In our first post on the overall process of an energy retrofit, we said that the most important first thing to do is to set yourself a realistic budget. After that, you’ll need to find an energy advisor who can walk you through step 2, getting an home energy audit done. In this post, we’ll walk through our experience of this initial set-up phase for an home efficiency retrofit.
STEP 0: Decide on your budget.
Most guides say to start with the audit, but we found that it is really important to first start by understanding what you can afford – there will be costs (that you can recoup in efficiency savings) but you will be out of pocket for the first bit, and you need to decide what you can afford. Even a bit is enough to get started though!
Once you’re into the process and getting ideas and quotes on upgrades, it’s easy to get excited by all the different things you can do, and to get lost in all the rebates / loans and different solutions for each problem (insulation/sealing, heat/cooling, electricity use). The key at this early stage is to pick a north star number on affordability that you can always refer back to. This number will guide what interventions you prioritise and how you interact with contractors and funders, and will help ensure you don’t end up in over your head and regretting it later.
The key number here is what you can afford to be out-of-pocket for the next 2-3 years. For sure, you’ll be able to recoup what you spend in reduced electricity/gas bills over time – and see real financial benefits over 5 years. But, in the short term, it’s money that you don’t have to pay other bills. Let’s call this amount X$. Hold onto this number and commit to it! You will need it throughout the entire process.
Note that this X$ is NOT the amount that you will be able to spend, but it’s the amount that you personally will be out after rebates and loans etc. This amount does need to be greater than 0$, but even a small amount (two thousand dollars plus?) will often be enough to do some work on an older house, and to then earn back and make extra money with in efficiency savings over the next 5 years (and beyond).
STEP 1: Find a Good Energy Advisor/Auditor
Very importantly, an auditor (also called a Service Provider) is required at the start and end of any upgrades to get rebates/loans. More than this, your auditor will also be able to advise you on what interventions are the most impactful, connect you to relevant contractors and suppliers, and help you to apply/register on rebates platforms. He or she will be your sherpa throughout the process, and will ensure you get your money, so it is critical to take the time to find the right person. That which begins well, ends well!
To find a service provider / auditor, ideally ask for referrals and references from folks in your community who’ve been through the process, but you can also check this list, do google searches, or register on the Enbridge Greener Homes site, as they should also help you to find service providers in your area.
For anyone in the the Windsor-Essex area in South-West Ontario, we are happy to strongly recommend Bob at All Green who we’ve been working with!
STEP 2: Get the Audit.
Once we’d decided to go with Bob, his first step for him was to come by and do our audit. The whole audit took about ½ day, involving lots of visual inspections plus something called a “blow test” that determines how leaky your house is. In our case, we had an air exchange rate of almost 12 – meaning that our house is having all its air heated 12 times every hour, as compared to a new house that is closer to 3-5 times! Its interesting more generally as well, as you can end up learning a lot about your house in every way (and not just from an energy perspective).
Results and next steps will be shared in the next post!