Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Jonesing for an Energy Audit

My house has an insulation problem. It doesn’t have any. If Jane and I were caught up in the terrible blackout that plagued Toronto’s west-end from January 15 to 16, our house would have transformed into a deep freezer.

For the privilege of living in a drafty house, Jane and I pay hefty utility bills and a heftier carbon toll – 3.91 tonnes to be exact or half my total greenhouse gas emissions in 2008.

Up until now we’ve focused on the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of greenhouse gas reductions, such as installing compact florescent light bulbs, hanging laundry to dry year-round, choosing local and organic produce and products, enjoying a vegetarian diet, biking and taking transit, and of course reducing, reusing and recycling. If you’ve been following my blog, you know what I’m talking about.

Jane and I have done all we can to live lightly but we have to prepare for the next step. It’s time to get serious about calling in a home energy auditor.

Energy Audit
Solar panels and geothermal are fun and all, but first things first. Before transforming our home into an energy producer, we need to ensure that it’s not an energy drainer.

Our governments provide homeowners like Jane and me with incentives to make our houses more energy-efficient.

For my American friends, the U.S. Department of Energy currently provides financing solutions and incentives for homes and businesses. Click here to learn more. With the new administration I am sure (hope) that a more comprehensive program is to come.

Canadians have the ecoENERGY Retrofit – Homes Program, which provides rebates for home energy efficiency renovations. These are the steps to follow:
  • Call in a licensed energy auditor to evaluate the home and provide a comprehensive assessment and energy efficiency rating (between 1 and 100, with 100 being most efficient). I can only imagine what the rating of our house will be. The full cost to do so is about $300 with half that covered by the provincial government. In my case that’s Ontario. So we will pay about $150.
  • Do the work based on the auditor’s advice. The average cost to retrofit a home is $5,000. This may include insulating the attic and walls, installing energy efficient windows and doors, caulking up the cracks, etc.
  • After the work is done, or 18 months have passed, call in the auditor again for a final assessment. Based on your rating – and how much it’s improved – the federal and provincial governments will provide up to $5,000 in rebates. Check your provincial government for how much they are willing to kick in. In Ontario, it’s up to $5,000.

Financial Assistance and Incentives
Retrofits require money upfront. Jane and I have been working with our Mortgage Broker Bonnie Smith at Invis about securing a Home Equity Line of Credit with the institution that handles our mortgage. The timing is good due to the current low interest rates. This way we will increase home comfort – and possibly home value - while decreasing utility costs. The government rebates will help offset the overall retrofit price. In addition, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), and Genworth Financial Canada offer a 10 percent refund on mortgage loan insurance premiums when a borrower buys or builds an energy-efficient home or makes energy-saving renovations to an existing home.

TD Bank has pioneered the Green Mortgage and Green Home Equity Line of Credit. Jane and I plan to fold our loan in with our current mortgage, otherwise we’d contact TD.

I will keep you posted on our progress.

In the News

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