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Smart Plugs – Should I get them?

Smart Plugs – Should I get them? 320 262 cs

How amazing would a smart home be?! However, you run into exorbitant costs to do this. The easiest and most cost-effective way today is to get a Smart plug. Turn your electronics on and off anywhere with your smartphone. Though you may have left the stove on after you left for work? No worries, pull up your app and turn it off right there and then.

Home and want to control those electronics, simply ask Alexa or Google to do it for you. How convenient it would be to have a smart home! Smart plugs are super easy to install and work off your 2.4 GHz internet connection.

See below the comparison of our top five picks.

There are a few features to consider when choosing your smart plug:

 

Google Home and Alexa Compatible – All five of these smart plugs are compatible with Alexa and Google home. Easy to connect and install. Once installed simply ask Alexa to turn the stove off for you!

Remote control through an Ap – Did you leave the house but have that nagging feeling you may have left the stove on? No worries, use your smart switch app on your smartphone to check! Turn it off!

Price of course – Everyone wants the best value for their money. Yutron and Teckin remain the best priced. Depending on if you purchase them in packages or solo you will pay avout $28 to $30

Reviews and Star Rating – No better feedback than the 1000’s of people who have used the product. The best star rating for the smart switch is Teckin 4.7 stars. However, it is important too to see how many reviews they have received. Kasa dominates here at over 17K reviews.

Save on your Energy Bill using SMART SWITCHES

Save on your Energy Bill using SMART SWITCHES 320 314 cs

 

Imagine if you could control the lighting and dim features with all your lighting in your home with an app or your voice. You don’t even have to be in the home or get out of bed. Smart Light Switches allow you to do this. Whether you want to make sure you didn’t forget to switch off your lights before bed or when leaving the home. With smart switches, you have the luxury of timing the turn on and off so that you don’t have to. Set the mood or deter burglars. Even save on electricity by controlling when and how long your lights remain on.

If it is in the cards, I think it is a no-brainer that this would be an excellent move for anyone. But really how do we decide on what product is the best. There are multiple options and multiple companies.

Here are the five best features we found when it comes to choosing a smart switch for you and your home.

Dimmer options – Choose a switch that gives you a dimmer option. This will allow you to create the mood for that special evening! Not only that but dimmer switches lower your energy consumption and help your bulbs last longer. If you don’t need it that bright turn it down.

Google Home and Alexa Compatible – Why get up to turn all the lights off in the house when you can tell Alexa to do it. Make sure that you choose a switch that includes compatibility to your favorite home assistant.

Remote control through an Ap – Did you leave the house but have that nagging feeling you may have left on the lights? No worries, use your smart switch app on your smartphone to check! Turn them off if you forgot or turn them on to deter burglars. Either way, keep on top of things with remote control!

Price of course – Everyone wants the best value for their money. Gosund and Kasa remain the best priced. Depending on if you purchase them in packages or solo you will pay between $17 and $28 dollars.

Reviews and Star Rating – No better feedback than the 1000’s of people who have used the product. Best star rating for the smart switch is Teckin and Kasa at 4.6 stars. However, it is important too to see how many reviews they have received. Kasa dominates here at over 19K reviews.

The Perfect Storm: Energy Rate Increases in Alberta

The Perfect Storm: Energy Rate Increases in Alberta 150 150 cs

Why has my energy bill been so high lately? In this tight-money environment, Albertans are experiencing, perhaps the most frustrating household budget shock is the dreaded utility bill surprise. The answer to this question lies in the development of the perfect storm of decisions and circumstances that have been brewing over the last few years in Alberta.

The short answer? Between 2014 -2016 a serious oil market crash put many Albertans out of work and the government in a poor economic position. In 2017 the Alberta Government eliminated 55% of our electricity supply in abolishing coal-generated power. Because Alberta’s financials were in poor condition, the government had to come up with a tax to fund the project to keep energy producers in Alberta. The carbon tax was the solution. In 2019, the Alberta Government made a serious effort to control the economic situation and made some cuts. One such cut was to eliminate capped energy rates for electricity and natural gas consumers. They cut out the cap. With a poor economy, less electricity to go around, Alberta utility payers being exposed to the full volatility of market rates, we were walking on a thin line. If demand ever spiked the market prices were primed to go up. We were doomed to fail. Then COVID-19 hit. We were in a very vulnerable situation leading up to it. It truly is the perfect storm of decisions and circumstances coming to a head at the worst possible time for Albertans.

Here are the details:

We all know the 2014 oil crash prevented the Alberta economy as a whole from being able to withstand economic volatility. Oil prices dropped from over $100 a barrel to $42 a barrel in March 2014. Further damage was done in the oil and gas sector through 2015 and 2016.

The Alberta government in 2017 under Rachel Notley passed legislation to eliminate carbon-fired electricity generation by 2030. 55 percent of Alberta’s electricity was produced from 18 coal-fired generators. The Alberta Government worked with energy generation companies and agreed to retrofit their power plants. Natural gas generation was the solution. While the change has reduced carbon emissions, it has cost a lot of money. To convince power generation companies to make the switch and remain in Alberta, the Alberta government promised carbon tax dollars help them stomach the switch. It involved temporarily shutting down plants and assisting with the costs of investing in updated machinery. A very costly endeavour. Where did the carbon tax dollars come from? Albertans. Who paid higher rates while power plants went offline? Albertans. The power plants and Alberta Government worked on the program so aggressively that the 2030 carbon elimination target has been slated to be met 7 years ahead of schedule! Could there possibly anything wrong with such a speedy adjustment?

Phasing out coal generated electricity quickly can only work if substitute energy production such as wind, solar, hydro, natural gas generation etc. are up to the challenge AND there are no major demand spikes. Dropping 55% of Alberta’s energy supply over a short period saw higher than average rates since 2018. They haven’t gone back to pre-carbon elimination rates.

The Alberta oil crash of 2014-16 was an unforeseen calamity which only exasperated the problem for Albertans. Less corporate tax revenues to support the expensive energy transition came at a terrible time. It meant costs were forwarded to taxpayers ever so increasingly. Have you noticed if you are away for a month, your bill is still 2/3 the cost it is when you are home? Distribution and transmission costs have gone up a lot over the past 5 years. Increased capital costs for these power plants have meant forwarding the majority of costs to you. Add this to attempts made by the Alberta government before 2017 to stimulate our lagging economy by spending large amounts on infrastructure improvements (such as new power lines etc.) to keep jobs and money flowing. Rates are up, transmission and distribution charges on our utility bills are up. The double whammy of supply issues and investment costs meant higher rates and higher transmission and distribution charges.

Blame NDP right? Not necessarily.

What about the UCP government? By the time the UCP government under Jason Kenney took office in 2019, the coal power plant renovations were well under way. Looking to find ways to save money across Alberta, they found a glaring problem: Alberta had in a cap on electricity rates in place also known as the regulated rate option, which meant Albertans did not have to pay over a certain rate per kilowatt hour, even if rates went up. Same went for natural gas. Sounds pretty awesome, right? But what if energy rates went above the capped rate? Who would make up the difference? Alberta tax payers subsidized the difference. We paid for utilities on our bills and on our taxes. The UCP government noticed they would save Alberta money by eliminating the regulated rate. The regulated rate option really was an expensive program. By eliminating the capped rates, taxpayers would no longer be required to subsidize rates for other consumers. The downside? Families who had been paying capped rates during times where rates were unusually high now must shoulder the full variability in market rates. 80 percent of the time this is no issue as market rates have historically been below what the regulated rate has been. But when rates spike, what then? We pay.

We are living in a extremely sensitive energy environment. Nothing can go wrong at all. Electricity and natural gas transmission costs have been up due to the sudden increase in investment into new infrastructure. Distribution costs are up as new lines have been built since the 2015 Alberta recession in a government attempt to stimulate economic activity. We cannot produce as much electricity as we used to because we’ve removed coal-generated electricity. Rates are no longer capped. And Albertans have been home almost the entire past year, causing higher usage and a greater strain on the energy demand, driving up both Electricity and Natural Gas market rates.

January 2020, prior to the pandemic, we saw record highs in electricity rate costs: Electricity rates were normally 5-7 cents a kilowatt hour, but cold January 2020 saw historically high 25 cents per kilowatt hour at one point and an average of 15 cents over the month! It certainly wouldn’t happen again, would it?

Cue 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic! Albertans staying indoors, working from home, and in many cases dealing with income decreases or income loss. Not a particularly good addition to this already brewing perfect storm of utility rate hikes. Electricity and natural gas demand went up like crazy. However, in the warmer months, the effect was not as drastic. People weren’t using much natural gas to heat their homes, daylight hours were long, people could go outside. A warm 2020 winter kept costs down. Yes, bills were uncomfortably high, but we had no idea what was up ahead. When January cold snap hit, rates sky-rocketed. Just last month (February 2021), rates hit an astounding 70 cents per kilowatt hour at one point! January bills were cruel and February bills will be even worse. Warmer weather is coming, but warm weather cannot reverse the series of decisions and circumstances that have led us to this point.

This truly is a perfect storm for Albertans. One we are all frustrated by. Both NDP and UCP governments have made important decisions that have had unforeseen consequences. Shoulda woulda coulda rants cry out. The COVID-19 pandemic has come at a particularly sensitive time for Alberta energy consumers. We can only wish you all the best during this storm and hope rates steady up over the summer months.

If you are looking to sign up with Olympus Energy, you can sign up on our website olympusenergy.ca and click on the ‘sign up’ button.

Make it a New Year’s Resolution to Save Money and Energy (Part Two)

Make it a New Year’s Resolution to Save Money and Energy (Part Two) 1200 628 Krissy H

When you partner with energy suppliers you can get the best rates on gas and electric and valuable tips to help you save money and energy on your utilities.

 

In part one, we shared some energy saving tips that are practical and digestible — you don’t have to make major changes to save energy, it begins with small steps!

 

At Olympus Energy in Alberta, we want to help you better manage your energy consumption. Join us in part two of this series (don’t miss part one here), and learn even more tips to guide you in your energy savings.

 

More Energy Saving Tips!

 

Energy Conservation Tip #7 – Wash only full loads.

 

Whether you’re doing a load of laundry or using the dishwasher, it is imperative to only run full loads. This way you’re avoiding to have to do multiple, smaller loads more frequently and using additional water and energy. 

 

Energy Conservation Tip #8 – Utilize your window blinds and curtains.

 

Window coverings are some of the best, most practical ways to save energy. It’s quite simple: close your blinds and curtains in your home in the summer to keep your home cool, and open them in the daytime to let the warm rays penetrate in the winter months.

 

Energy Conservation Tip #9 – Implement power strips.

 

Instead of using every, single outlet for your electronics, invest in a couple of power strips to better consolidate them — from here you can easily turn it off, to save energy when they are not in use.

 

Energy Conservation Tip #10 – Insulate your heating ducts.

 

This is a common energy hack that is overlooked, but when you think about it, it’s completely practical. Warm air is moving through these ducts, so why not use insulation to keep the heat in? Genius, right?! 20 to 30 percent of heat is lost in leaks and heat travel, so insulating your heating ducts will vastly improve your utility bill.

 

Energy Conservation Tip #11 – Implement low-flow shower heads.

 

Low-flow shower heads are great, and not at all what people expect. They’re not a dribble of water — they are very similar to traditional shower heads, and you may not even be able to tell the difference. Save more water and energy when you make the switch.

 

Energy Conservation Tip #12 – Switch out traditional light bulbs.  

 

If you are still using traditional light bulbs, you are wasting energy. LEDs and CFLs use 20 to 25 percent of the energy that traditional light bulbs do, and, they’ve come a long way. They are no longer stark, institutional-like, and harsh lights, they come in a variety of tones for more of a relaxed and warm feel. 

 

Another reason to ditch the traditional, incandescent light bulb, is 90 percent of their energy is emitted as heat, so that leaves only 10 percent as actual light.

 

Energy Conservation Tip #13 – Install a programmable thermostat

 

If your home doesn’t have a programmable thermostat, now is the time to install one! The more you can manage your home’s temperature, the better you can manage your energy. By decreasing the temperature by just 10 to 15 degrees, you can save up to 15 percent annually.

Energy Conservation Tip #14 – Don’t block radiators or heating vents.

 

Not covering your radiator or heating vents may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed at how they get blocked. Furniture covers vents and radiators, stifling the heat you need to heat your home. The room then cannot get up to temp, forcing your system to work harder and use more energy. Instead, keep these areas free and clear of furniture and clutter, so you can effectively and efficiently heat your home.  

 

Energy Conservation Tip #13 – Utilize your microwave.

 

People have mixed feelings about the microwave but for reheating food, it can save you a good deal of energy. Instead of using your oven to reheat leftovers, use less energy when you use your microwave.

 

Saving energy is in the little things, so be mindful of when and how long you run water or appliances. As you begin to make small changes, it will greatly lower your energy consumption and save you money on gas and electric.

 

To partner with us and learn even more energy saving tips, connect with us today!

 

   

 

Ninja Tip 5: To Stay Hidden, Energy Ninjas Look to Better Lighting

Ninja Tip 5: To Stay Hidden, Energy Ninjas Look to Better Lighting 226 226 Olympus Energy

Ninja Tip 5: To Stay Hidden, Energy Ninjas Look to Better Lighting

People pay more for their current outdated lights than upgrading to newer fixtures. In most cases, a new set of LED lights will recover their own costs within a year or so with the savings on electricity in the home or office. If you have halogen lights, incandescent or even 5+ year old lights of any kind, you may want to consider an upgrade. There would be less light replacements and better lighting. The cost reduction from lighting alone would be enough to keep you away from the thermostat, thus concealing your true ninja identity.

 

(https://www.offthegridnews.com/grid-threats/top-20-energy-efficiency-myths/ – myth 15)

 

Here’s the take away message: you do not need to live as though you don’t have electricity and natural gas to save money and reduce usage. A master energy ninja is one who is NOT noticed. Apply these few tips to your home and business and be content with your savings and comfort. Some adjustments may require a few dollars upfront, but remember, you will have more in your pocket in no time.

 

Now you know how to be a true energy ninja! 

Energy Ninja Tip – Four

Energy Ninja Tip – Four 226 226 Olympus Energy

Ninja Tip 4: Don’t Use Electric Heat Lamps as a Heating Substitute for the Furnace.

At my workplace, we spent more money on electricity from heat lamps than on the gas we were saving by turning the thermostat down.  If we had just left the furnace at a normal temperature, we would have all been more comfortable; including the thermostat ninja and his wallet. Save money by being comfortable rather than spending more to be uncomfortable. 

 

(https://www.offthegridnews.com/grid-threats/top-20-energy-efficiency-myths/ – Myth 6)

Energy Ninja – Tip Three

Energy Ninja – Tip Three 226 226 Olympus Energy

Ninja tip 3: Do not close vents and registers in unused rooms. It does not save energy.

When an energy ninja closes vents, the pressure in the ductwork system increases and the system needs to work harder to keep up the temperature. A harder working system is a higher energy use system. Also, higher pressure in the ducts means more air loss due to leakage in the ductwork. Closing vents to save energy is one of the most common ninja mistakes, even for seasoned energy ninjas. It does allow for some heat control, but the system must work extra hard an therefore does not reduce energy consumption.

(https://www.mythinkenergy.com/common-energy-myths – tip 3)

(https://www.offthegridnews.com/grid-threats/top-20-energy-efficiency-myths/ – myth 7)

Energy Ninja – Tip Two

Energy Ninja – Tip Two 226 226 Olympus Energy

What energy ninjas need to know to be less noticed.

No one messes with the energy Ninja! I once worked with a colleague who was serious about energy savings. He was a thermostat ninja! Hot summers and cold winters both outside and inside the office. My office was so uncomfortable, customers in summer meetings had glistening sweaty foreheads. In winter, customers had to wear coats during client meetings. Did we save on the utility bill? Not much!

While my colleague, (the thermostat ninja) should be commended for his commitment to reduce costs and save energy, there are a few misconceptions he had that could have made a real difference on our utility bill and not required making everyone so uncomfortable. This is what energy ninjas need to know to be less noticed.

Ninja tip 2: The water heater uses tons of energy. Manipulate the heater before you modify the thermometer.

If you can pour a cup warm enough for tea straight from your tap, the water heater is too hot and is wasting energy. Any good thermostat ninja turns the temperature setting down on the hot water tank to 50C or 120F. Water heaters run more efficiently when the temperature is set lower. 

Also, if the water tank itself is warm to the touch, it is losing energy. Ninjas can save up to 9% on their energy bill just by installing a water heater blanket to keep that heat in. 

Another stealthy move is to install a timer, (unless you have a gas heated tank) on the water heater to turn it off at night or when you don’t use much hot water. 

Finally, fix leaky faucets, especially ones that drip hot water. It adds up.

Since master ninjas know water heaters account for 1/3 of household energy expense, mastering the water tank is a real right of passage.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DiySZ5HNo0 – Howcast how to adjust your water heater to save energy)

(https://www.offthegridnews.com/grid-threats/top-20-energy-efficiency-myths/ – myth 18)

Energy Ninja – Tip One

Energy Ninja – Tip One 226 226 Olympus Energy

What energy ninjas need to know to be less noticed.

No one messes with the energy Ninja! I once worked with a colleague who was serious about energy savings. He was a thermostat ninja! Hot summers and cold winters both outside and inside the office. My office was so uncomfortable, customers in summer meetings had glistening sweaty foreheads. In winter, customers had to wear coats during client meetings. Did we save on the utility bill? Not much!

While my colleague, (the thermostat ninja) should be commended for his commitment to reduce costs and save energy, there are a few misconceptions he had that could have made a real difference on our utility bill and not required making everyone so uncomfortable. This is what energy ninjas need to know to be less noticed.

Ninja tip 1: Most heat is lost through walls, not windows.

All energy ninjas know heat is lost to exterior windows, but not all ninjas realize window heat loss is only a small percentage of the total heat loss in a home or business (10-20%). Typically, exterior walls account for much more heat loss than windows due to their larger surface area. Unless windows are leaking air, it’s better to insulate walls before upgrading windows since heat loss through windows is usually minimal compared to walls. In other words, an insulation upgrade will pay itself back sooner than a window upgrade. Every energy ninja should know this.

(https://www.mythinkenergy.com/common-energy-myths – tip 8)

Alberta, Some of the Lowest Utility Prices

Alberta, Some of the Lowest Utility Prices 1920 1066 Olympus Energy

Albertans have low utility prices due to both deregulation (see Deregulation blog post) and its rich natural resources. Here we will address how Alberta’s rich resources lower our utility prices.

Canada is the world’s 3rd largest producer of natural gas, and 75-80% of that production comes from Alberta. We get it cheap. Natural gas heats our homes.  It is also an efficient means of generating electricity in power plants. According to the National Energy Board’s September 2018 report, Alberta generated 47.4% of its electricity from coal, 40.3% from natural gas, and 12.3% from renewables in 2016. (https://www.neb-one.gc.ca/nrg/sttstc/lctrct/rprt/2017cndrnwblpwr/prvnc/ab-eng.html?=undefined&wbdisable=true)

Between rich resources and deregulation of the energy sector, Albertans have some of the lowest utility prices anywhere in North America.

There is another way to lower your utility bill. Call Olympus Energy for a quote. They will beat your rate or give you $100.

olympusenergy.ca