has grown significantly since it’s founding in 1994, with numerous examples of electric and thermal systems in operation in southern Alberta. Please see case study page for examples of projects completed to date. Sedmek is the Alberta distributor and retailer for Enerworks solar hot water appliances and is the Calgary retail partner for SPS Energy Solutions. David Kelly, company president, has been a guest speaker at the Solar Expo 2003, guest lecturer at Mount Royal College’s sustainable design program and the University of Calgary’s Engineering programs. His credentials include an engineering degree from the University of Waterloo and professional accreditation through APEGGA. Married and a father of two, his home is partially powered by 600W of grid-tied solar power and uses solar thermal water heating.

Solar Energy Society of Canada Inc.

Solar Water Heating Systems
A Buyer’s Guide

Sterling shines in Okotoks
August 19, 2005

Sterling Homes at Drake Landing

Keith Paget
Manager of Special Projects
Sterling Group of Companies

Trimline Design Centre

Your Energy Company
Brent Steele
1 403 568 9999
Your Energy Company Inc.
1914 – 44 Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta T2T 2N6 Canada