Eco-rebates give Albertans chance to cash in

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I’m shopping for eco-bucks this weekend.

Energy Efficiency Alberta launched the last parts of its residential retail rebate program Friday. Now, in addition to cash back on solar panels, windows and insulation, Albertans can get rebates on fridges, light bulbs and showerheads to save energy and fight climate change.

Finally, rebates I can use! I don’t have a roof to re-insulate and can’t afford a solar panel, but I do have light bulbs to replace.

I hit up St. Albert’s Home Depot earlier this week to scout out my shopping list.

Cheap lights, less water

The new rebates come in instant and mail-in forms.

The instant rebates are for products such as LED light bulbs, programmable thermostats, smart power bars, dimmer switches, motion sensors, timers, aerators and low-flow showerheads, and range from $3 to $30.

Only specific stores, which can be found using a map on the Energy Efficiency Alberta website (efficiencyalberta.ca), will offer these the rebates. In St. Albert, these stores are Best Buy, Canadian Tire, Costco, Home Depot, London Drugs, Rona, Visions and Walmart.

Home Depot assistant manager Jorrian Gelink says he and his staffers have been prepping all week for these instant rebates.

“The majority of the rebates are taken off right in the store,” he said, with products that have them indicated with a little green sign.

He says he expects LED bulbs to be one of their best sellers, and has stocked up accordingly.

“I have 3,300 of this one bulb!” he said of a LED bulb advertised in their flyer.

The province’s rebates for LED bulbs and LED light fixtures range from $3 to $15.

That means your typical 60-watt equivalent LED bulb now costs 99 cents, says Christoph Wilser, Home Depot’s lighting expert – cheaper than his store’s cheapest 50 W incandescent (about $6). He remembers paying about $15 for a similar bulb just two years ago.

LEDs use a fraction of the power of other bulbs to produce the same amount of light, Wilser says. A CFL needs about 13 W to match a 60 W incandescent, for example, but a LED needs just nine.

“Within one year, your light bulb pays for itself through the energy savings,” Wilser says.

LEDs last longer, don’t contain mercury, don’t get super-hot while in operation and don’t attract mosquitoes, Wilser says. Technological advances mean you can now get ones that are dimmable, play music, transmit Wi-Fi and look exactly like incandescent bulbs, right down to the glowing filaments.

I plan to get at least seven LED bulbs this week to replace the last few CFLs in my house.

I’ve got my eye on the province’s $12 rebates for low-flow showerheads. While prices for showerheads vary wildly, the cheapest low-flow one at Rona would cost about $4 after the rebate, staffers there tell me, compared to about $25 for their cheapest regular-flow model.

Alberta Environment officials tell me that most of the showerheads that qualify for the rebate have flow rates of 5.7 litres a minute or less, compared to about 9.5L/min for regular showerheads. You might need help finding these on the shelf, though, as not all showerheads list flow rates on their packaging.

Low-flow showerheads are cheap and very effective, says Energy Efficiency Alberta chair David Dodge. He says he recently installed one that used about half as much water as the one it replaced without telling his daughter, who loves long showers, that it was low-flow.

“She used it and she said, ‘Dad, I really like that new showerhead!’ It was so well designed she didn’t realize she was using a lot less water.”

Clotheslines?

I did a bit of a spit-take when I saw that the instant rebates included $12 off for clotheslines. Twelve dollars? For two nails and some string?

“It’s about awareness as much as anything,” he says.

Most appliances today are about twice as efficient as those made a few decades ago, Dodge says.

“The one appliance that has not improved at all … is the clothes dryer,” he says, as there’s been little improvement in electric resistance heating.

Dryers can account for 12 per cent of a home’s electricity use, ATCO EnergySense reports. Use a clothesline and that drops to zero.

Clotheslines are legal in St. Albert, city environmental manager Christian Benson notes, although your neighbourhood or condo association may have rules against them. Check the land-titles to make sure.

St. Albert environmentalist Elke Blodgett has used one since 1966.

“Mine is an old electrical extension cord,” she says.

I looked into it, and it looks like the provincial rebate is for pre-made clothesline kits with pulleys and wires rather than for pins and string.

Blodgett, like me, found the idea of buying such a kit silly.

“Any string will do!” she says.

But the rebate does get you thinking about clotheslines, Dodge notes.

“Sometimes old school is an option.”

Mail-in rebates

The mail-in rebates apply to items I’ve previously examined in the Carbon Challenge column: smart thermostats, fridges and clothes washers.

As of April 28, Albertans who buy these products from any store should be able to use an online form at efficiencyalberta.ca to get a $75 or $100 rebate. You’ll have to check the list on that website to see which fridges, thermostats and washers qualify.

Smart thermostats automatically adjust your home’s temperature based on your habits and, unlike other programmable ones, can often be controlled by smartphone, Gelink says. He’s got two of them, and says he’s significantly cut his heating costs with them.

Smart thermostats run for $200 to $300, the Home Depot and Rona websites suggest.

As I previously explained in the Carbon Challenge, a smart thermostat, used properly, can save a typical Edmonton home about $131 to $145 a year. Combined with the $100 rebate, this means you’ll probably make get the money you spent on the thermostat back in about two years and prevent about 630 kg of greenhouse gas emissions a year in the process.

The mail-in rebates means I will almost certainly replace my fridge this year – it’s one of the biggest power hogs in my home and I want it gone.

The payback time on an efficient fridge can vary between two to seven years depending on what it replaces, says energy efficiency guru Godo Stoyke. Don’t keep your old fridge running downstairs in the basement, though, or you’ll waste any energy you would have saved.

My clothes washer also looks ripe for replacement.

Clothes washers have dropped dramatically in energy use in recent decades, with the best front-loaders using just 98 kWh/year today, Stoyke says. If you have a top-loader, he says you should absolutely replace it with a front-loader, as it will use about a third less water, much less energy, and dry your clothes faster (due to its high spin-cycle).

Natural Resources Canada’s Simple Energy Calculator says that you can get a new Energy Star-compliant washer for about $150 more than a regular one, so that makes the province’s $100 rebate quite significant. Since most efficient washers will save you about $49 a year in water and electricity, you’ll earn that last $50 back in about a year.

Sale ends soon

Albertans have until June 11 to get any of the instant rebates and can buy up to 25 of any qualifying product at once, Energy Efficiency Alberta reports. There will be a second round of instant rebates this fall. The smart thermostat, fridge and washer rebates will be available anytime for the next two years.

Gelink says he’s not sure how busy his store will be this weekend – the weather has affected traffic, and the sale is going on for a while.

Me, I say why wait? I’m headed out to save money and energy today!

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About Author

Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.