Get cash back for energy-saving improvements

Feeling a draft? Still running old appliances? You could be doing more harm to
the environment — and your budget — than you think.

According to statistics from the Canadian Government, about 17 per cent of
all energy produced goes into powering our homes. With rising energy costs and
an increasing concern for the environment, more and more people are looking
at ways to save money and energy through home improvement. The government estimates
that energy-efficient upgrades can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to
4 tonnes per household and reduce energy use by 30 per cent. That can total
a savings of $700 – $2000 per year for homeowners.

And the older your home, the greater the benefit. On average, homes that are
more than 25 years old can save up to 35 per cent of their energy use. Homes
over 50 years can save even more.

But as the saying goes, it costs money to make money (or in this case save
money). Before you plan your next home improvement, take a look at some of the
many programs out there that offer savings and money back.

The Federal Government ecoENERGY Program

This federal program currently offers up to $5000 in rebates for home improvements
and retrofits that will save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help
the environment. But how can you tap into that resource? Here’s how it works:

– Start by getting an energy audit from a qualified National Resources Canada
(NRCan)-licensed advisor.

– During this pre-retrofit evaluation, the advisor will examine your home and
recommend improvements that will help save energy.

– You complete any or all of the upgrades and improvements on your list. There
is a flat amount set for each qualifying upgrade.

– Once the work is complete, the advisor will come back for a post-retrofit
evaluation. You and your advisor complete the grant form and submit the paperwork.

– You receive your cheque within 90 days.

See the ecoENERGY
Program website
for full details.

Provincial Programs

The Federal program is just a start — most provinces have some sort of energy-saving
initiative that offers rebates and savings on home improvement. Some programs
mirror the ecoENERGY program, while others are offered through energy companies
or other partnerships.

Here’s a brief rundown:

offers rebates and financing for upgrading insulation and installing
programmable thermostats.

– Nova Scotia’s EnerGuide
for Houses
covers 2/3 of assessment costs and offers up to $1500 in rebates,
plus a free energy savings kit.

– New Brunswick’s Efficiency
offers $400 towards energy assessments and up to $2000 for upgrades.
An interest-free loan of up to $10,000 is another option.

– Prince Edward Island’s Energy
Efficiency Loan/Grant Programs
energy assessments will cost only $100 each.
Grants take the form of a PST and GST rebate of up to $1500 for the work that
is completed. Energy efficient windows and doors are eligible for a separate
grant of $30 per window or door up to $500.

– Québec offers programs through Gaz
and Hydro
. The former bases its grants on the amount of natural gas
conserved or a flat fee for system components, windows, etc. The latter rewards
improvement based on the initial and final EnerGuide ratings.

– Ontario’s Retrofit
Rebate Program
pays half of energy assessment costs up to $150, and offers
up to $5000 in rebates. <!–Enbridge
Gas Distribution
and the–> The Ontario
Power Authority
also has aprogram.

– Manitoba’s Power
Smart Programs
cover a variety of areas such as appliances, renewable energy
and insulation. Many of the programs, such as the specialized W.I.S.E. program
for seniors, are of limited duration.

– Saskatchewan EnerGuide
for Houses
offers up to $5000 in rebates.

– In Alberta, various cities offer incentives for people buying energy-efficient
homes. For example, Edmonton offers rebates on high efficiency furnaces. See
the CO2RE
for more information.

– British Columbia’s LiveSmart
program is based on the type of improvement or product. It could be a
flat rate per item, a percentage of the cost or PST-free.

– Northwest Territories’ Energy
Efficiency Initiative
offers rebates for newer energy efficient products.
An energy assessment is not necessary, but the program offers free consultations.

Though not covered in this article, there are programs available for businesses,
condos and rental properties as well as new energy-efficient homes (such as
a break on your mortgage). Grants and interest free loans may also be available,
and in some cases there are special initiatives for low income households (earning
less than $40,000 per year).

In addition, there may be local programs in your province or city, such as
rebates on appliances or programmable thermostats. Many governments partner
with companies to offer discounts and rebates. Check your city or province’s
website for more information.

The catch?

The money sounds great, but there are a couple of things to watch out for:

– Your second evaluation can take place no later than 18 months after the first.
Some careful planning may be required to get the work completed within the allotted
amount of time.

– Check the numbers. Though some programs offer up to $5000 back, there is
a set amount allowable for certain upgrades. For example, you can expect windows to come in around $30-$60 each, and something as large as a furnace to range from $600 to $1000 depending on the type.

– The total cost of the two evaluations can range from $300 to $600 depending on
your location and the size of your home. Consider if your province subsidizes
this amount, and factor in how much you can expect to receive in rebates (there
is a usually a pre-set amount). You might not break even if you’re only making
minor changes.

– Many programs can only be accessed once. If you use your chance on minor
improvements, you could lose out when it comes time to make major ones. (A warning:
keep an eye out for program changes or cancellations).

– Grants and rebates aren’t retroactive. In other words, you can’t apply for
money for work that’s already been completed without that initial assessment.
If your furnace dies suddenly, you won’t get a rebate unless your home is inspected
before you replace it.

– The improvements you make have to be recommended by your advisor otherwise
they don’t qualify.

The bottom line: While you’re planning your home improvements, spend a little
time researching what rebates are available. Find out what improvements are
eligible and how much you can receive before you book an audit. As always, be
sure to read the fine print and look for limits and exclusions.

Photo © Audrey Roorda


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