With home heating costs skyrocketing across the country, and predictions that it will only get worse from here, it is no wonder why homeowners are seeking ways to lower their bills. It turns out that there is government help available to do so.
The federal government has partnered with Enbridge Gas to bring rebates for a wide variety of home upgrades. Canada’s Greener Homes Grant provides rebates – some worth thousands of dollars – for upgrades including home energy assessments, home insulation, air sealing, new windows and doors, space and water heating, smart thermostats, solar panels, and weather proofing. The goal is to make Canadian homes “greener” by increasing heating and cooling efficiency, and switching to energy sources that are renewable and cleaner.
The Government of Canada has contracted Enbridge Gas as its delivery partner for the program. To participate, homeowners must schedule a home energy assessment, complete at least one of the recommended upgrades, and then schedule a follow up assessment before receiving the grant for the specific upgrade(s) they completed. Up to $600 can be reimbursed for the assessments themselves. Rebates vary in amount, with some as low as $125 for a smart thermostat or $325 for each qualifying window and door, and the highest possible grant being $10,000 for upgrades to home insulation.
Local expert Rick Buffham has been eager to share his knowledge on one particular side of these home energy upgrades – the HVAC side. He explained that the federal and provincial governments are strongly pushing toward upgrades to heat pumps, which is what the HVAC rebates are currently focusing on.
Rick explained that home heating costs are unmanageable for a lot of people right now. “Being a rural contractor for as long as I’ve been, I can say that this has been a horrible year,” he said. “The fuel cost, especially when natural gas isn’t available, is absolutely the highest it has ever been.” For many customers in our area, particularly those outside of the denser settlement areas, reliance on ever more expensive energy sources – such as propane – is a reality.
The province is currently working to an eventual goal of all-electric heating, but that concept can be scary for many people who have been told over the course of decades that electricity is the most expensive way to heat. However, heat pump systems work differently. While they do operate using electricity, they use the environment as their source of heat. There are different models of heat pumps, including air source, ground source, and water source heat pumps. “This isn’t just straight electricity,” added Rick. “Air source heat pumps – yes they’re running with electricity, but they’re creating their own heat.”
Rick confirmed that Ontario does have expensive electricity, but because of the rising costs of other energy sources driven largely by federal carbon taxes, the gap is closing. He explained that even as recently as five years ago, a switch from all-electric heating (such as an electric furnace or baseboard heaters) to a propane furnace would save a homeowner about 25% in energy costs. Today, the same switch would probably not save the homeowner a penny. “The electrical stigma is definitely there, but this is heat pumps – the average efficiency of a geothermal heat pump is over 500%,” said Rick.
While heat pumps can be put in anywhere, HVAC professionals also know how to weigh different options for saving customers money. For example, Rick explained that some homes may need prohibitively expensive electrical panel upgrades in order to support a heat pump, in which case HVAC professionals can recommend other options for saving money. In addition, while heating with natural gas is still far less expensive than heating with propane or oil, these systems can have a heat pump added to make a “hybrid” system, which also has an advantage because heat pumps work for both heating and cooling.
The logical first step for saving money on home heating costs is to make upgrades to insulation, and to outdated doors and windows as needed. Rick explained that no matter what your fuel source is for your home heating, it makes sense to “tighten up” your house to keep the generated heat inside. When the insulation and windows are sufficient, it’s time to look at furnace upgrades, including heat pump options or the addition of a heat pump to a natural gas furnace. Although there is a cap on how much rebate money can be claimed for each household, the Greener Homes Grant provides guaranteed money for people who complete specified upgrades. This differs from some past rebate programs that were more complex and ambiguous.
For more information or for an HVAC consultation, visit https://www.rbheating.com/. More information about the Greener Homes Grant can be found at https://www.enbridgegas.com/residential/rebates-energy-conservation/home-efficiency-rebate-plus.