Category: Pursuits

5 ways to save on home energy costs this winter

My family moved into its first home just over a year ago. The previous owners weren’t concerned at all about energy conservation, judging by the excessive use of track lighting. We also discovered a lot of extra “air conditioning” around windows, doors and the attic. Sadly, I didn’t have much time to deal with the air leaks before winter arrived as we were pre-occupied with moving in before our twin boys arrived in November. Needless to say, there was no time after their arrival for anything but survival.

A lot has changed in the past year to cut down on our energy costs. These steps were easy to do, and didn’t cost much:

  1. All bulbs inside and outside the house replaced with compact fluorescent lights (CFL). Replacing five standard incandescent light bulbs with CFLs will typically save around $30 every year here in Ontario.
  2. Hot and cold water pipes are wrapped with insulation.
  3. All doors and windows are sealed with caulking and weather stripping. There were some gaping holes behind window and door frames and underneath one door I could fit a screwdriver through the worn out rubber that was supposed to be sealing the gap. All baseboards on main and top floor have been caulked also.
  4. Electrical outlets on the inside and outside of exterior walls have insulation gaskets sealed with caulking to restrict air flow. Basically, any where there is a hole in the wall, air can get through!
  5. Installed programmable thermostats for the electric baseboard heaters. I don’t have time to run around to every room and change the settings for when we’re there and when we’re not. Now the heat comes on a little before we get up and goes down around bedtime.

Save $$$ on doing the work

I am taking advantage of rebate programs to save hundreds of dollars making these upgrades. In our area, there are rebates to buy CFLs, water pipe insulation, programmable thermostats and many other energy saving products. The site has more information on rebates for purchasing these items.

Another program every home owner in Canada should take advantage of is the ecoENERGY Retrofit grant. An approved inspector comes and does an energy evaluation of your home. In return you get a report telling you what you can do to reduce energy use, and what money you’ll get if you do it. There’s some good money to be had, considering the provincial government is matching the federal grants. For instance, I’ll get $300 back for improving air leakage, and another $150 if I exceed the standard by 20%. Nice! There are grants for improving insulation ratings of the attic, basement, even getting a more water efficient toilet, plus several others. I like knowing exactly what I need to do, how to do it, and then getting paid for doing work that will cut my energy costs. Even part of the evaluation cost is covered. Highly recommended.

This post was written as part of a global effort called Blog Action Day to raise awareness and get action on climate change.

Thousands of voices, one cause

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Climate change is front and centre in the news again today, with the announcement of the Nobel Peace prize being awarded to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This Monday, October 16, 13,734 bloggers at latest count including myself reaching an audience of nearly 12 million will unite together to put the issue of climate change on everyone’s mind. It’s all part of Blog Action Day.

If you write a blog, it’s easy to take part, and I encourage you to do so. Climate change affects all of us. The fact that the Nobel Peace committee considers climate change a real threat to world peace underlines that we all need to commit to changing how we live – right now.

I’ll be writing about ways I’m improving the energy efficiency of my home, which helps both the environment and my pocket-book, especially during those cold Canadian winters. I’d like to keep enjoying those cold winters, too, but climate change is already diminishing the snow levels here in Northern Ontario. Our last Christmas was a green Christmas. Snowmobile tourism is dying out.

On Monday, be part of the solution.

Working for Democracy

Vote for MMP

I’m not getting much blogging done here lately because I am focused on getting people to vote for change in the upcoming electoral referendum in Ontario, Canada. Elections Ontario is trying so hard to be neutral, in my opinion that it is not doing its job to educate voters, so it’s up to ordinary citizens to make this happen. This is an historic opportunity for Ontarians to finally say farewell to its antiquated First Past the Post voting system and join most of the world’s democracies who dropped it 50 to 100 years ago. It’s also the first referendum since Ontario joined the Confederation in 1792. That’s heavy, important stuff, and why I’m using whatever free time I have to organize a local campaign.

Here are my latest articles:

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Ask the Readers: Can Plone be Green-Powered?


Data centres consume vast amounts of energy, and the situation is only getting worse. Luiz Andre Barraso of Google stated in a published paper last year that every gain in performance has been accompanied by a proportional increase in overall platform power consumption. ZDNet UK reports that the average energy costs of running a data centre in the UK will double over the next five years. The European Commission is now considering a voluntary code of conduct on energy efficiency for data centre operators to help address this issue.

No wonder consumers are looking for greener hosting choices. A potential client of mine is interested in hosting his site with a provider that uses green energy. This interests me as well, in my pursuit of leaving a smaller footprint on our planet.

The one he found uses 100% renewable energy (wind and solar), plants a new tree for each client, and believes in social responsibility through how they work, including telecommuting and a mostly paperless office. Unfortunately, their offerings aren’t suitable for Plone, and that is the same story with every other hosting provider I found, including ones listed at If there is a “green” option out there for Plone, I haven’t found it.

So, is there an option for environmentally conscious organizations / individuals who want their Plone site consuming less of our natural resources? Let me know by posting your comments.

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My new gig

The following editorial is my first entry as a temporary columnist on SooToday, a local online newspaper here in Sault Ste. Marie.

People of Ontario, this might be the most important vote you’ll ever make.

On October 10, we the people of Ontario will be given a historic opportunity to change democracy for the better, for our province and ultimately for our country. On that day, in addition to voting for your elected representatives and for a new government, you will choose the voting system for future elections.

Why should I care?

Why does it matter, you say? What’s the big deal?

I believe our voting system is the root cause of much of what is wrong with democracy and governance here in Canada. Really.

But don’t take my word for it, listen to why the members of the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly voted for change, and why they chose MMP.

October 10 is Decision Day

So what will you do?

Will you stick with the current 200 year old model, known as First-Past-The-Post (FPTP)?

Or will you choose the voting system chosen by the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, known as Mixed Member Proportional, or MMP?

Can’t Sit Still

I’m no different than you. I’ve got a busy life, especially with a 3 yr old girl and 9 month old twin boys. Spare time is more rare than spare change. Despite that, I’ve decide to coordinate the local Vote for MMP campaign, because I believe a proportional system will finally make democracy work for the people who mark the X’s, and darned if I’m going to sit back and let this opportunity pass me by!

For the next 5 weeks or so, you can expect to read:

  • In-depth analysis of the two voting systems.
  • An article from David Viitala, our local representative on the Ontario Citizen’s Assembly.
  • What’s going on locally
  • Ways you can get involved in the campaign. The government and media aren’t doing enough to spread the word, so it’s up to us to make it happen.
  • Opinions from prominent individuals on both sides of the debate.
  • Your thoughts! Let’s have a healthy debate on this topic, using the Response option at the bottom of each column. The more insightful comments will be mentioned in future postings.
  • Obligatory bad jokes about democracy and voting (I’ll try to be gentle)

Vote for MMP web site –

MMP supporters Facebook group

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Friday funnies in the #plone room

#plone is the online chat room where people hang out to learn, help and talk about their favourite CMS Plone. There are always lots of people online and it’s a great resource for anyone new to Plone who needs some immediate help. And if your brain is slowly turning to cheese on a Friday afternoon, hop into #plone for some low powered entertainment. Here are some samples for you:

andym : lol UndoError: Undo error None: non-undoable transaction

[3:20pm] PloneUser684958: sdfjdlskfljk

[3:20pm] PloneUser684958: slkfjsdlkfjlskfjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjsd

[3:20pm] PloneUser684958: jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj

[3:20pm] PloneUser684958 left the chat room. (“Bye bye”)

[3:21pm] gkirk: a keyboard streaker!

[3:21pm] darci|lunch: LOL

[3:21pm] ErikRose: Good, I was almost out of j’s!

[3:21pm] limi: ErikRose: that’s Perl

[3:21pm] ErikRose: Oh.

[3:21pm] limi: or, hang on

[3:21pm] limi: ^T$@(*#)^* is perl

[3:21pm] andym: limi: no its readable

[3:21pm] limi: my bad

MatthewWilkes: andym: Did you remember to uninstall It removes the requirement to specify yes_really_i_didnt_call_this_api_for_amusement

[3:41pm] runyaga_: do we need a reality check?

[3:41pm] runyaga_: is it a CMS ?

[3:42pm] runyaga_: is your adapted result a CMS?

[3:42pm] runyaga_: or a nuclear powered semantic web engine?

[3:42pm] runyaga_: Plone is a CMS

[3:42pm] runyaga_: if you try to make it a semantic web engine or a ERP system you are going to hate your life

Do you have a favourite quote / conversation from #plone? Add yours to the comments.

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Take a stand

SaveDarfur is organizing a weekend of prayer and action Dec. 9-10 to demand government leaders take immediate action to stop the genocide in Darfur.
Congregations are being asked to sign up to a letter to President Bush as part of the weekend activities.
From the web site:

“Nobody knows the exact number” of those killed in the conflict, said David Rubenstein, executive director of the coalition, although he estimated 400,000 have died in the violence. “There are people dying every day, and at risk of death every day,” Rubenstein said during a Dec. 5 conference call with reporters.

Have your church join in speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves. Raise awareness. Do not be silent.

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