For the typical homeowner based in Toronto, the current options are very limited. For approximately five years the Federal Government ran a very successful program called the Eco-Energy Retrofit. This program provided up to $5,000 for improving the energy efficiency of your home including installation of new windows, adding wall insulation, and improving heating and cooling equipment. The incentive money was relatively simple to receive as long as a prescribed process was followed. Regrettably, this program was phased out in March of 2012.
The second incentive program that is easily achieved is offered by Save On Energy for Heating and Cooling upgrades. They will provide incentives of up to $650 on eligible Energy Star rated central heating and cooling systems purchased from and installed by a participating contractor. Save On Energy estimates that purchasing the eligible new heating and cooling systems could save the homeowner up to $325 per year in energy costs (gas and electricity). If you are in the process of renovating your home, or looking to replace your furnace or air conditioning system, this incentive is easy to apply for and receive and will contribute to the purchase cost of the new heating and/or cooling equipment. If your systems are still in working order and are less than 10 years old, the homeowner will need to decide if upgrading is worth the capital cost and determine if the payback period is sufficient to warrant purchasing new systems.
The third and more difficult program through which to receive incentive funding is offered by Enbridge. The Community Energy Conservation Program provides rebates of up to $2,000. This pilot program is for energy retrofit including increasing insulation and thermal performance of the house achieved through adding insulation, reducing air leakage and/or new heating and cooling systems. The program has four (4) steps including: determining eligibility; a pre-retrofit energy audit; installation of upgrades; and post-retrofit audit.
First, there are only certain areas in York, Toronto, Niagara and Ottawa that are eligible for the pilot program. Confirmation of eligibility can be found on the program’s website. Second, the homeowner must engage a Certified Energy Auditor to review and audit the energy performance level of the house prior to any renovations. This process includes a blower door test and review of the current heating and cooling systems, walls, roof and floors. The Energy Auditor will recommend upgrades for the house in order to improve energy efficiency. Third, the homeowner must undertake home renovations as recommended by the Energy Auditor. This can include increasing attic insulation, replacing windows, wall insulation improvements and heating and cooling systems upgrades. The fourth and final step is to have another home energy audit after all renovations are complete to determine the energy performance of the house compared to the pre-renovation audit. This final step determines the amount of incentive funding the homeowner will receive. The incentive funding relates to the increase in energy efficiency by certain thresholds (30%, 40% and 50%) which correspond to rebate amounts ($1,200, $1600 and $2,000).
Enbridge’s incentive funding will cover the costs of the energy audits as well as some of the retrofit costs. This process is similar to that previously offered by the Federal Government through the Eco-Energy Retrofit program; however the funding is significantly less for about the same amount of effort on the part of the homeowner. This is still a worthwhile endeavour if the homeowner is planning on retrofitting the house. However, if the renovation includes an addition, the process is much more difficult as the final home size will be bigger than previously and skew the energy audit comparison as a bigger house typically consumes more energy. This may result in a lower incentive. Alternatively, to achieve the highest threshold of incentive funding the homeowner may engage an energy modeller to demonstrate the energy savings of the bigger house; however the fee for the energy modelling will likely negate any additional incentive. Pursuing this incentive will need to be carefully weighed by the homeowner to determine if both feasible and worthwhile to pursue.
Although current energy efficiency incentive programs are limited there are still opportunities for homeowners to receive funding through other programs. These include retrofits designed to assist elderly homeowners to retrofit their home to be safer and more accessible. The Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit program is offered by the Province of Ontario for seniors 65 years of age of older and consists of a tax rebate on expenditures for eligible home renovations. For example, if the homeowner spends $10,000 they will be eligible to receive 15% back – or $1,500. This process is applied for through annual tax returns.
Although not an incentive program, another opportunity exists through private companies that install solar panels on residential roofs. Companies such as Pure Energies offer free installation, maintenance and up-keep of a roof-top solar system for 20 years. Each year they provide the homeowner with a rebate cheque and after 20 years the homeowner will own the system. Their business model relies upon a current government program called microFIT. They sell energy to the province of Ontario at a fixed rate, and give the homeowner an annual rebate as a 'thank you' for use of their roof. The rebate will offset the homeowner’s electricity costs each year. The benefit of this option is that the company will connect the homeowner to the electrical grid and have the connection ready for the homeowner’s benefit 20 years from now. This is an interesting option instead of having to pay for a solar system now that would be entirely to the homeowner’s benefit. The free maintenance is also good because it will give the homeowner an idea of how much maintenance is required over a 20 year period instead of having to incur this cost directly. If you have a large roof with great sun exposure, this program may be a good option.
With the limited incentive funding currently available, each homeowner will need to assess their goals and priorities for their home renovations. All energy saving retrofits are worthwhile; however the availability of incentive funding to undertake these renovations may unintentionally cause a homeowner to post-pone or reduce the amount of retrofits undertaken on their home.
If you have any questions regarding current residential rebates and incentives, or are interested in commercial incentive funding, feel free to drop us a note.