Energy Savings Often Exaggerated

September 21, 2010


While avoiding waste and conserving resources is a very good thing, the conservation lobby often exaggerates the pay off from conservation efforts. A case in point is a recent column in The Ottawa Citizen, in which Stuart Hickox of Project Porchlight suggested that Ontario residents who are facing steep increases in their hydro rates (See post Steep Increases Forecast for Ontario Electricity Pricescan cut their electricity bills by as much as $750 per year by taking half a dozen simple steps. Here are the six steps suggested in the column:

Stuart Hickox’s Six Steps to Saving $750 a year
1. Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. Annual savings: $200
2. Eliminate vampire power from unused electrical devices. Annual savings: $200
3. Get rid of the old beer fridge. Annual savings: $120
4. Get a programmable thermostat from Hydro Ottawa’s Peaksaver program. Annual savings: $140
5. Lower the temperature on your electric water heater. Annual savings: $50
6. Switch off the dry heat function on your dishwasher. Annual savings: $40

Considering that the average Ontario household reportedly pays $1,330 on their electricity bill, it will be quite a feat cutting it by 56 percent. Take the suggestion to replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs. A typical CFL consumes about 50 Watts less than a comparable incandescent bulb (if you buy the claim that a 11 Watt CFL produces the same amount of light as a 60 Watt incandescent and not everyone does). Only a household that keeps 20 lights on for an average of 4 hours a day will see savings of $200. I’m going out on a limb here but exactly how many households are light up like a Christmas tree throughout the year?

THRiVE: A New No-Fee Chequing Account from ING Direct

August 18, 2010


It has been long speculated that ING Direct will introduce a no-fee chequing account to complement its existing high-interest savings accounts and Streetwise mutual funds. The announcement today that ING Direct is launching THRiVE, a new no-fee chequing account makes that speculation a reality. THRiVE, which ING Direct is hoping to have up and running in early 2011 has the following features:

  1. No-Fee Daily Chequing: No monthly fees. No deposit, withdrawal or transfer fees. Unlimited bill payments and Interac transactions. First chequebook is free. Account will pay a modest 0.25% interest on balances of less than $50,000 (Hey, it’s at least better than the big fat zero that TD Canada Trust pays).
  2. ABM Access through the Exchange Network.
  3. Free e-mail Money Transfers.
  4. Free Overdraft Protection up to $250. No fees or interest on overdrawn funds up to $250 provided it is paid back within 30 days. Accounts that remain overdrawn for more than 30 days attract a $2.50 fee for every 30 days the balance is negative. A NSF fee of $25 kicks in for overdrawn funds above $250.
  5. Bank drafts can be ordered online and delivered to your home for a fee of $10.

While we have plenty of choice when it comes to high-interest savings accounts, President’s Choice Financial still remains the only major game in town when it comes to no-fee chequing accounts (Citizens Bank briefly offered a no-fee chequing account but shut it down in less than a year). Consumers who already have a PC Financial account will see very little reason to switch because though ING Direct’s fees are lower for some features, the savings may not be substantial. For instance, e-mail money transfers cost $1.50 at PC Financial. Quebec residents will be pleased to know that unlike PC Financial products, the ING Direct no-fee chequing account will be available to them. Current clients of ING Direct can register for a preview of THRiVE through their online account or register through

Update 1: Reader Michael pointed out that the Exchange ATM network isn’t as extensive as CIBC’s (PC Financial clients have free access to the CIBC ATM network). A quick check revealed that while I can find just 5 ATM machines within a 5-km radius of where I live, I can find 42 CIBC ATM machines.

Update 2: Rob Carrick in The Globe and MailING jumps into no-fee chequing fray.
The StarING Direct offers no-fee chequing.

Scotiabank’s Let the Savings Begin Bonus

July 26, 2010


Scotiabank has launched a campaign called Let the Savings Begin to encourage Canadians to save more. The bank says its market research found that saving an additional $1,500 would improve the financial well-being of 72 percent of Canadians and it has designed a campaign to do just that. It’s not just empty words — the Bank is offering a nice bonus for clients who participate in the campaign.

If you are already have an eligible Scotiabank chequing account, the Let the Savings Begin campaign allows you to earn a bonus of 10% on savings that you accumulate over a 16 month period between July 5, 2010 and October 31, 2011. The maximum bonus amount is $150. The savings should me made through a combination of at least two of the following:

  • Bank the Rest program that automatically rounds up every purchase made using a Scotia debit card to the next multiple of $1 or $5 and the sweeps the difference between the purchase total and the round up amount to a Scotia Money Master Savings Account.
  • Scotia Momentum Visa card that earns a 2% cash back on eligible gas, grocery and drug store purchases and a 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases.
  • A new or additional automatic transfer of at least $50 into a savings or investment account.

If I were a Scotia customer, the easiest way to earn the $150 bonus would be to sign up for a pre-authorized contribution (PAC) deposited into the Money Master account, which normally pays a pitiful 0.15% interest on balances below $5,000 and one of the other programs. The actual PAC amount would depend on the estimated savings from the other program. You can find the terms and conditions of the savings bonus here.