Tips to know before starting home energy retrofits

With winter approaching and a potential 9% electricity rate hike slated for spring, many people are wondering how to save on their electricity bills.

Heat pump installers and energy efficiency advocates say now is a good time to make energy-efficient home upgrades.

CBC News spoke to the people who run the government’s incentive programs to find out what help is available and how to get it.

Here is the descent.

Enhanced Energy Savings Program

Who can get it:

Resident owners with a total household income of less than $70,000.

No matter if :

  • You receive Social Development benefits.
  • You have already used the Total Home Energy Savings program or started an application to it.

What it covers:

  • Insulation.
  • Air tightness.
  • Heat pumps.

All as recommended by the energy advisor working for the program, Greenfoot Energy Solutions.

How much does it cost:

The total cost of upgrades. It is budgeted for about 2,000 households per year.

How to get it:

  1. Apply at saveenergynb.ca or call NB Power.
  2. An energy consultant will recommend upgrade options and NB Power must approve.
  3. Greenfoot takes care of the rest.

Total Home Energy Savings Program

Who can get it:

Any homeowner in the province with any income level and any type of heating system.

The House:

  • Can be a single family home, detached, side by side, townhouse or mobile home on a permanent foundation.
  • Must be finished with siding and covered walls and have kitchen, bathroom, insulation and heating system.
  • Must be a maximum of three stories and less than 6,458 square feet.

The program can be used:

  • Several times.
  • In addition to the enhanced energy saving program, before or after completing this program.

What it covers:

  • Heat pump radiators.
  • Energy Star oil or gas boilers or furnaces.
  • High efficiency pellet stoves, boilers, furnaces and fireplace inserts, propane or natural gas fireplace inserts and wood stoves.
  • Energy Star gas water heater.
  • Waste water heat recovery.
  • Heat pump water heater.
  • Energy Star windows, doors and skylights.
  • Heat recovery ventilators.
  • Energy Star variable speed pool pumps.
  • Solar water heaters.
  • Solar energy systems.
  • Air tightness.

How much does it cost:

A fixed amount to cover part of the cost of each eligible item.

Examples:

  • $0.40 to $3 per square foot of insulation, varying depending on the section of the house and the resulting improvement in R-value.
  • $50 for a window.
  • $400 for a mini split heat pump.
  • $500 for an oil furnace.
  • Up to $550 for a 25% reduction in air leaks.
  • $2,000 for a geothermal heat pump.
Beth Pollock, senior manager of energy efficiency services at NB Power, says heat pumps can save a household about $500 a year in energy costs. (Submitted by NB Power)

The average homeowner who participates in the program receives about $1,700, said Beth Pollock, senior manager of NB Power’s energy efficiency services, but there’s no set limit.

Some receive $10,000, depending on the amount of work done.

How to get it:

  1. Complete an application at saveenergynb.ca or contact NB Power. You can choose from the three approved EnerGuide home evaluation providers (Enercheck Solutions, Homesol Building Solutions and ThermalWise Green Building Co-operative), or choose “no preference”.
  2. In about two weeks someone will come to your house to see what improvements are needed. The audit costs $100 to $200, depending on whether you are applying for both provincial and federal.
  3. Choose your upgrades and contractor and get the job done.
  4. Get a follow-up audit to measure improvement and show your receipts. A rebate will be sent to you by electronic transfer, direct deposit or mail.

Canadian Grant for Greener Homes

Who can get it:

Resident Canadian owners who:

  • Get an EnerGuide evaluation before starting any renovation or have one done since April 1, 2020.
  • Have a home older than six months.
  • Live in a detached, semi-detached or multi-unit residential building.

*Note: If you have already obtained a federal rebate for a heat pump, you may still be eligible for a grant to upgrade your system.

Two outdoor heating and air conditioning units installed on the side of a house with blue siding.
These outdoor mini-split heat pumps were installed by EcoTech Refrigeration and HVAC of Moncton. The provincial Total Home program offers $400 per mini-split heat pump. The Federal Greener Homes Grant offers up to $2,500 for one, but only if you have an interior head for each level of your home. (Submitted by EcoTech Refrigeration and HVAC )

What it covers:

  • Air tightness.
  • Insulation.
  • Windows and doors.
  • Smart thermostats (in combination with another upgrade).
  • Heat pump radiators.
  • Heat pump water heater.
  • Solar panels and inverter systems.
  • Batteries for storing solar energy.
  • Roof membrane.
  • Waterproofing of basement walls.
  • Waterproofing crawl space moisture.

*Multi-unit residential buildings with more than two units are not covered for heat pumps or thermostats.

How much does it cost:

Grants from $125 to $5,000, with lower maximum amounts for some of the various types of improvements.

Examples:

  • Up to $250 for each door or window.
  • Up to $1,000 per kw of solar power system capacity.
  • Up to $2,500 for a mini-split heat pump.
  • An additional payment of up to $600 for before and after energy assessments.

The program is budgeted for 700,000 grants over seven years. Since last winter, there had been more than 182,000 requests.

How to get it:

  1. Complete an application on the Natural Resources Canada website or, if needed, call 1-833-674-8282 or TTY: 1-800-465-7735.
  2. Have your EnerGuide evaluation done through the provincial network of energy advisors.
  3. Do at least one thing that has been recommended to save energy.
  4. Ask for an energy evaluation of your home after renovation.
  5. Submit your receipts, but keep copies.

Canada Loan for Greener Homes

Who is eligible:

  • Same group eligible for the Greener Homes Grant program (see above).
  • Aboriginal groups.

*Note that you cannot be approved if work has already started.

What is covered:

The same type of improvements listed in Canada’s Greener Homes Grant program, as recommended by an EnerGuide evaluation.

How much is available:

An interest-free loan of $5,000 to $40,000, repayable over 10 years. A maximum of one loan is available per qualifying property. Up to 15% may be available in advance for contractor deposits, if required, 25% for Aboriginal groups.

How to get it:

  1. Start with the Greener Homes Grant portal on the Natural Resources Canada website or call 1-866-292-9517.
  2. Once your home’s energy audit is complete, you will have the option of applying for a loan from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, or a grant, or a combination of both.
  3. Once the work is complete, get a follow-up energy audit.
  4. Download your receipts.

If you’ve already taken the grant program, you can still apply for a loan a few months later to make other recommended upgrades, said Abla Hanna, general manager of energy efficiency. .

A flowchart with six circles for the steps from requesting to receiving money
A graphic from the Natural Resources Canada website illustrating the Greener Homes program process. (Natural Resources Canada)

Insider tips for the best experience and highest returns

First complete the provincial form to initiate the home energy evaluation process. You can use the same verification for the federal program. And you can apply for both at the same time.

If you buy supplies or materials, make sure they are approved for each program you want to use:

  • For federal programs, all equipment must be purchased in Canada.
  • For heat pumps, there may be some on the federal list that are not on the provincial list.
  • For federal Greener Homes programs, heat pumps must be able to heat the whole house.

Be sure to use a licensed installer for electrical work and heat pumps.

You need a consent letter from your utility company for a grid-connected solar system.

If you want to get the federal rebate in addition to the provincial rebate, make sure you don’t start work until you’re in the approved phase of the Greener Homes process. And check your messages frequently if you’re expecting approval. Program staff may request more information.

Take full advantage of your EnerGuide home evaluation provider for advice on the best upgrades and help navigating the system, said Louise Comeau, director of climate change adaptation at the Conservation Council of New -Brunswick.

A woman with light brown hair, wearing sunglasses, smiling broadly and holding a basket of greens, with a view of a river valley in the background
Louise Comeau of the Conservation Council advises going as far as possible with energy upgrades to get the biggest savings on your heating and electric bills and to avoid having to reapply for incentive programs. (Conservation Council of New Brunswick)

Do as much of the recommended work as possible, Comeau said. The process isn’t as simple as it could be, so you probably wouldn’t want to repeat it. And the greater the energy savings, the more the renovations protect you from inflation and pay off over time.

If you would like to access the Enhanced Energy Savings Program, apply as soon as possible. There are about 35,000 households that could use it, Comeau said, and at the current level of funding, not all of them will be able to get it.

Requests are approved as they are processed, Pollock said, with a new batch sent to the contracted service provider every few days. She hopes that all applications received can be approved within the next two years.

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