Written for my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner.
Last spring I wrote about the premature end to the federal ecoENERGY home retrofit grants. A popular and successful program which created good local jobs while helping Canadians save energy and money, there was no good reason to end it. (Unless, of course, to re-introduce it with much fanfare next spring, which is what I suspect and hope will happen.)
But in the meantime, there is still an option. The federal program offered $5,000 in rebates per home; provinces like Ontario matched it, getting you up to $10,000. And although federal funding stopped last spring, provincial grants continue for now. That means you can still get support to increase your home’s energy efficiency. Ontario will even put $150 towards your initial evaluation.
I took advantage of this program last year, accessing federal and provincial grants to replace doors and a furnace and add roof insulation. The rebates were good, but the energy savings are great. Looking forward, I predict our family will save thousands of dollars in heating, gas and water costs. That’s tax-free money in our pockets.
The first step is having your home audited by a certified inspector. They give you a custom report listing things you could do to improve efficiency, and how much each measure will save. Standard are replacing windows and doors with newer, better-insulated ones, or upgrading your furnace to a more efficient model. One of the best ways to use this program is with something you need to do anyway. If your furnace is getting on in years, or you plan to redo your windows, it can’t hurt to have the province pitch in.
Sometimes you can combine grants. Periodically the gas company offers rebates on furnace or water heater upgrades, which can be stacked with the provincial program. We replaced toilets with new low-flow dual-flush models on sale at Home Depot, received a City rebate for installing them, then got federal and Ontario grants on top of that. All told we got back more than the purchase price, so we are ahead from Day One, even before the water savings kick in.
Ontario’s Home Energy Savings Program expires in March and might not be renewed; no-one can predict when a federal program will be re-launched. But the sooner you lock in savings, the more you save. That’s why I recommend getting your home evaluated and doing some of the retrofits now. You have nothing to lose but waste, and that’s something we can all do without.
Update: last week I wrote about the Barrie Free Clothing Centre. They have a particular need for men’s clothing right now, so if you have any to spare, please donate. The Centre is open Thursday to Saturday, 12:30 – 3:30 pm, behind 110 Dunlop St. E.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is an educator, father, volunteer, and politician.