One hundred homes on Cowessess First Nation will be warmer and cheaper to maintain this winter, thanks to the SaskEnergy Home Energy Efficiency Project.
The project aims at providing tools to reduce communities' energy costs, as well as teach them how they can help themselves and others to make their homes more energy efficient.
The day featured a presentation at the local school, a community BBQ, a donation of a natural gas range and dryer to the Cowessess Day Care, the distribution of energy efficiency kits to the community and a training session which taught residents how to complete their own home upgrades, even after the SaskEnergy reps are long-gone.
Roughly 50 Cowessess volunteers got together to help fix up 100 houses, selected by the community, that were in need of tweaking. Shannon Doka, Community Involvement Co-ordinator for SaskEnergy, was delighted at the way Cowessess residents pitched in to help. She and the other SaskEnergy representative have grown accustomed to setting up the events by themselves, and were pleasantly surprised to find around 15 Cowessess volunteers waiting to help out hours earlier than originally planned.
"It was just amazing. They had the product all organized - all we had to do was come in and start packing - it was fabulous," Doka laughed. "So that's one of the best experiences I'll take away from Cowessess. It's awesome. Great team atmosphere and community-minded, so it speaks well for the leadership here on Cowessess, that's for sure."
The home improvements completed include the preparation of windows and doors for winter, the replacement of standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights, furnace filter replacements, installation of gaskets around light switches and plug plug-ins, and installation of programmable thermostats.
Doka feels one of the the most significant changes has been the programmable thermostats, which can greatly reduce the energy being used needlessly throughout the day.
"People get into the habit of setting the timers. If they're not going to be home, they let it be down during the day, and folks can save a little bit of money."
She feels that the program is an ideal way to let customers know that they can take steps on their own to save energy, and money.
"We're building good relationships with our customers. It's part of our overall awareness campaign that easy, simple improvements can be done by anybody. Every volunteer that is working here today, they find out what we're doing for others, and yet they can take it home to their own homes and do it themselves."
Cowessess Housing Councillor Bruce Delorme feels the changes being made are going to help Cowessess tremendously.
"It's amazing, what they're doing here for the band. It's going to be a big help," he said.
He is excited not only about the initial home improvements being done, but also by the fact that the people of Cowessess are learning how to improve their own energy efficiency.
"It'll be an education for our band membership, so it's going to benefit us in many ways."
Delorme had the opportunity to implement some of the home improvements at Cowessess, and was delighted with the positive reaction from home-owners.
"They're really happy with it, and I hope many more are. It's bringing our community together. This is a very good thing," Delorme said.
"I just want to thank SaskEnergy for giving us the opportunity to do some work for our people at their cost, which is very good, and if it's going to save us money, it's even better."
Gillis Lavallee, Manager of Aboriginal Relations with SaskEnergy, feels that the project is beneficial for SaskEnergy as well as participating communities.
"We've done a lot of work in the different urban centres and of course, First Nation communities play a large part in this province, and they're actually major customers of ours at SaskEnergy as well."
He says residents have been surprised at the major improvements that can be made using such simple techniques.
"A lot of the time, people don't think that insulator kits and putting plastic on the windows is going to make much of a difference. One of the individuals here was just saying how he noticed the difference already, putting the shrink-wrap on the windows. So you notice the changes instantly."
According to SaskEnergy, the Home Energy Efficiency Project has helped approximately 1481 families to become more energy efficient since 2005. The program goal is to help 2,500 Saskatchewan families by the year 2010.
The project is put on by SaskEnergy, in partnership with SIAST and the Salvation Army. Through this year's Home Energy Efficiency Project, SaskEnergy and community volunteers will be helping 500 families across Saskatchewan.