Worth the en­ergy

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - MIKE HOLMES

IF you could do a ren­o­va­tion on your home that cost you a frac­tion of what it’s worth, and that con­tin­ued to save you money as long as you owned your home, wouldn’t you do it? That’s what you can get with the eco-EN­ERGY retro­fit pro­gram.

This pro­gram is of­fered through the fed­eral govern­ment, which has in­creased the amount of grant money for en­ergy-ef­fi­cient ren­o­va­tion retrofits. There’s an ex­tra $300 mil­lion be­ing in­vested over the next two years. Most prov­inces — and now some even lo­cal gov­ern­ments — are step­ping up as well to match the avail­able money, dol­lar for dol­lar. For ex­am­ple, you can get up to $5,000 in fed­eral and up to $5,000 in pro­vin­cial re­bates on work you’ve had done to im­prove the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency of your home.

The point of the eco-EN­ERGY retro­fit grant is to get home­own­ers to do ren­o­va­tions that ef­fec­tively re­duce green­house gases and air pol­lu­tion. It’s a great way to im­prove the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency of your home, re­duce con­sump­tion and the im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment. So you save money and re­duce your car­bon foot­print.

The money is non-tax­able and is avail­able for up­grades on heat­ing sys­tems, ven­ti­la­tion, air con­di­tion­ing, win­dows, doors and even toi­let up­grades. You can re­place old in­ef­fi­cient fur­nace/AC or wa­ter heaters; im­prove in­su­la­tion so your house isn’t leak­ing heat; re­place drafty win­dows and doors.

To take ad­van­tage of it, you need to first have an en­ergy au­dit or eval­u­a­tion of your home, by a cer­ti­fied au­di­tor. The en­ergy au­dit will show you where your home is los­ing en­ergy through air leak­age, drafts and ar­eas of heat loss and where you can im­prove its per­for­mance. (**If you don’t have an en­ergy au­dit BE­FORE you do the up­grade, you will not qual­ify for the re­bate.)

The en­ergy au­di­tor uses the blower door test to mea­sure the rate of air leak­age in your home. An en­ergy-ef­fi­cient home will have very lit­tle air leak­age. To do the test, all win­dows and doors are closed and into one of the ex­te­rior doors an ad­justable panel is fit­ted with a fan. The fan is turned on, draw­ing air out, and the in­te­rior house pres­sure is re­duced. This al­lows ex­te­rior air to leak in through un­sealed open­ings or cracks. The rate of that flow, or air in­fil­tra­tion, is mea­sured and those cal­cu­la­tions tell what your home’s en­ergy ef­fi­ciency rat­ing is.

Au­di­tors are able to lo­cate drafts and they’ll note the lo­ca­tions of leaks and give that in­for­ma­tion to the home­owner in the en­ergy au­dit. Now the home­owner knows what they need to fix, and where the leaks are so they can do the re­pairs and up­grades.

Af­ter your ini­tial au­dit, you’ll get an eval­u­a­tion re­port and a rat­ing. Then, you can think about what kind of en­ergy up­grades you want to do, and what you can af­ford.

Then, af­ter you’ve had the work done, you have to make sure you get an­other eval­u­a­tion to ver­ify you’ve made the nec­es­sary im­prove­ments. This will prove you have a higher rat­ing and the im­prove­ments you made have in­creased the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency of your home.

Af­ter your first au­dit, you have 18 months of com­plete some or all of the work, then book your postretrofit au­dit. Then, you can ap­ply to your pro­vin­cial and fed­eral — and in some cases, mu­nic­i­pal — gov­ern­ments for the re­bate.

You must make sure the work and the post-retro­fit eval­u­a­tion is done be­fore the pro­gram ends (March 31, 2011). And of course, keep all proof of work done (work or­ders, re­ceipts). You need doc­u­men­ta­tion. The work will need to be ver­i­fied dur­ing the fi­nal en­ergy au­dit.

You can do sim­ple jobs to take ad­van­tage of the re­bate; it doesn’t need to be very com­pli­cated. Re­place a toi­let or your fur­nace. Ob­vi­ously, up­grad­ing your in­su­la­tion is a big­ger job as it in­volves tear­ing out dry­wall and plas­ter and re­plac­ing it. Win­dows are a big­ger job than doors since you have more of them.

Some fixes are cheap, like caulk­ing your win­dows. Some will cost a lot more, like buy­ing new En­er­gyS­tar ap­pli­ances or re­plac­ing your win­dows with En­er­gyS­tar rated ones. But ev­ery­thing you do to im­prove the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency of your home will help.

— Canwest News Ser­vice

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