• Home Improvement
  • Home Envelope

Planning Home Upgrades for Financial and Carbon Effeciency

The Waddell-Shankland Household

By The Waddell-Shankland Household

Moving into an old house, we knew that we wanted to do some fix-ups, and that we would make sure that we did them with carbon footprint and energy efficiency as key considerations. We also knew that there are rebates and incentives available here in Ontario (and across Canada, but different in each province), and that you need to follow the process in the right order. However, it is easy to get overwhelmed with all the info online – and to be dissuaded by the stories of friends and family who may have endured frustration trying to make their homes energy efficient with a smaller budget.

In our experience thus far (granting we’re not through it yet!) there are 2 things that really help:

  1. Do the steps in order – read through and understand the process, but don’t try to think too far ahead as you’re going or it gets confusing. Just follow the steps as they are laid out and focus on where you are now – everything will come in due time. The steps are laid out below.
  2. Find a good guide – we were really lucky to have a good advisor (thanks Bob Tellier at All Green in Windsor!! Video below is of Bob laying out wisdom on insulation materials) who was patient in walking us through and answering questions and giving guidance.  Get a recommendation on an advisor and go with your gut, because they will be your friend over the next many months 😊

The Steps

There are numerous resources online (for eg Canada greener homes guidelines or the Enbridge guide) laying out the process for getting rebates. BUT, we found that the process for the homeowner is a bit different, as there is lots to think about and consider beyond just the rebates/loans. We wanted to share our experience to date and the steps we are taking. In the posts to come, I’ll walk through each of these using our house as an example and providing some tips, so stay tuned!

STEP 0: Decide on your budget.  Most guides say to start with the energy audit.  However, we really recommend to first start by understanding what you can afford. There will be up front costs that you can recoup in efficiency savings over the years, BUT you will be out of pocket for a while, and you need to decide what you can afford to be out in the first year or two. Even some small money is enough to get some significant changes done after rebates though, so don’t worry if your budget is small (like ours was after putting all of our savings into our downpayment on the house)!  As the money guy, Arthur runs all our budget numbers (it may look like he’s on Spotify there listening to David Bowie, but don’t believe it..)

STEP 1+2: Get an energy audit done. Very importantly, (1) find a good auditor/guide in your area, and (2) get the audit done as this is required FIRST to get any rebates, and will tell you where you will get the best “bang-for-buck” interventions.


STEP 3: Prioritize your interventions using your budget.  Go through the interventions suggested in the audit in order of the highest impact and, with your advisor, figure out what the ballpark out-of-pocket costs for each one will be after rebates.  Assemble a few options that will be the most impactful, but also meet your design/home ambitions – and make sure the packages are inside your budget!  Also remember to set aside a bit of contingency for any unforeseen circumstances that may arise. As an architect, Crystal knows that the unforeseen ALWAYS occurs, especially with renovations and uncovering things you may not have known were an issue during the construction process.

STEP 4: Get quotes.  This part can be a real pain and you need to be patient with very busy tradespeople. However, talk to your guide for advice, ask around, and it will come together. It is also important at this stage to think/ask about materials to be used and the makes of the heaters/solar: cheaper is not always better in the long term; people tend to sell what they know how to do and not what may be best for you; and embodied carbon can be a huge problem in many solutions being pushed (more to come on this, but the image here for insulation materials from this great site that has most materials ready).  Take time to understand, and take courage!  This step will take the longest and make you question pretty much everything, but you’ll get through ✊.

STEP 5: Apply for the Greener Home Loans here once you know basically what you want to do and after you’ve gotten your quotes. Most guides we’ve seen say this is optional, but I think that almost everyone should do it – it will take time to get the work done, and the rebates can take 8 months to a year to come through. The Greener Homes loan is zero interest for 10 years, so you won’t be out of pocket for that time.  Unless you’ve got poor credit and just don’t qualify (sorry!), or so much money you just don’t care about money (congrats!), we say just do it…

STEP 6: Get the work done.  Select your contractors – most work can be done on spec, but be prepared that some may need a deposit. Take pictures before, during and after. Only pay when the job is done to you and your advisors satisfaction!

STEP 7: Get the final audit done and get paid.  Get the advisor in to conduct the final review and then get your money back –  and enjoy lower monthly bills, a prettier and more valuable house, and the satisfied glow of someone who’s done their part for the environment 🙂

NB and Caveat – As mentioned, we’re still only at stage 5 and, as Socrates said, “never judge a man’s life until he is dead”. There is still plenty of time for this to go sideways, and we’ll keep everyone updated here as the work unfolds. BUT so far its been really a pretty straightforward process, and we’re really excited to get the work done and feeling confident!

Written by The Waddell-Shankland Household

Read more of their stories as they vie with the other seven households to reduce their carbon footprint.

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