As energy conservation becomes more of a concern for both government and consumers, REALTORS® can better serve their clients by knowing more about heating system upgrades and government grant programs for them.
Clients who are interested in upgrading their heating systems can take advantage of the Ontario Home Energy Savings Program and the federal ecoEnergy Retrofit program which provide grants for retrofitting their homes. Homeowners can receive up to a combined maximum of $10,000 from both the provincial and federal government in grant money.
Only homes that have undergone a residential energy efficiency audit by an energy advisor certified by Natural Resources Canada will be eligible for grants under the ecoEnergy Retrofit program. So what’s involved?
Check for leaks and drafts
To qualify for federal grants and provincial rebates, homeowner must complete two home energy assessments: one pre-renovations and one post-renovations. Only renovations that begin after the initial assessment qualify. Renovations need to be completed by the earlier of either 18 months of receiving the pre-retrofit evaluation report or by March 31, 2011.
A typical energy audit consists of a walk-through to assess the home’s insulation, heating and cooling systems and other energy uses. The home’s ventilation, leaks and drafts are then identified using a “blower door” depressurization test. An evaluation report is produced and the advisor provides an EnerGuide rating label for the home. The energy advisor will submit the file to NRCan, who will then transfer the file to Ontario to process the audit grant cheque.
Once the audit is completed, the homeowner can choose which (or all) of the recommendations he or she wishes to implement. On completing the renovations, the homeowner should contact the energy advisor to perform the post-retrofit evaluation, and then submit the grant application. The homeowner should receive a grant cheque within 90 days of the post-retrofit evaluation.
All renovations, whether completed by the homeowner or a contractor, should be documented with receipts, photos and product literature to ensure full credit is received. After participating and completing the program, homeowners can register for another eligibility period in the program and continue with additional renovations.
Only energy advisors certified by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and employed by licensed service organizations can conduct energy audits under both programs. Licensed organizations can be found on the Natural Resources Canada website.
Grants vary based on the energy efficiency and the type of equipment purchased, however, each upgrade qualifies for a flat incentive amount. For example, replacing an existing heating system with an ENERGY STAR® qualified gas furnace with a 94 per cent annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating or higher and a brushless DC motor qualifies for $1300 in rebates ($650 federal $650 provincial), while replacing it with an ENERGY STAR® qualified gas furnace with a 92 per cent AFUE qualifies for $750 in rebates ($375 federal $375 provincial).
When replacing any heating equipment, the new equipment must have an efficiency rating equal to or higher than the original equipment. If the homeowner is installing two new systems, the second system must be of the same type and efficiency.
A table of grants available can be found at nrcan.gc.ca.
Aside from the rebates (up to a maximum of $10,000), the actual savings from participating in the program depend on the home’s condition and the types of upgrades chosen. Participants typically reduce their energy use by up to 30 per cent. This translates into a savings of $450 on a $1,500 annual heating bill.
Green Energy Act puts more focus on audits
The Government of Ontario put more focus on energy conservation when it introduced Bill 150, the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, in February 2009.
Among its provisions, Bill 150 included a requirement that all sellers of low rise residential units would have to produce a home energy audit at the time of sale.
OREA was successful in getting the government to amend Bill 150, because while it supports the government’s Home Energy Audit Rebate Program to encourage the voluntarily assessment of a home’s energy efficiency, mandatory audits will add costs to the real estate transaction that will make home ownership less affordable.
In the amendment to the bill, the government added a provision that allows purchasers to waive their right to receive an energy audit report provided they do so in writing. In addition, mandatory energy audits will no longer apply to leases or commercial properties and, in fact, will only apply to low rise residential units. The government has also indicated that home energy audit reports will be transferrable from the seller to the buyer.
Currently, the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure is planning to work with stakeholders to draft regulations governing the implementation of home energy audits. Once the regulation has been drafted, it will be posted on Ontario’s environmental registry at http://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ for public comment. The Ministry has not announced a timeline for the implementation process.