55. Green Energy Futures holiday gift guide

Category: Renewable Energy

Published: November 22, 2013

By David Dodge and Duncan Kinney

Whether you want to spread good word when it comes to green energy or you’re buying a gift for a total green energy nerd you’ve come to the right place. These gift ideas work for the person who geeks out about the latest solar modules or loves driving their SUV in the suburbs.

And while what makes a good gift is highly subjective we hope our readers have a happy holiday season.

Green Energy Futures Gift #1 – The Nest programmable thermostat

Before the Nest, programmable thermostats were boring, practical and let’s be frank, extremely homely devices. After the Nest, programmable thermostats are now a conversation starter, a glowing jewel on your wall and something you can show off to visitors.

The original designer of the iPod started the company and he brought that same level of design, elegance and int

Pam Goertzen of Climate Change Central shows off the Nest programmable thermostat.

Pam Goertzen of Climate Change Central shows off the Nest programmable thermostat.

intuitive, easy-to-use controls to a device that struggled with usability issues. I have had one in my home since February and it’s been a revelation.

It connects to my smartphone and iPad, it’s easy to program, it knows the weather and it even compares your energy conservation with other Nest users. We’ve been in the top five percent of energy conservers for several months.

Since it’s connected to my phone I can even turn down the heat on the kids when I’m at the office and they’re at home. It’s always fun to see how long it takes them to realize that the temperature has been turned to 15 degrees.

And if used effectively they can save you a lot of money. Pam Goertzen is an energy efficiency program manager at Climate Change Central and she’s done the research.

“If homeowners turn down their thermostat three degrees overnight and even three degrees while they are away at work during the day they can experience approximately 30 pre cent savings over the heating season”

For an average single family home that that’s a savings of $100 to $200 over the heating season.

The Nest isn’t cheap, it retails for $249 at home hardware stores, but it is the coolest way to manage your home heating costs. (Our episode on the Nest).

Green Energy Futures Gift #2 – Electric bike

David Dodge on a Pedego electric bike.

David Dodge on a Pedego electric bike.

If you’re looking for an over-the-top gift how about an electric bike?

They’re super fun and the battery technology has improved radically to the point where the bike we tried out has a range of 40 kilometers and can go 32 kilometers per hour.

We tested out a couple of different bikes by electric bike manufacturer Pedego and they range from step-through cruisers to fatbikes perfect for winter commuting. They use a simple twist throttle to engage the battery.

“The power is amazing. It makes you feel like you have bionic legs,” says electric bike owner Sonny Shem.

If you are like me and your commute to work is 10 kilometers or more the electric bike is just the thing to get you home after a long hard day at work.

There are a lot of brands out there and we recommend you do your research and take it for a test-drive before buying one. The cost ranges from $400 to $4,000

Green Energy Futures Gift #3 – A home energy audit or home energy monitor

A home energy auditor will conduct a blower door test to see how airtight your home is.

A home energy auditor will conduct a blower door test to see how airtight your home is.

While the Nest is pretty and the electric bike is fun, our next gift idea is for the uber-practical person in your life.

A good home energy auditor is easy to find through an online search and by reading reviews. They provide an invaluable service. They will go through your house, top to bottom, conduct multiple tests and give you a laundry list of fixes both big and small that will help you save money on your heating, water and electricity bills.

We did a story on C-Returns and these guys know their stuff. They check everything from your light bulbs to your furnace, have infrared cameras to find heat loss and they do a blower door test to find how airtight your home really is.

And you don’t have to get a home energy audit just for the energy savings.

“We wanted to reduce our own carbon footprint but the comfort of the home is important as well,” says Ted Wolff, a homeowner who got a home energy audit. “It’s not nice at -20, -30 degrees being in a drafty house. That’s part of the reason we did it.  I have no idea if it’s insulation or just a drafty window.”

A home energy audit will cost between $250 to $400 dollars.

If the cost of the audit is too much try getting a home electricity energy monitor. They’re a fun little stocking stuffer that reveals power vampires in your home. They run between $20 to $30 dollars.

Spend a day with someone who’s keen and go through your house, finding your power vampires, the devices that suck energy back all day, every day just by being plugged in. Put those power vampires on a powerbar or timer, turn them off when not in use and save money on your electricity bill.

Green Energy Futures Gift #4 – LED light bulbs

Cree 9.5 watt LED light bulb.

Cree 9.5 watt LED light bulb.

LED bulbs are a great little stocking stuffer and the price has come down so much, even just in the past year. We like the Phillips and Cree brands. A sixty-watt equivalent LED bulb will cost you $15 each and will last 25,000 hours.

A 60-watt equivalent Cree Warm White LED bulb will put out the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent but only use 9.5 watts. LEDs also love the cold weather so have no fear when you put them in your garage or outside. They also turn on instantly and the return on investment is through the roof. While they cost more upfront than CFLs they last that much longer and you don’t have to worry about mercury.

There are even smartphone controlled LEDs like the Insteon and the Hue that look pretty cool as well. And don’t forget to use LED Christmas lights around the home.

Green Energy Futures Gift #5 – Bullfrog Power membership

Xmas List 2013 4And for the true green energy enthusiast in your life why not actually get them green energy. When you become a member of Bullfrog Power you are directly involved in putting more green energy into Canada’s grid.

Go to bullfrogpower.ca, estimate how much energy the person you’re signing up uses (as long as you roughly know the size of the person’s house you’re fine) and Bullfrog will insure that the same amount of green energy is injected into your local grid.

For a 1,500-2,000 square foot home in Alberta the price comes out to $15 a month. For a six month trial that would be a $90.

By giving renewable producers a premium for their product those producers are able to get off the ground.

We’ve supported projects coast to coast,” says Ron Seftel, vice-president of operations with Bullfrog. And if you check out their map of projects it’s true.

“And some of those projects we’ve been with since inception and we’ve been buying 100 per cent of their power for everything that they’ve produced so it’s pretty exciting,” says Ron Seftel, vice-president of operations with Bullfrog.

We wish you a very happy holiday season. Let us know about your green energy gift ideas in the comments.

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