Sunday, August 20, 2006

Lighten up, Ontario!

Canada's famous funny man, Colin Mochrie, is the poster child of a new campaign geared toward helping Ontarians reduce their energy consumption. "Lighten Up, Ontario" is calling upon everyone to reduce electricity consumption over the next twelve months. The goal is lower energy bills, a reduced need for new generating capacity, and a lower risk of blackouts and brownouts due to energy shortages.

The campaign was launched earlier this week on the third anniversary of the August 14th blackout that left much of the northeastern part of the continent without power.

To help launch the campaign, Mochrie's familiar face can be seen mugging with a compact fluorescent bulb on posters displayed at Beer Store locations across the province. The goal is to have everyone log on to the "Lighten Up, Ontario" website and make a personal pledge to reduce energy.

"People are aware that we need to conserve electricity. The Lighten Up campaign gives them a starting point," said Chris Winter, Executive Director of the Conservation Council of Ontario. "We're asking everyone to begin by buying ten compact fluorescent light bulbs and installing them in high use areas. The next step is to visit our website and take the pledge. This encourages looking beyond the obvious to realize significant energy savings."

We took our own pledge earlier this year and we were astounded at how easy it was to reduce our energy bill. While I would like to take credit for the whopping 25 percent reduction in our electricity consumption from July 2005 to July 2006, the credit goes to my husband Brian.

Here's what he did. Our daughter's asthma means that we have to rely on central air-conditioning and electronic air filtering to keep her condition under control. To cut our energy costs, Brian used our programmable thermostat, on the summer setting, and increased our minimum temperature to 23 degrees, up from 20 degrees. Our maximum limit was increased to 25 degrees, up from 23 degrees.

In addition, he programmed activity times in our house to be specific to our family. In other words, air-conditioning is only necessary during high activity times, such as dinnertime. To help reduce the cooling burden during these peak periods we've been cooking outside on the barbeque whenever possible. This not only reduces the heat in our house, it makes meal preparation a lot more fun.

I've also banned the use of the dryer during the summer months. All of our household laundry is dried courtesy of my clothesline and the sun. As an added bonus, the sun acts as a natural bleach on cottons, reducing the need for chlorine bleach and other chemical cleaners.

We replaced all of our light bulbs with compact fluorescents several years ago, so to further reduce our electricity needs, Brian installed X-10 modules to control all of our lighting. A computer program means that our lighting is set to correspond with our activities, room by room.

"We only need lighting and other services when we’re home and active in certain rooms," said Brian. "There’s absolutely no point in wasting energy when we’re not there."

While it all sounds rather complicated, X-10 modules are relatively inexpensive units that are fairly simple to install. The modules use existing house wiring to manage electricity consumption with the aid of either a control device or a family computer. In our case an ancient Mac IIsi computer, which would have otherwise been destined for the dump, runs our house.

I'm happy to report that our actions are right on track with the Lighten Up campaign. According to Winter, the six recommended steps are:
* Buy compact fluorescents bulbs
* Reduce energy waste
* Maximize natural cooling
* Air dry laundry
* Buy energy efficient appliances
* Have an energy audit done on your home

"The key is to pick the steps that make the most sense for your home and family's needs," said Winter. "Lighten Up isn't about simply making a one-time pledge. It's about creating a permanent cultural shift. We need to rethink how we use electricity and then develop the programs, the products, the services, and the incentives to support that shift."


Take the pledge. Visit Lighten up, Ontario.

Book an energy audit. Go to Green Communities.

For more information about how to use X-10 modules to control your energy use, run your home and have fun, visit


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