Understanding Energy Audits

If every cloud has a silver lining then one sparkling item has definitely come from the high cost of energy for heating and lighting a home. This is that homeowners are finally realizing that many of the older homes, and some newer ones, do not have adequate protection against the cold winters in this country. In fact science guru David Suzuki is featured in television ads showing his head through a hole in a homeowner’s wall letting people know that most homes have leaks that add up to the size of a basketball. By some other calculations this hear loss could be the size of a car.

Of course renovating is expensive even in good times but when money is tight it can be easily pushed aside for “more important uses.” However, what could be more important than cutting the fuel bill down by hundreds of dollars a year? And to get the ball rolling the federal government has initiated a program of rebates under the ecoEnergy program that will stimulate homeowners to greater savings. It’s like priming a pump. It takes a lot of effort at first but then the rewards begin to flow.

Canada ecoEnergy Refit Program

Launched in the spring of 2007 the ecoEnergy program for homes offers up to $5,000 in federal rebates for people who renovate their homes with energy-saving products such as insulation, windows and heating sources. All retrofits must demonstrate that an energy advantage was gained by the renovations and this is calculated through an energy audit of the home before the upgrades take place.

In addition, some provinces like Ontario and British Columbia offer an additional $5,000 rebate based on the same federal audit for a total of $10,000 returned to the homeowner. Other provincial rebates are available and vary from region to region.

Energy Audit

To understand what the home lacks in heat protection requires an assessment by experienced ecoEnergy people who understand how an interior environment works. By going to the Canadian Natural Resources site at www.nrcan.gc.ca the homeowner can find a list of accredited inspectors. These people will go through the home and point out all the areas where energy can be saved: more attic insulation, furnace upgrade, window replacement, etc. In addition they will show how a little do-it-yourself work like caulking, placing insulating pads behind outlet plates and covering windows with plastic will save money with a few dollars invested. Here is a list of what they do:

  1. Blower Door Test: The inspectors will place a tent-like covering over the front door and seal it tight. A large hose goes back to a specialized truck when a large fan will suck the air out of the home. Many leaks will heard as whistles but the inspectors will do a smoke test by windows and doors to see if air is coming in.
  2. Standby Power Loss: May appliances like televisions and computers are in stand-by mode, which means they draw a certain amount of power all the time. This will pointed out to the homeowner.
  3. Insulation: Another area where is a large amount of energy loss is in the attic. They will assess the home’s insulation levels so that there is a minimum of R-45 or 15 inches of fiberglass or blow-in insulation in the this space. In addition they will inspect basement walls to see that there is no bare concrete in living spaces. Heat is sucked out of the home through concrete and these should be insulated.
  4. Heating and Cooling: Furnaces older than 15 years should be replaced even if they are working properly. The new high-efficiency gas and oil furnaces use two-thirds to one-half the fuel of their predecessors. In addition other systems will be explored such as heat pumps, off-peak electric heat and solar –assisted heat sources. For example, combined rebates in Ontario will see systems such as geothermal heat pump bringing a rebate of up to $7,000 while an efficient oil furnace will see $1,000. Solar hot water-assist systems will reward the homeowner with $1,000.

This audit is not paid for the by the government and the homeowner usually pays about $150. However, the pay-back comes in the form of a comprehensive report detailing how the home should be renovated for the best energy savings. Once these items have been addressed then the inspectors return and calculate the rebate. This audit can also be shown to the provincial authorities to be admitted into their programs.

Renovation Rebate

Another renovation bonus that is completely separate from the ecoEnergy is the new tax rebate put in place by the federal government. The Home Renovation Tax Credit (HRTC) will allow homeowners to renovate almost anything in their homes from decks to shingles and get a return on their 2009 Canadian income taxes for 15% of the cost up to $1350.

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