energy efficiency

Greater Edmonton Alliance


The Greater Edmonton Alliance (GEA) is the most exciting thing to happen to Edmonton, sustainability-wise, in forever.

The alliance, composed mostly of churches and unions, has taken on local food and energy efficiency retrofits for existing houses as its two main initiatives.

They have produced some amazing results so far. Among other things,  they packed a city hall meeting with almost 700 people to help save some of Edmonton’s priceless agricultural land last year, and they also organized the very high-profile potato giveaway last summer.

Sustainable Works Launch on Wednesday

If you’ve wondered how to go about retrofitting of your older home, the Sustainable Works program is for you. GEA plans to help retrofit thousands (thousands!) of homes in Edmonton over the coming years. The big launch is on Wednesday . I’ll be there, and I hope that you’ll consider showing your support.


The Greater Edmonton Alliance (GEA) invites you to the launch of  read more... »

Most Efficient Electric Range Ever


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Induction stovetops are the most efficient in existence. With induction cooking, an electromagnetic field turns the pot or pan itself into the heating element, so there’s no coil to heat up, and no therefore no heat to lose from the coil. Induction stoves have long been available through commercial or specialty outlets only, and usually only as cook tops (without ovens attached). However, Sears has recently changed the efficient cooking appliance scene.

With Kenmore Elite Induction Ranges, Sears has brought the induction cook top to the residential home. Although more expensive than regular ranges (all of Sears’ stuff can be had for significantly less than their listed online prices, by the way) these super-efficient ranges are at the very bottom end of the Energuide scale.

A new electric range will consume from 330 kWh to 647 kWh per year according to Natural Resources Canada. The Kenmore Elite Induction Ranges consumes about 350 kWh.

When we purchased our appliances for the Mill Creek NetZero Home, we were a bit too early for this brand new range. The problem is, it requires a special 50 amp breaker and special wiring. We missed out, but maybe you won’t. If you choose an induction range when purchasing your next super-efficient appliance let the rest of us know how it went!

P.S. I was worried about health issues due to radiation from the electro magnetism that's involved in induction cooking, so I asked local great Godo Stoyke, author of The Carbon Buster's Home Energy Handbook, for his take. He tested his brother's induction stove and said:

"I measured about 80 milliGauss near the pot, about 10 milliGauss from 40 cm away, dropping to an undetectable/background level from about 1 m away. So, comparable to a cell phone."

Given that stove is so much further away from your body (and your brain) than a cell phone, this put the health issue to rest for me.

Appliances - Range


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One of the the underappreciated marvels of the modern age is the cooking appliance. The ability to so accurately channel energy to enable perfect cooking is a vast improvement over how we used to cook (I’m thinking open fire here, but there were probably some cultures that came up with more ingenious methods). I often find myself marveling at how effortless and clean it is to cook food these days.

Replacing or Buying New

Here are some questions, thoughts and consuming strategies when it comes to ranges and stovetops:

  • Do you really need a new range? Ovens and stovetops have barely increased in fuel efficiency over the past 50 years. After all, wasted energy is usually lost as heat, which in this case is obviously not a waste at all. Consider just keeping using your old range or having it repaired.
  • Can you buy a used range? Used appliances are a dime a dozen, and while I would almost never encourage buying a used fridge (old ones are way less efficient), a used range is probably as energy efficient as a new one.
  • Consider gas. A gas range is much more efficient than an electric one because of the massive energy losses (covered here in regard to ground source heat pumps) involved in converting coal and natural gas to electricity.
  • Buy the most energy efficient model. Let the range’s Energuide Rating be your guide.


All of the following reduce coal burning:

  • Use a toaster oven. Because they’re so much smaller, toaster ovens use less energy to bake any given thing.
  • Use a pressure cooker and/or thermal cooker.
  • Cook with the sun.
  • Turn off the stovetop a few minutes before you’re done cooking. The thermal inertia of the pan or pot that you’re using will keep the food cooking for a while after the burner is turned off.

Preserving Original Wood Windows While Improving Their Insulation Value


dining room window

Note from Conrad:This is a guest post by fellow Edmontonian Alice Harkness. Thanks for your excellent work Alice!

I experimented last winter with a very simple way of upgrading the insulation value of the beautiful original windows of my house: I added a third, Low-E glaze between the double hung window and the storm window.


There is a 3/4 inch thick space inside the storm window created by the stop (the strip of wood that serves as the outside edge of the channel for the upper double hung window, and backing for the storm). Here’s what I did:  read more... »